The New York Personal Injury Guide
The New York Personal Injury Guide was created to help those who have suffered a serious injury in an accident due to the negligence of another.
Accidents resulting in personal injury have severe consequences and ramifications for the injured party and their loved ones. They may have exorbitant medical bills, loss of future earning power, and permanent physical disabilities. These numerous personal and financial issues are liable to leave the injured party and their family overwhelmed and penniless, if not handled correctly.
To top it all off, the injured party must also contend with a stressful and confusing adversarial court system featuring tricky insurance companies whose sole objective is to deny them the fair compensation they deserve. With such high stakes at hand, it is imperative that the injured party even the tables and retain an experienced accident and injury attorney who will guide them through their case from start to finish to ensure the best possible outcome.
We are knowledgeable, and determined Rochester personal injury attorneys that dedicate our practice to protecting the rights and interests of injured parties. We work to ensure that injured parties receive the maximum compensation for all of their injuries and losses. We have an excellent reputation and track record for obtaining high dollar settlements and jury verdicts for our clients in even the toughest of cases.
In general terms, the practice of Personal Injury Law involves collecting financial compensation for an injured party’s losses and harms from the at-fault parties. Common at-fault parties include individuals, stores, hotels, airports, businesses, drivers, property owners, and property management companies, along with governmental entities and their employees, including townships, municipalities, and even the State of New York itself.
Some of our typical clients include people who were severely injured by another in motor vehicle accidents whether it be from a truck, car, motorcycle or bus accident. Other common injury cases we tackle stem from premises liability (such as slip and falls), defective products, toxic exposure, construction site accidents, and on-the-job injuries. We also have an unparalleled reputation for aggressively assisting those injured as a result of medical malpractice, due to the errors and omissions of hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, and other medical staff members.
Simply put, we are full-time Rochester personal injury attorneys who represent anyone who has been injured due to the fault of another.
Establishing a Personal Injury Case in New York State
As a threshold matter, in order to pursue compensation for personal injuries, one must comply with New York’s filing deadlines, known as “statutes of limitation.” Different cases have varying time frames within a party must assert their claim after sustaining their injuries. If the party attempts to assert their claim outside of the statute of limitations for their particular case, New York Courts will refuse to hear their lawsuit, and their case is forever time-barred, meaning they have permanently lost the right to pursue compensation for their losses and injuries.
In cases where the at-fault party is a governmental entity, the timeframe for initiating a claim may be as little as 90 days. In cases involving medical negligence or medical malpractice the filing deadline is typically two and a half years from the date a party suffered their injuries. Most other personal injury and wrongful death cases in New York have a three year statute of limitations. These include injuries suffered from motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, product liability, and toxic exposure. It is important to consult with a skilled and experienced Rochester injury attorney so that you can be sure you won’t miss a filing deadline for your case.
Assuming a case is timely initiated, in order to prevail in a typical case of negligence, you must prove that the at-fault party breached a duty of care, and also prove that all of your claimed harms and losses were a direct result of the at-fault party’s breach.
Take, for example, the case of a motor vehicle accident where the injured party was harmed when the at-fault party ran a stop sign, striking the injured party’s vehicle. Here, the duty of care to abide by road signs is owed for the safety and protection of other motorists. The at-fault party breached that duty of care when they disregarded the stop sign and struck the vehicle of the injured party causing them to be thrown about the compartment of his vehicle and suffer permanent and disabling bodily injuries. The at-fault party’s disregard for the stop sign was the cause of the collision, and all of the injured party’s harms can be said to be the direct result of the at-fault party’s breach of his duty of care. Under these circumstances, in New York, the injured party would be entitled to collect monetary damages from the at-fault party for his permanent and disabling bodily injuries.
New York State allows an injured party to recover compensation for two main categories of damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to all categories of damage that can be quantified with a relatively precise dollar amount. These types of damages include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, loss of household services, the cost of property damage, and out-of-pocket losses caused by the accident. Non-economic damages can be thought of as losses that cannot be quantified or assigned a fair market dollar value. They include past and future pain and suffering, past and future mental anguish, disfigurement and scarring, permanent impairment or disability, and loss of consortium for the lost society and companionship of a spouse or parent.
