FAQs

1. How do I Know if I Have a Personal Injury Case?

2. What Should I do if I'm in a Car Accident?

3. How do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

4. Can Third Parties be Held Responsible for Injuries Stemming From a Drunk

Driving Accident?

5. What is a Catastrophic Injury?

6. I Was Injured When I Slipped and Fell in a Local Business Establishment,

What Can I Do?

7. I Have Been Injured By Medication My Doctor Gave Me, Do I Have a Claim?

8. Who Pays for Workers' Compensation Benefits?

9. What is Negligence?

10. What is Liability Insurance?

11. If I Have Suffered Injury, What Kind of Damages Can I Expect?

12. I Have Been Hurt by Using a Defective Product, Who is Responsible for My

Injuries?

13. What is Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

14. What is a Wrongful Death Action?

15. My Elderly Relative was Injured While Residing in a Nursing Home, What

Can I Do?

16. What Type of Claim May I Have for an Animal Bite Injury?

17. Who Is Responsible for Birth Injuries?


1. How do I Know if I Have a Personal Injury Case?

To have a personal injury action you must have suffered harm. The harm may be an injury to your person or personal property. It can also be the perception of harm, such as a threat (assault), which caused emotional injury. Your injury must be the result of an action or omission of another and must not have been caused by your own actions or negligence. If you feel you have suffered an injury at the hands of another, you may have a personal injury claim. It is important to discuss your possible claim with a personal injury attorney in your area. Different types of claims must be filed within a certain amount of time, or you cannot file your claim. This is called the statute of limitations; different jurisdictions and types of claims will have specific limitations that an attorney will have knowledge of and be able to communicate to you.

If you pursue your claim and meet with an attorney, there are certain documents and information that you should have to bring with you on your first meeting. The information will vary depending on your situation and your attorney may ask you to provide additional information then what is discussed here. In general, you should give your lawyer copies of any documents that may be related to your case. Documents may include, medical reports and bills, insurance information (policy and any communication you may have had with your insurance company or the other parties insurer) and any information you have about the incident. Information about the incident may include police reports, contact information of the other parties, insurer of the other parties, witness contact information and details about the situation when the occurrence took place. Any other information about the accident or event would be helpful for your attorney as well. This may include, photographs of your injuries or property damages and any other information you may have.

How do I Choose a Personal Injury Attorney?

If you have decided to pursue your personal injury claim, you will want to start researching attorneys to assist you with your claim. There are a number of factors you should consider when choosing the right attorney for your situation. Most often, you will want to hire an attorney who has experience with claims similar to yours. Look for an attorney who practices personal injury law, this will help ensure he or she is knowledgeable in this area of law, keeps up to date on any new developments in the law, has a record of past successes and verdicts in personal injury law and may have relationship and reputation with other legal professionals in the personal injury law forum, which could be beneficial if you are seeking settlement or litigation.

Furthermore, you should try to find an attorney that you can afford and who you feel comfortable working with. Ask your potential lawyer about their billing and fee structure. Often in a personal injury case, fees will be paid on a contingency basis. This means your lawyer will be paid if he or she achieves a settlement/verdict in your favor. The fees will be paid out of your damages/recovery. Make sure you discuss if your potential attorney offers contingency fees or another fee arrangement. Additionally, it is important to have an initial consultation, prior to hiring, an attorney. This is an interview for both you and the attorney to make sure the attorney would accept your case and that you are comfortable with him or her. Most firms provide free initial consultations; it is important to ask about this prior to scheduling your meeting.

2. What Should I do if I'm in a Car Accident?

If you are in a car accident, there are some things you can do to protect yourself against any lawsuits that may arise from the incident. First, make sure you, and anyone else involved in the accident, is safe and call for medical assistance if needed. If you cannot get out of your car, wait for assistance to do so. If you can get out of your car, it is important to stay with your vehicle. This may be a safety issue, depending on the situation you are in, whether the area is dangerous or there is heavy traffic or other dangerous materials around you. Additionally, do not leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive or before exchanging information with the other person (or persons) involved in a minor accident. If you leave and someone was injured or killed you may be charged with criminal "hit and run" penalties.

The police should be called if the accident involves significant property damage, physical injury or death. Once the police arrive, ask the officer to file a police report and obtain the name and badge numbers of any police officers on the scene. You should also talk to the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the accident. Get their names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers' license numbers, license plate numbers and basic insurance information. If there are passengers in any of the vehicles, obtain their names, telephone numbers and addresses as well. If there are witnesses at the scene, you may want to ask them what they saw and obtain their contact information, if possible. It is important when talking to other persons in the accident to be cooperative and exchange contact and insurance information, but do not admit fault or apologize for the accident itself.

After medical attention has been received and the police have arrived, you should inform your insurance company about the accident. Cooperate with your insurance company and tell them about the manner in which the accident occurred and the extent of your injuries. Build support for your case when discussing the matter with your insurance company and explain the facts of your case in a clear manner. Obtain and review a copy of the police report, if any, and give a copy to your insurance company if they do not already have one. The police report is useful to help determine who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault for the accident.

Next, you will want to keep a record of any care you receive after the accident and any expenses you incur due to the accident. This includes doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, any other healthcare or treatment, medical bills or other expenses. Your insurance company may ask you for additional records as well, such as photographs of your vehicle before the accident and after (if you have them).

Lastly, you should not talk to anyone about the accident other than your attorney, your insurance company and the police. Do not talk to a representative of another insurance company without the knowledge of your attorney or your insurance company. If representatives from other insurance companies should call you, ask them to call your attorney or insurance company to arrange for an interview. Also, get the representative's name and number, and tell your insurance company or attorney that someone seeking information about your accident contacted you.

3. How do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical procedures do not always have the desired outcome; sometimes unexpected or unpreventable results occur and are not the consequence of medical malpractice. In order to have a claim for medical malpractice, your injury (or undesired/harmful result of a medical procedure or treatment) must have been caused by negligence by a healthcare professional. Medical professionals must meet the industry's standard of care when treating patients. This standard of care is determined by the level of care other medical professionals or workers would provide to an individual under the same or similar circumstances. Healthcare workers that are held to this standard may include doctors, nurses, hospital staff members, dentists, other medical related workers or the hospital itself. If the standard of care is not met and the patient is injured as a result of this failure, the injured party may have a claim for medical malpractice. To determine if the facts of your case merit a medical malpractice claim, it is important to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law.

If you do have a claim for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove certain elements of your case to the judge or jury. There are four elements to prove, the first is that the defendant (medical professional or hospital) had a duty to the plaintiff. The second is that the defendant breached this legal duty and (third) the breach caused the plaintiff's injury. Lastly, the defendant's failure to meet the industry's standard of care (negligence) caused harm to the plaintiff. The third element (causation) is often the most difficult to prove in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff must show that the defendant caused his or her injury due to negligence; that the injury was not a typical (or common) result of the plaintiff's illness or medical condition that could not be prevented.

Accordingly, the cause of the plaintiff's injury may be actual or proximate. If the causation is shown to be actual, the plaintiff's injury was directly caused by an action (or nonaction) by the defendant. If the defendant had not been negligent, the plaintiff would not have suffered injury. Thus, proving actual causation uses what is called the "but for" test; the injury would not have occurred "but for" the defendant's negligence (or action). Likewise, the cause of the plaintiff's injury may be proximate if it can be shown that the defendant's negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff's injury. The proximate cause set forth a sequence of events that caused the plaintiff's legal injury. Since actual and proximate causation may be difficult to prove, it may be necessary to rely on the testimony of an expert witness to show causation in your case. The facts of your case and kind of injury will help determine the type of medical expert you should have. Additionally, an attorney knowledgeable in medical malpractice litigation will be able to assist you in deciding if expert testimony is in your best interests to prove causation in your case.

4. Can Third Parties be Held Responsible for Injuries Stemming From a Drunk Driving Accident?

Generally, the drunk driver who caused the accident is responsible to the persons injured by the accident. However, in some cases, the injured party (or his or her family members) may file an action against a third party for damages arising from a drunk driving accident. A third party claim in such an accident may be against a variety of persons or even businesses. Those held liable for injuries stemming from the accident may be a police officer, employer, passenger, social host or a bar or restaurant. Situations where such third parties may be liable for a drunk drivers action may be if a police officer has knowledge that a driver is intoxicated and lets them continue to drive, if an employer provided alcohol at a work function or if a passenger gave the intoxicated driver alcohol. Social hosts and business establishments may be held statutorily liable for the actions of a drunk driver according to the law in the jurisdiction where the accident took place.

Some states have Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) statutes that may hold a social host responsible for actions of their guests; a minority of states will extend this statute to cover hosts of social gatherings. If it is applied, a social host is a private individual (not licensed to sell alcohol) who has provided alcohol free of charge to persons at some sort of social event, gathering or party. Under the ABC statute, the host would be held responsible for actions of intoxicated guests once they left the party. This law applies to guests who are under age, visibly intoxicated or have a negative history with alcohol. However, a majority of courts will not extend the ABC statute that far. Instead, other states may hold a social host liable of guest's actions under a legal theory of negligence. The host should have known that the actions of an intoxicated guest may have been dangerous to others. On the other hand, a majority of jurisdictions will not hold a social host responsible for the actions of inebriated guests at all.

Similarly, some business may be held liable for the actions of intoxicated patrons under the state's Dram Shop Act. Under this act, the alcohol vendors (licensed sellers of alcohol) may be held liable to a person injured by a drunk driver who became intoxicated while in their establishment. The law places a legal duty on alcohol vendors to protect innocent third parties from harm due to a drunk patron; a noticeably intoxicated patron may be considered a probable danger to others. If your state has a Dram Shop Act, you will have to be able to prove that the licensed alcohol seller continued to sell alcohol to an individual who was clearly drunk. In order for a person to be considered intoxicated under this statute, their behavior must be obvious to others. This may refer to impaired speech, inability to walk or a strong smell of alcohol. Furthermore, you must be able to show that the vendor was aware, or should have been aware, that the drunk individual was going to drive his or her automobile. Not all jurisdictions have a Dram Shop Act; contact an attorney in your area to find out if the Dram Shop law is applicable in your situation and in your state.