It is of the utmost importance to retain an experienced Rochester personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that each category of your economic and non-economic damages can be accurately accounted for from day one. One of the classic errors an unrepresented party typically makes is failing to account for each specific category of losses and harms. In many cases, our office utilizes experts such as economists, life care planners, and vocational experts to ensure that all of our client’s damages and losses are fully taken into account and maximized for settlement negotiations or trial.
>> I’ve been injured. What should I do first?
Your health and wellbeing always come first. Don’t think about lawyers, don’t think about courts, and don’t think about medical expenses: get yourself the care you need. You first step after an injury always should be to call 911, so police or other first responders can take over your situation, get you medical treatment, and start filling out any reports the incident might require. Once the police have come and gone, and you feel you’ve received the immediate medical attention you need, you should all an attorney.
>> I’ve been injured but I don’t know if I have a claim. Do I still have to call an attorney?
If you’ve been injured, you’re going through a stressful time. Your priority should be your health. If you don’t feel physically or mentally ready to consult an attorney, you can wait. But consulting an attorney doesn’t bind you to any legal action. Even if you’re not sure that you have a claim, you should meet with an attorney, not necessarily to file a claim, but to advise you of your legal rights. Unexpected expenses could mount. Insurance companies could delay payments or resist your claims. You might lose time at work. You might be experiencing real suffering for which the law entitles you some compensation. Injuries bring uncertainties, and an attorney with experience in personal injury law can help settle some of those, giving you peace of mind and ensuring that you’re afforded all the rights the law provides you.
>> What should I expect from the insurance companies?
Insurance companies aren’t filled with “bad people,” and they’re not inherently malicious or cruel. But the insurance company isn’t your friend, either. Insurance companies are businesses that make money by minimizing risks and payouts. In practical terms, that means that when accidents happen, insurance companies deploy a team of adjusters, investigators, and attorneys to protect “their” money. Statistics show that victims without lawyers get an average of three times less than victims who do hire lawyers to handle their personal injury cases. You’ll be battling against a team of experts. You’ll also want an expert on your side, to fight for your fair compensation.
Personal Injury FAQs
>> How long will it take to finish my personal injury case?
The timeframe of personal injury cases is hard to predict because there are so many variables: the circumstances of the injury, questions of liability, the insurance companies, the defendant’s lawyers, settlements, and the gathering of evidence. Shorter cases can last six months to a year; longer cases can last two or three years – but even these are only guidelines. You should be suspicious of any attorney who promises results within an absolute or narrow timeframe.
>> I’ve been injured. Do I have to sue?
No, you do not have to sue. Very often your attorney will be able to settle your case with the insurance companies involved without ever having to file a lawsuit. There’s a lot of work that goes into this: investigating, gathering photographs and other evidence, contacting witnesses. While all this goes on, you should focus on your health and immediate medical needs. Your attorney will be able to tell you if you need to file a claim or a lawsuit, but in many cases, injured parties can reach a settlement without even filing a claim.
>> What is the “discovery phase” of a personal injury case?
The “discovery phase” of a personal injury case begins right after the accident happens and ends when you’re discussing the merits of accepting a settlement versus going to trial. Discovery normally refers to the exchange of information between the two sides. That could encompass a lot of written documentation, including medical records, and formal answers to certain questions. The discovery phase also involves sworn testimony about how the accident happened and the nature and extent of your injuries.
>> Will my case go to trial?
Most personal injury cases never go to trial. At least in Western New York, personal injury cases are generally settled – sometimes even before a victim has filed a claim. An attorney can help you achieve an equitable settlement without the added stress of a trial; and if your case is one of the rare ones that goes to court, you’ll want someone with experience you can trust on your side.
>> Is there a minimum amount of medical expenses need for a case?
The simple answer is: No. In New York State, there is no minimum threshold for medical bills restricting claims. Your ability to file a claim depends entirely upon your injuries. The circumstances of your injuries and the extent of your injury will determine your case. If you’re wondering about your ability to pursue a claim, consult an experienced personal injury attorney.
>> How can I figure out the value of my case?