5. What is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is a physical injury or illness that is regarded as extreme or particularly serious, has a considerable impact on the victim of the injury or illness and needs a considerable amount of medical treatment. Catastrophic injuries may not always be permanent, but take months or years to heal. In some cases, the full extent of the injuries may not be known for a long amount of time. The effects of such injuries may be long lasting, both physically and emotionally. The types of catastrophic injuries are wide ranging. Some examples of such injuries are extensive burns, loss of a limb, severe brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or injuries causing paralysis. These injuries may affect many body systems, such as the central nervous system, gastrointestinal, urinary, respiratory, circulatory, excretory, reproductive and others.

Many wide varieties of events may cause a catastrophic injury. There are not certain types of accidents that determine if an injury may be classified as catastrophic. The severity of the injury itself makes that determination. Some examples of accidents may be automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, accidents in the workplace, defective products, toxic substances, birth injuries and injuries due to fire or other disasters.

What Type of Damages Can I Receive for Catastrophic Injuries?

A person who has suffered a catastrophic injury may be awarded damages for the losses incurred. The amount and type of loss depends on the injury and the situation that caused the injury. However, many damages for catastrophic injuries include medical costs (at the time of injury and future medical treatment), lost wages, loss of future income (if the injured party will not be able to work for a period of time, even permanently), loss of household services, costs of additional care, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, shortened life span and others. In addition to these types of damages, courts in some jurisdictions will also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded by the fact finder (judge or jury) in addition to compensatory damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the responsible party for the injuries the victim has suffered. Not all jurisdictions will award punitive damages and not all cases will warrant such an award, it depends on the jurisdiction and the facts of your case.

Who is Responsible for a Catastrophic Injury?

If the injury suffered by the victim was caused by an intentional act, negligence or a defective product there may be a cause of action for personal injury. When determining who is responsible for your catastrophic injury, it is important to look at the specific facts of your case. There may be more than one person who played a role in the sustained injuries. Depending on your case, the responsible party may be your doctor, nurse, hospital or other medical personnel, the owner of the motor vehicle that caused your accident, your employer or the manufacturer of a defective drug or product. It is important to seek an attorney, in your area, experienced in catastrophic injury cases to help investigate your case and determine the appropriate parties who may be responsible for your injuries.

6. I Was Injured When I Slipped and Fell in a Local Business Establishment, What Can I Do?

If you have been injured by falling while on another's property, you may have a slip and fall claim. A slip and fall claim is a personal injury action based on tort law. Based on the facts of your case, the property owner may be liable for the injuries you have sustained. It does not matter if the property is public or private, the owners may still be held accountable for injuries on their property. Thus the owner may be a private citizen, a corporation or business, or even a government entity.

If you are entering slip and fall litigation, you will have to prove four elements of personal injury to the court. The elements necessary to prove personal injury are as follows:

Duty

The injured party (or someone on their behalf) must show that the property owner had a legal duty to do everything possible (based on a reasonable person standard) to prevent the injury from occurring on his or her property. For example, business owners have a duty to prevent foreseeable harm that may injure their patrons.

Breach of Duty

If the defendant's duty has been proven, the injured party must also show that the defendant breached his or her legal duty: The defendant, by action or inaction, did not prevent the foreseeable harm that injured the plaintiff while on the defendant's property.

Causation

To prove causation, the claimant (plaintiff) must prove to the court that the defendant's (property owner's) breach of duty is what caused his or her injury. For example, the defendant knew of a dangerous condition on his or her property, failed to rectify it and this condition injured the victim.

Injury

The plaintiff must show that there was an actual injury. This may be proven by testimony from the doctor that treated him or her, medical records and the victim's own testimony.

What May the Defendant Do?

If you have proven the four elements of personal injury to the court, the defendant property owner) will have a chance to present his or her defenses to the court. The defendant will try to show the court that he or she was not negligent and keeping the property safe of foreseeable harm. They will try to prove to the court that they exercised due diligence in discovering any dangerous conditions on their property; property owners are required to exercise due diligence by law. To prove there was not negligence on the defendant's part, they must provide evidence that they applied the same level of care as any other reasonable property owner would in a similar situation/similar conditions.

Conversely, the defendant's defense may be that the victim's injury was self-inflicted or caused by the victim's own carelessness/negligence. The property owner had a duty to keep the property safe from hazardous conditions. However, there are situations that may be outside of the defendant's control. If the injured person did not look out for his or her own safety, or deliberately engaged in a dangerous action, or created a risky condition, while on the defendant's property, the defendant may not be held liable.

7. I Have Been Injured By Medication My Doctor Gave Me, Do I Have a Claim?

Unfortunately, not all medications available on the market are safe to persons taking them. Many drugs benefit the user in the way they are intended. However, drugs that do not act as intended and cause serious harm to the user are known as dangerous drugs. If you or a loved once has been injured by using a dangerous drug, you may have a claim for the injuries you have suffered. It is important to seek an attorney to discuss and potential claims you may have.

Victims of dangerous medications usually have a personal injury claim. Yet, additional claims may be appropriate depending on the facts of your case. Other claims may be medical negligence and wrongful death. If you have an action for personal injuries caused by using a harmful medication, there are a few legal claims that may be possible. You may have a claim against the manufacturer of the drug, the doctor who prescribed you the drug and/or the pharmacist who dispensed the drug. If you have a claim against the manufacturer of the dangerous drug, you may have a claim of warranty fraud or a failure to warn claim. In a failure to warn action, the plaintiff (injured party or family member of an injured party) must show that the company knew about the harmful side effects and/or injuries that could occur when taking the drug. The company then failed to warn potential victims or doctors of the probable injuries. The manufacturer may also have issued warnings listing possible risks of taking the medication, however these warnings may have minimized the dangers or not described the dangers adequately, these actions may also fall under a failure to warn. Either by failing to warn potential victims or falsifying information, the company placed the harmful drug on the market.

Additionally, injured persons may have a claim against their doctor for prescribing them the dangerous medication that caused their injury. In some cases the physician may have ignored warnings about possible risks and likewise failed to warn patients of these risks. The doctor may also have failed to act as a reasonable doctor would in a similar situation by not monitoring the party using the drug and/or not recognizing symptoms of injuries until it was too late. These actions may be for professional negligence.

What Type of Damages Can I Seek in a Personal Injury Claim?

If a medication has caused you injury, you will most likely be seeking financial compensation (damages) for your injuries. In order for the court to award damages, you will have to prove the four elements of a personal injury tort case. The four elements are that the defendant owed a duty to you (the plaintiff), that duty was breached by the defendant, the breach caused the injury you sustained and that you were, in fact, injured as a result of taking the dangerous medication. If you have proved your case, the court will look at the amount of loss you have incurred, such as costs of medical care and treatment, loss of earnings, the severity of the injuries suffered, the amount of future assistance you may need and other factors depending on the facts of your case. In some cases, the court or jury may also award punitive damages (in addition to compensatory damages). Punitive damages will often consider the amount of pain and suffering the victim experienced. These types of damages are intended to punish the defendants for their wrongdoing, as pain and suffering can never be sufficiently compensated.

8. Who Pays for Workers' Compensation Benefits?

Workers' compensation benefits must be available to all employees under the Workers' Compensation Act. Most states have their own workers' compensation statutes that require employers to have workers' compensation insurance coverage for their employees. This type of insurance is liability insurance to protect/cover employers in case one of their employees is injured (nonfatal or fatal) during the course of his or her employment (while on the job). Workers' compensation benefits may cover payment for injuries sustained by the employee, emergency/future medical treatments, therapy, lost earnings and death benefits for family members. Also, in the insurance policy contract, employers must pay the premium for each employee. The premium per employee is usually based on the gross amount of wages that employee earns on an annual basis.

When a workers' compensation claim occurs, the insurance pays the employee from the company's policy. The company may be insured in a few different ways; the type - or origin/source - of the insurance depends on the jurisdiction you are in and the specific statutory conditions in that state. The insurance mandated by statute may be a fund managed by the government, a private insurance company or the employer may be self insured (meaning, the company has no outside insurance and is held responsible for their own financial liabilities). Along these lines, in some states, self-insured companies may have an insurance contract that limits their financial liability to an employee up to a specific amount. This is to protect the company from detrimental losses, or total loss of the company's finances. This type of contract may not be permitted by statute in some states, it depends on the statutory conditions for workers' compensation insurance in the jurisdiction in which you are located.

Do Workers' Compensation Benefits Cover Only Injuries, or Also Long-term Problems and Illnesses?

All employees are entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they are injured while working in the United States. The injury may be due to an accident that occurred while working or an illness that is related to the employee's occupation/trade. Workers' compensation benefits covers more than treatment for physical injuries that occur while working. Other benefits included may be:

  • Lost wages (up to ninety percent in most states), that may include permanent or temporary wage replacement or payment of lost earnings to survivors in the case of the employee's death
  • Healthcare, medical treatment, therapy services rehabilitation and any medical

devices (such as prosthetics) that may be deemed medically necessary. This includes immediate treatment and future treatments.

  • Disability benefits, for temporary or permanent disabilities
  • Death benefits to the deceased employee's survivors.

The amount of benefits, types of injuries that receive benefits and length of time that the benefits may be paid will be specified by state law. Generally, most statutes will provide benefits for medical treatments as long as the care received is for improvement, or rehabilitation. Once an injury is classified as permanent and static (progress is at a standstill), some jurisdictions will not extend benefits for employees. It is important to speak to an attorney familiar with the workers' compensation statute in your area to discuss your situation and options.