Many factors determine the value of a personal injury case. When you meet with a personal injury attorney, you should expect that attorney to start by asking for your version of events: describe the accident, explain who was at fault, and detail any injuries you sustained. After investigating and gathering evidence, your attorneys will review your version of events, with special attention to the ways the accident has impacted your life, from medical expenses to limitations on your ability to work, recreate, spend time with family, and function normally.
The amount of your compensation will depend on three factors:
- The extent of the injuries: Medical expenses, time away from work, emotional damages, and any restrictions on an injured person’s ability to function normally can all drive up the value, or potential compensation, in a personal injury case.
- The circumstances of the case: How did the accident happen? Is the other party entirely at fault, or is there some fault on both sides?
- The amount of available insurance coverage: Do you and/or other parties involved have insurance coverage? What are the specifics of your insurance policies?
After accounting for these variables an experienced attorney should be able to give you a detailed and reasonably accurate estimate of the value of your case.
>> Should I take the first settlement offer?
Sometimes a representative of an insurance company will reach out to the victim of a personal injury with an early settlement offer. This may be a perfectly legitimate, just, and even generous offer – or it may not. In any case, it’s best to consult your attorney and to wait before responding or accepting. If you’ve been injured, you won’t be healed overnight. If you’ve been offered an early settlement, you should wait to see how your injuries heal, adjust for complications that arise, and let some of the other particulars of your case play out. Once your recovery seems to be progressing, your attorney can help you come to a decision about an early settlement offer.
>> I have a preexisting condition. Will that affect the outcome of my case?
Insurance companies might point to a preexisting condition to lower or even get out of a settlement with an injured person. An experienced attorney can help to draw a clear distinction between injuries directly resulting from your accident and any other injuries or preexisting conditions. Overlap won’t necessarily ruin your case. If you suffered an injury to your shoulder 10 years ago, a recent injury to the same area might trigger or aggravate pain.
>> What doctor should I see if I’ve been injured? Will my choice affect my claim?
If you’ve been injured, your priority should be your health, not some future personal injury claim. Go the doctor you’d normally see given the circumstances. If you’ve been seriously injured, an ambulance may arrive to take you to a hospital. If your injuries are less serious, you might be able to drive yourself, or have a friend or family member drive you to the hospital. You may go to an urgent care facility. No matter the case, be sure to follow up with a specialist. For example, if you’ve sustained an injury to your neck, you should see an orthopedist, a neurologist or neurosurgeon, or a physical therapist or chiropractor. Most importantly, you want to visit a doctor with the expertise to treat the type of injury you’ve sustained. If you do end up filing a claim or going to court, their expert evidence could weigh heavily in your favor.
>> What if I didn’t see a doctor immediately after my accident?
You can still pursue a personal injury claim even if you didn’t seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Many injuries aren’t easily detectable right away, but worsen over time. In fact, in the immediate aftermath of an accident, many injured people say to themselves, “I think I’m going to be okay. I’m a little sore. I’m going to go home and see how this goes.” In some cases, an injured person may have other legitimate reasons for delaying seeking medical treatment. Don’t be discouraged if you waited to seek medical treatment – there’s a good chance that you could still have a personal injury case, and could seek reimbursement for your expenses and injuries.
>> Can I claim emotional damages?
Not all personal injury law pertains to physical injuries. You might be able to make a case for legitimate emotional damages. Like physical injuries, emotional damages have to be documented. This isn’t a straightforward process: if you think you ought to be compensated for emotional damages, seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who can help you document your claims and present your case.
Some Common Injuries, Explained
If you’ve been injured in an accident, some conditions might be obvious – like a burn, or a broken bone. Other injuries, like hairline fractures, herniated discs, and traumatic brain injury might be harder to detect, or only flare up long after the accident – and, in some case, long after you’ve accepted a settlement. After seeking the best medical care you can access, it’s best to consult with an attorney and give yourself time to see how your injuries progress – healing, or undergoing complications. It might help to consider a few common causes for personal injury claims, explained below.
>> I’ve hurt my back. Should I take a settlement?
Most injuries to the back and neck are strains to ligaments and muscles. Treated correctly, pain from these injuries will go away within a couple of months. In some cases, though, you might not experience any pain until a few days after an accident. Some injuries will take longer to treat, and could develop complications. Because of this, it’s never a good idea to jump at an early settlement.