9. What is Negligence?

If you have a been injured in an accident of some kind you may have a claim for the personal injuries you have suffered. When you have a personal injury action (or any tort claim), you must be aware of negligence. The defendant may be the negligent party and his or her negligence caused your injury. However, if you were injured as the result of your own negligence, this may also affect your claim. Negligence is failing to provide reasonable care for the safety of others or yourself. The court considers the level of care a "reasonably prudent person" would have employed in the same circumstances. If an individual fails to act as a reasonably prudent person would, he or she may be shown to have failed to protect others (or him or herself) against foreseeable harm and may be seen as contributing to the injury that occurred as a result.

Can I Get Compensation for My Injuries if an Accident Might Have Been Partly My Fault?

If you may be partly to blame for your injuries, you may or may not be able to recover damages. It depends on the jurisdiction you are in. A minority of jurisdictions follow contributory negligence: Under this rule, if your own negligence caused your injury, or played a part in causing your injury, you may not be able to recover for your injuries. However, the majority of jurisdictions follow comparative negligence. In comparative negligence, you may still recover damages for your injuries if your own negligence was a partial cause of those injuries. The amount of damages you may receive will be lessened in comparison to the amount of your own negligence. You will still be able to recover for your injuries, but the sum is contingent on your amount of fault.

Can I Get Compensation for My Accident Injuries if I Have a Preexisting Medical Condition?

Generally, if an individual has a preexisting condition, he or she may not recover damages for injuries related to that condition. However, the preexisting condition does not bar an injured person from recovering damages that were caused by the accident and not the preexisting condition. For example, if a person has a permanent back injury and is hit by a car while crossing the street, that person may recover damages from injuries sustained from being hit by the car, but not for the previous permanent back injury. Likewise, if a person already has a condition that is worsened by a accident, he or she may be able to recover damages for the injuries sustained by the worsened condition and medical treatment for the worsened condition, but not the original condition that they already had. In some jurisdictions, there may also be a separate claim for aggravating a preexisting disease, illness or condition. It is important to speak to an attorney to find out how preexisting conditions are treated by the court in your area.

10. What is Liability Insurance?

Liability insurance is a contract between an individual (insured) and a insurance company. This agreement/policy is carried by an individual (policyholder) to pay any losses or damages that a third party may suffer due to the action of the policyholder. Automobile owners are required to have liability insurance in most states. Once an injury - or property damage - occurs, a claim must be filed with the insurance company. The damages covered by the insured (policyholder's) policy, which the insured owes to a third party, will be paid by the liability insurance company. Most individuals have comprehensive general-liability insurance (CGL). This type of insurance covers a broad range of liability, such as property damage and personal injury. Similarly, some individuals may carry accident-based insurance (or occurrence-based liability insurance). This type of insurance policy also covers property damage and/or personal injuries; however, an action or occurrence must take place in order to activate the policy and the policy may have some exclusions that the insured should be aware of.

Who (and What) is Usually Covered by Automobile Liability Insurance?

Insurance policies may differ; it is important to look at your specific policy to determine the coverage under that policy. Generally, automobile liability insurance covers an accident that occurs during the operation or upkeep of the vehicle listed in the policy. The insurance company agrees to pay for any of the insured's (policyholder's) liabilities that arise from an accident that meet the criteria in the insurance contract. Generally, the criteria will be use or maintenance of the vehicle. However, depending on the type of liability insurance you have and the specific wording in your policy, the criteria could vary. If the automobile is in an accident and it is not during the operation of the vehicle or during maintenance, the accident will usually be covered under the policy if you can show that there is a connection between the automobile and the accident. If the vehicle had not been present, the accident would not have occurred. For example, if the car had not been parked in the parking lot the other car would not have been able to hit it and caused damages to the vehicle.

There should be a "covered persons" section of your liability insurance policy. Look to that section to determine who will be covered under your policy. Generally, persons covered will be the owner (or owners) of the vehicle, the owner's family members, employees, guests and passengers of the insured. However, if the passenger in the vehicle is not a guest - meaning present in the car without permission - they may not be covered for injuries under the owner's liability insurance. The purpose of liability insurance is also to protect the insured against claims from third parties. Therefore, the insurance policy should cover claims from insured third-parties against the policyholder. Such claims may be from an accident causing property damage or personal injury arising out of use or maintenance of the vehicle covered by the insured's automobile liability insurance policy.

11. If I Have Suffered Injury, What Kind of Damages Can I Expect?

If you have a personal injury claim, the amounts/kinds of damages you can receive depends on the type of injury you have suffered, the seriousness of the injury, what your losses have been (financially, physically or emotionally) and what jurisdiction you live in. The court may also consider additional factors based on your situation. Generally, there are two types of damages you may receive for a personal injury claim, compensatory or punitive.

Compensatory damages are the most common and are available to compensate the victim for losses they may have suffered. The losses are not limited to physical injuries, although physical injuries may be included in compensatory damages. Other losses may include medical costs, loss of earnings (past and future), loss of the ability to work, loss of household services, emotional distress suffered by the injured party, loss of quality of life and other damages specific to the victim. Persons other than the injured party may also bring claims for compensatory damages. Others may bring claims on the victim's behalf, such as family members, a domestic partner or a husband or wife. This may often be the situation in cases where the injured party is deceased, however the claimant (person bringing the claim) may bring a personal injury action on his or her loved one's behalf even if they are still living.

Additionally, punitive damages may be available in some cases for additional damages the victim may have suffered. Punitive damages are not available in all jurisdictions and are determined by the fact finder in the case, the judge or jury. These types of damages do not have to be granted in a personal injury case, but are an extra type of damages intended to punish the defendant (person or persons responsible for the victim's injuries) for their negligence or wrongdoing. The facts of the case, state law, jurisdiction and the fact finder determine whether punitive damages are warranted in a specific case. Therefore, it is important to know the law in your state and court's treatment of punitive damages when considering your litigation expectations.

Who May Bring a Personal Injury Claim?

Usually the claimant is the victim who suffered the injury in a personal injury case. However, this is not always the case. Other persons may also file a personal injury action. First, another individual may bring an action on behalf of the injured party. This may be in cases where the victim may not bring the claim him or herself. This could be in situations where the injured person is incapable or does not have the capacity to bring a lawsuit, such as a child or an adult who does not have legal capacity or in cases where the injured party has died as a result of his or her injuries. If the victim is deceased, that person's family/spouse/partner may also have a claim for wrongful death. Furthermore, if the victim dies after the personal injury claim has been filed; the decedent's estate representative may carry on the claim in his or her place.

Alternatively, loved ones may have their own legal actions stemming from the victim's injury. The claims will differ depending on the situation. However, some examples of claims may include loss of household income/assistance or loss of companionship.

12. I Have Been Hurt by Using a Defective Product, Who is Responsible for My Injuries?

There are many products on the market that we use today. Since the products are available to us, we assume that they have been tested, approved by the proper authorities and are safe. However, this is not always the case and injuries may occur. Products on the market that cause injuries may be found to be inherently unsafe and defective. A product may be defective in its design or in the way it was manufactured. The cause of the defect may determine the party responsible for any injuries you have suffered due to using the product. The liable parties will also depend on the type of product and the factual situation in which you were injured.

Generally, the defendant in a defective product claim will be the company who designed the product or manufactured the product. Design and manufacturing may have been done by different companies. Therefore, the source of the product's defect is important to your cause of action. Additionally, the company in charge of testing the product, prior to being released to the public, may be a responsible party in your claim for injuries. If the company (often the product manufacturer) discovered harmful risks associated with the product and did not reveal those risks, or provide warnings of possible harmful side effects, they may in held liable for your injuries. The law provides a legal duty to warn consumers of any risks associated with a product; if the company failed to do this, they may be held accountable.

Furthermore, if the product you used was a medical drug or device, there may be additional parties held accountable for your injuries. Like with other products, the company who designed the product and the company who manufactured the product may be responsible for your injuries, depending on where the defect occurred. In cases of a medical product, the doctor who prescribed the defective drug or the pharmacist who dispensed the drug or device may also be held liable. If the doctor knew of potential harmful effects of the medical product and did not warn you, or did not adequately monitor you, he or she may have some responsibility. Additionally, your pharmacist must warn you of any known risks and dispense the drug correctly.

What Cause of Action Could I Have If I Was Injured by a Defective Product?

As the possible responsible parties may differ, so may the possible legal claims an injured party may bring. It depends on the situation and the injury sustained. Most likely you (or the injured party) may have claims for personal injury and product liability. However, if you were injured by a medical drug or device you may also have claims of professional/medical negligence against your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on the facts of your case, you could also have legal claims for negligence, breach of warranty, failure to warn or fraud. Lastly, in some cases, wrongful death may also be a possible cause of action. If the injured person dies as a result of their injuries, the decedent's loved ones must provide evidence to the court that the victim died as a result of using the defective product.

13. What is Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Most states have statutes that require insurance companies to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as a part of each automobile/vehicle insurance plan. In most jurisdictions, an individual may be considered underinsured when his or her insurance policy coverage is not enough to fund the full amount of damages he or she is liable for due to an accident or other event covered by his or her policy. In other jurisdictions, a person is considered underinsured when his or her insurance coverage maximum is less than the coverage maximum of the other individual's (in the accident) policy. Of course, uninsured persons are those that do not carry automobile liability insurance. The purpose of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is to protect against situations where one party to the accident does not carry enough insurance or does not carry insurance at all. Therefore, the intent of mandatory uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is to protect people against monetarily irresponsible individuals who have injured others, due to their own fault, while operating an automobile. If the uninsured or underinsured individual is not at fault, most underinsured/uninsured motorist policies will not apply.

Who is Usually Included in my Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Generally, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage will include the named insured (person who has the insurance policy) and the family members who reside in his or her household. Usually, the injured insured person and/or family member must be a passenger in the vehicle, a pedestrian injured by the vehicle or the driver of the vehicle in the accident. In the past, some insurance policies excluded coverage for the insured's family members. However, these types of exclusions have been found invalid by most state laws. The only time such an exclusion may be found valid is when the family members already have a separate insurance policy of their own. This type of exclusion is valid by most state laws because it is in the interests of public policy and the insurer. Along these lines, an insurance policy may not exclude a family member of the insured who is not covered by the policy, but who is injured while in a automobile that is owned by a family member who is covered by the insured's insurance policy. It is important to speak to an attorney in your jurisdiction to learn about the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and exclusion laws that may apply in your state.