One common complication in cases of back injury is a herniated disc, sometimes called a ruptured or slipped disc. Usually seen in the lower back (lumbar spine), they can also occur in the neck (cervical spine) or upper/middle back (thoracic spine). A herniated disc will press against your spinal nerves, causing severe pain and even numbness in any part of the body where that nerve travels. You can only detect a herniated disc with an MRI or CT scan, and the recovery process is long – another reason why you shouldn’t take a settlement until you understand the extent of your injuries.
>> Can I make a claim for my burn?
While the skin (the body’s largest organ) is generally resilient and heals quickly in most cases, burns can be an exception. Burns can cause long-lasting pain, and leave you seriously disfigured. Severe burns can require expensive medical treatment. Pain from a burn can make it difficult for you to do your job, and if you’re seeking a job, disfigurement from a burn can be a very real barrier to employment, sapping your confidence and triggering bias. It’s important to understand the types and classifications of burns, and the ways in which you might be entitled to compensation.
- Light Burns: Everyone knows what a sunburn feels like: skin turns red and becomes sensitive to the slightest touch. If you spend a day outside and come home with a sunburn, you have only yourself to blame. However, if a caregiver leaves a child or an elderly person in the sun too long due to carelessness, the child or elderly person might be entitled to compensation. If you were burned in a tanning bed, you might also be able to pursue a successful claim, depending on the frequency, scope, and detail of any warnings, and in any case of faulty equipment.
- Thermal Burns: You can also burn your skin from direct exposure to high temperatures – for example, touching a stove. The most famous example of a personal injury case resulting from a thermal burn is Liebeck v. McDonald’s (1994), in which a 49-cent cup of coffee led to an undisclosed settlement probably between $400-600,000. While the “hot coffee” case remains controversial, still the poster child for tort reform more than 20 years later, it offers valuable lessons about claims for thermal burns. Liebeck’s attorneys won the case in part because the jury deemed the coffee to be unreasonably and dangerously hot, and the warning on the cup to be inadequate. If you’ve suffered a thermal burn, dangerous temperatures, unsafe conditions, and inadequate warnings could all entitle you to a claim.
- Chemical Burns: Most chemical burns result from household products like bleach, chlorine, and other cleaning solutions. These burns can be devastating, affecting the deepest layers of your skin.
- Electrical Burns: Electric burns result from high-voltage electricity traveling through the body. Lightning could be a cause, but more commonly electrical burns come from contact with an electrical outlet, wire, or appliance. Beyond burns, enough voltage could damage internal organs and even cause the heart to stop. The most severe electrical burns usually occur in a construction or industrial site.
There are also three classifications, or degrees, of burns:
- First Degree: These are superficial, damaging only the top layer of skin (the epidermis: e.g. sunburn).
- Second Degree: These burns extend into the second layer of skin (the dermis).
- Third Degree: These burns damage the epidermis, dermis, and fatty tissue beneath the skin. Third degree burns cause damage to the skin’s nerve endings, and could result in permanent disfigurement. Third degree burns require long-term, painful treatment.
If you or a loved one has been burned, don’t worry about the cost – seek the best treatment possible. Then consult with an experienced attorney who can help you determine the liability of any parties involved.
>> I’ve suffered a head injury. What should I do?
Because of movies like Concussion and news reports about the dangers of even high school sports, brain injuries are getting some much-needed attention. The brain is the most complicated organ in the body, the most intensely studied, and the one that still holds the most mysteries. Aside from causing pain, head injuries that damage the brain can affect everything, every part of a person’s life and even sense of identity, impacting things like memory, attention, attitude, cognition, learning, speech and language ability, mental stamina, bodily functions, and the senses.
The number one cause of disability in children and young adults is traumatic brain injuries. Two million people suffer from traumatic brain injuries each year. Of that number, 70,000 to 90,000 are left with significant and irreversible impairments, and 20,000 people die from their brain injuries.