As an Employee, Am I Covered Under My Employer's Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Policy?

The courts will look to the language of your employer's uninsured/underinsured insurance policy to determine who is covered under that policy. The uninsured/underinsured motorist statute in your jurisdiction may also determine who is covered under your employer's policy. In some jurisdictions, an employee will be covered by his or her employer's corporate policy if the employee is using his or her own vehicle for business purposes, at the direction of his or her employer. The employee's personal vehicle may be considered leased, or hired, by the employer. In other jurisdictions, an employee using his or her personal automobile for work purposes will not be covered under the state law's definition of a "named insured" (person or persons covered under the insurance policy) under the corporate policy.

14. What is a Wrongful Death Action?

A wrongful death action is a claim for damages that stem from the conduct, action or omission by another party, which caused the decedent's injury and ultimately his or her premature death. State and federal laws have wrongful death statutes, which give certain persons the right to bring a claim for damages they have sustained as a result of the loss of their loved one. Generally, this would be monetary losses, but it may also be loss of companionship, loss to the estate or additional losses depending on the circumstances of the case.

Family members or dependents of the decedent may bring a claim for wrongful death on their own behalf, or individuals may bring a claim for wrongful death as representatives of the deceased person. Therefore, a claimant (person bringing the wrongful death claim) may be the deceased individual's parent, spouse, sibling, child, or an executor or administrator of the decedent's estate. Additionally, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews may have standing to bring a wrongful death claim if they are the decedent's heirs at law. In some states, the claimant may also be the decedent's domestic partner. Cohabiting partners usually may not bring a wrongful death claim, unless the applicable law recognizes common-law marriage and the decedent and potential claimant were considered married at common-law. In order for an individual (family member, spouse, partner or personal representative) to bring a wrongful death claim, he or she must be able to prove to the court who they are (in relation to the decedent), the relationship/connection he or she had with the victim and his or her right to bring a claim before the court for loss. If the claimant is able to bring a claim for wrongful death, the defendant (or responsible party) does not have to be an individual. The liable party - the party who would have been liable for the decedent's injuries had he or she not died from them - may also be the decedent's employer, a corporation/business or a governmental entity.

Wrongful death is often used by the court as a factor to consider when determining the amount of damages in a personal injury claim. Often the fact finder (judge or jury) will be able to consider the permanent loss of the decedent's earnings, due to his or her wrongful death. The claimant may be entitled to the amount of wages the decedent would have earned for the remainder of his or her life. This is determined by the salary amount at the time of death (some jurisdictions will also allow foreseeable wage increases), or support payments, for the remainder of the decedent's life (based on probable life expectancy). Punitive damages may be available in a wrongful-death action. These damages will give the claimant additional money to punish the responsible party; punitive damages are not intended to compensate the claimant for his or her loss. Not all jurisdictions will offer punitive damages for a wrongful death claim. It is important to know the law in your jurisdiction when determining what type of damages to pursue in your wrongful death action.

15. My Elderly Relative was Injured While Residing in a Nursing Home, What Can I Do?

If your loved one has been injured while living in a nursing home facility, he or she has the right to bring a legal action for damages. You may also bring a claim on your loved ones behalf, if he or she is not able to do so. You may have different legal claims depending on the situation and type of injury your loved one has suffered. Most often, a personal injury claim against a nursing home will be based on the theory of negligence. Depending on the factual situation, some negligence claims may include negligent hiring of employees, building and/or equipment maintenance or neglect in resident care. If your loved one has been injured by a staff member, you (or your relative) may also have claims of assault and battery.

Both state and federal statutes exist that protect nursing home residents against abuse, neglect and other forms of mistreatment. Forms of abuse may be physical or mental in nature and may be discovered in different ways. Neglect is usually the failure to provide an individual with basic needs, such as clothing, food, shelter and medical care. Mistreatment may also be nonphysical in nature, such as an employee taking advantage of a resident and stealing or taking control of his or her finances. These types of occurrences have become more common in recent years. For this reason, state and federal statues were created to provide protections and rights for care facility residents.

Some rights and protections nursing home residents should possess are financial information and control of their own finances (unless incapacitated); medical knowledge and control over healthcare decisions; the right to socialize/communicate with doctors, visitors, other residents and participate in activities of their choosing; and the right to be fully informed of the administrative process in their facility and able to participate when they choose. Most jurisdictions have a Patients Bill of Rights that will describe specific rights each patent is entitled to while living in a care facility. If your loved one has been denied any of his or her rights, abused, neglected or exploited, he or she (or another individual on the injured person's behalf) may have a claim for damages.

When bringing a claim for injuries sustained in a nursing home facility, you must be able to prove a personal injury case to the court. Elements that must be proven would include the establishment of a legal duty owed by the defendant (often the nursing home) to the resident and a breach of this duty. It must also be shown that the breach caused the injury that your loved one (the victim) suffered and that the injury did in fact occur. Furthermore, in such a case, additional damages may be proven such as mental pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, malicious conduct by an employee or loss of quality of life. Depending on the facts of your case and the jurisdiction the court is in, you may also be able to ask for punitive damages. Punitive damages go beyond compensatory damages, which are generally the type of damages received in personal injury cases. If the court (judge or jury) awards punitive damages, they are intended to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and not to compensate the complainant (the injured party or a relative on his or her behalf) for injuries sustained.

16. What Type of Claim May I Have for an Animal Bite Injury?

Most jurisdictions have statutes that pertain to animal bites and a majority of states have dog bite specific statutes. The type of recovery you may receive depends on the law in your jurisdiction. If you are in a state that has a dog bite statute, the owner may be liable for an injury their dog causes, even if they did not know that the dog was dangerous; this is called strict liability. There are exceptions to this general rule, such as if the injured person was trespassing at the time of injury, the owner may not be liable. If you are in a jurisdiction that does not have a dog bite statute, proving the owner's knowledge of possible danger and control over his or her animal becomes more important.

In some animal bite cases, the injury may not have been caused by a dog. Most jurisdictions do not have statutes specific to other types of animals. In the case of another domestic animal, you may have a negligence action. In a negligence claim, you must show that the owner of the animal knew of the animal's dangerous tendencies and did not prevent the foreseeable harm that occurred.

Less often, the animal bite was caused by a wild animal. If the wild animal is owned by an individual, that person will usually be held to an absolute liability standard. This means that even if they have safety measures in place, the owners will be held responsible for any harm caused by their animal. If the wild animal is not owned by a private person, but a government entity or a facility, such as a zoo, absolute liability will not apply. Instead, negligence must be proven to the court to show the facility's/government's liability.

Who May be Liable for Animal Bite Injuries?

Various parties may be liable for an animal bite. It depends on the situation that led to the injury. Most often, the animal's owner will be the responsible for the wounded person's injuries. In some jurisdictions, the owners will be liable for their animal's actions without having to show fault. However, in other jurisdictions, the injured person must show that the owners knew that their animal was dangerous. Alternatively, in some cases the animal does not have an easily identified "owner." The animal may be in a shelter, kennel or other facility. If the animal is in a facility, the court will have to weigh the facts of the case to determine who had control over the animal at the time of the attack. Likewise, the animal may be under the control of an entity, such as the government. If a government entity controls the animal, they may be a liable party in an animal bite injury case.

What Type of Damages Could I Get for an Animal Bite Action?

The amount and type of damages you may receive in an animal bite case will depend on the extent of your injuries, specific facts of your case and the jurisdiction you are in. In general, damages in animal bite cases include any medical costs, medical treatment for injuries (immediate treatment and future treatment), pain and suffering, compensation for property damage, loss of earning capacity or any lost earnings, if you were not able to work due to your injuries (physical or emotional).

17. Who Is Responsible for Birth Injuries?

During the delivery of a child, injuries sometimes occur. Often these injuries are not avoidable. However, at times injuries are the result of medical negligence and may have been prevented if responded to properly and with adequate care. If your child suffered preventable injuries during birth, there may be a number of people held responsible, including the doctor, other hospital employees and/or the hospital. It depends on the type of injury your child suffered and the circumstances surrounding the injury.

In many cases, the physician who performed the birth may be held accountable for his or her own actions (if negligent) or the actions of employees under his or her supervision, such as nurses, medical residents or interns, other physicians or other staff members. In a medical negligence claim against a doctor, the plaintiff (most often the parents on behalf of their child) must prove to the court that the doctor who delivered their child failed to meet the standard of care, which is the level of care other doctors would use in a similar situation. If the court confirms that medical negligence has been established, the doctor may be held liable for your child's injuries.

Likewise, hospitals must also meet a standard of care used by other hospitals in the same/similar circumstances. Hospitals also owe patients receiving treatment a duty of care. If it can be shown that the hospital failed to meet their standard of care or breached the duty of care owned to their patients, the medical facility may be held liable for injuries. Moreover, a medical facility may be held responsible for the actions of their employees and may be found liable of corporate negligence in cases where the hospital has been negligent in their hiring practices, by hiring unqualified employees, or has not provided adequate supervision of their employees. In some cases, other staff members may be held liable for their negligent actions. Such as nurses who were found to be medically negligence. However, often hospitals may be held accountable for negligent actions of staff members as well.

What Damages May I Be Awarded if My Child Suffered Birth Injuries?

As parents, you may be awarded damages for your child's injuries. The amount and type of damages will depend on the extent of the injuries, the circumstances that caused the injury and the law in your jurisdiction. Parents may receive damages for their own losses, such as loss of companionship, negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical costs and, in some cases, wrongful death. Additionally, parents may also receive damages for birth injuries on behalf of their child. Some examples may be damages for pain and suffering, mental or physical disability, loss of future income and/or loss of quality of life. Usually monetary damages for the child's injuries will go to the child; a trust for the recovery the child is awarded may often be created for his or her benefit. The type of recovery available is dependent on many factors, it is important to speak to an attorney about the circumstances of your case for more information.

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