There are many types of brain damage, but the two largest categories are Acquired Brain Injury (for things not caused by trauma, such as strokes, tumors, toxins, degenerative diseases, birth defects, and oxygen deprivation), and Traumatic Brain Injury (concussion, contusion, diffuse axonal damage, and penetration). The different types of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) fall into a further two categories: focal brain damage, caused by an impact to one area, and diffuse brain damage, caused by the brain moving back and forth inside the skull.
Many brain injuries result from auto, industrial, and construction site accidents, but sports, child abuse, and serious falls could also cause TBI. Because of the enormous range of damage areas, severity, treatment, expenses, and long-term impact, TBI cases call for an attorney with the requisite experience.
Each day, an average of 115 people in the United States die from injuries sustained in automobile accidents, which adds up to 40,000 people every year. The actual cost of these accidents totals more than $150 billion yearly. If you have been hurt in a car accident, or have lost a loved one due to someone else’s recklessness, you may be entitled to financial compensation from those responsible.
>> I’ve been in an auto accident. What should I do?
So much in an auto accident case depends upon the evidence. The moments after an accident can be stressful and overwhelming, and you may be physically incapacitated to take down any information. However, if possible, recording or remembering the following information will help you later on:
- The other driver’s name, address, telephone number, and date of birth.
- The other driver’s license number, insurance company name, and insurance policy number.
- The attending police officer’s name and badge number.
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses.
You can also take the following steps to aid your memory and strengthen your case:
- Visit a hospital as soon as possible to ensure that your injuries are treated, and documented.
- Put together a diagram of the car accident, noting the street layout, the arrangement of the vehicles before and after the accident, and the position of any witnesses.
- Jot down any other notes regarding the car accident as soon as possible.
>> What claims can I make after an auto accident?
Auto accident claims fall into three categories:
- Pain and suffering: Any pain and suffering – physical or mental – you’ve endured because of your accident could qualify for a claim.
- Medical expenses: All medical expenses directly resulting from your accident qualify for a claim. This includes short-term treatment, like a trip to the emergency room or a surgery, and could include long-term treatment, like physical therapy, chiropractic, or even counseling for emotional and mental health issues. In either case, you need medical documentation proving that the injuries or conditions treated were a direct result of the accident.
- Lost wages: You may be able to make a claim for wages lost during any time an injury has kept you away from work.
>> How long do I have to wait before filing a claim for an auto accident?
You do not need to wait to file any claim for an auto accident. The statute of limitations in New York State allows you file a claim within three years of an auto accident, but waiting only makes it harder to gather evidence, contact witnesses, and conduct other parts of a legal investigation. If you’ve been in an auto accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
>> I was a pedestrian injured by an automobile. What are my rights?
There are an average of 330 pedestrian fatalities annually in New York State. When drivers fail to acknowledge pedestrians on the road, the results are far too often fatal. Pedestrians have rights to the road, too, but there are many misconceptions about the rules that govern interactions between drivers and pedestrians. The State of New York offers the following helpful guidelines:
- Pedestrians are to use sidewalks whenever they are safely available.
No matter the situation, if you have been hit by a motor vehicle while walking, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide if you have a case worth pursuing.
>> I was in an accident while riding my bike. Can I file a claim?
Though bike lanes have been increasing in response to greater public awareness and pressure on city officials, bike accidents are still far too common, and often result in debilitating injuries or even death.
New York Law states that bicyclists have to follow the same rules as motorists – that means stopping at red lights, keeping to the right, and taking commonsense safety precautions. Beyond this, a bicyclist should be able to use the roads without worry about accident or injury. After a bicycle accident, if it’s at all possible, take the same measures you would in a car-on-car accident: take pictures of the scene, draw up a diagram of the roadway marking the position of the cars, take down the driver’s name, address, and insurance information, and connect with witnesses. After seeking medical treatment for an injury sustained on a bicycle, consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can mobilize a team of investigators and medical experts on your behalf.
>> I was hit by a drunk driver. Can I file a civil suit?
The U.S. sees an average of one death per hour as the result of drunk driving. While the number of fatalities is staggering, thousands more suffer serious and life-altering injuries in drunk driving accidents.
Those who drive drunk and are caught will be subject to serious criminal charges. But their legal punishment has nothing to do with your injury. Long after a drunk driver has gone to criminal court for sentencing, injured parties will still be suffering, recovering, and wading through significant medical expenses. In New York State, drunk ddogrivers are liable for any injuries or deaths they cause. If you have been injured, or know someone injured or killed by a drunk driver, consult with experienced personal injury attorneys to seek just compensation.
>> I’ve been in an accident involving a truck. What should I do?
Every year, 500,000 large trucks, or “semis,” are involved in accidents on U.S. roads. Of these, 5,000 involve fatalities. Because of the height, size, and construction of large trucks relative to other vehicles on the road, the truck drivers are not usually the parties injured or killed in an accident. For other drivers, accidents involving large trucks are especially dangerous because of the size of the trucks, their speed, and the frequency of driver fatigue.
As with any other type of accident, successful cases for injury from collision with a “semi” depend on three factors: solid proof of liability, injuries that were caused by the negligent party, and insurance to compensate for damages. In accident law, two out of three usually isn’t enough.
>> I was involved in an accident because of an RV tire failure. What should I do?
Because of the size and layout of motor homes, or RVs, accidents can cause very serious injuries. Unfortunately, recent years have seen an increase in fatal accidents involving “Class A” motor homes, often due to tire failure. Class A motor home tires tend to fail because of the extraordinary weight of RVs, weight shifting due to the layout of the interior, and infrequently changed tires because of sporadic use. The front tires – a single set unlike the double set in the back – are the ones most often collapsing. If the front tires collapse, it’s impossible to steer an RV.
If your motor home tires fail, causing you injury, you may be entitled to compensation. Seek the counsel of a respected personal injury attorney with experience in this area of auto accident law.
>> How does a motorcycle accident differ from other auto accidents?
The biggest difference between motorcycle and other auto accidents is that there is no “no fault” coverage for motorcycle accidents. A motorcycle driver involved in an accident in New York will have to pay for any medical bills through his or her health insurance, or out-of-pocket. If you’re a motorcyclist involved in an accident, you’ll have to figure out quickly how to pay those medical expenses.
If you were injured as a passenger on a motorcycle, you are entitled to bring a suit against the driver of the motorcycle or the driver of any other vehicle involved in the accident. Before doing so, you and your attorney will have to study the circumstances to determine who was at fault: the driver of the motorcycle you were riding, another driver involved, or some combination.
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident as a passenger or a driver, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you answer some of these complicated questions.
>> How does a boating accident differ from other vehicle accidents?
New York State is rich with lakes and waterways. Because of this, boating, jet skiing, and other aquatic recreations are popular – but these pose dangers every season. Boating accidents often result from careless or reckless operation, and in some cases from criminal behavior, such as drinking and boating.
It is illegal to operate a boat carelessly in New York State; drinking and boating is also a crime with penalties similar to those for DWIs or DWAIs. If you’ve been injured by a reckless or intoxicated boater, you are entitled to sue that person, and can expect a monetary reward. If your boating injury resulted from a defective part or product, you may be able to sue the manufacturer, as discussed under Products Liability below.
Injury Because of Property Owner Negligence
The most common claims of negligence on the part of a property owner come after cases of injury from slipping and falling. Oftentimes, these accidents result in broken bones and torn knee ligaments. The injuries get worse for elderly people who slip and fall. Frequently, elderly people suffer broken or fractured hips that they will need to get replaced. Of course, the most serious injury is one to the head. Head injuries can cause long lasting and even permanent damage. If you’ve suffered an injury from a fall in public or on someone else’s property, you should see an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to determine if you might be entitled to compensation.
>> I’ve fallen on someone else’s property. Am I entitled to compensation?
In New York, property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property in a way that prevents visitors from being injured. To determine if your fall might entitle you to compensation, an attorney should ask you the following questions:
- Did the owner make clear to you the poor condition of the property that caused your injuries?
- Did the owner have a reasonable amount of time to fix or warn people of the condition?
- Was the owner aware of the dangerous condition? Would it be reasonable to expect the owner to have been aware of the condition?
- Was the condition of the property obviously dangerous?
If your attorney can prove the four elements above, then the property owner may be to blame for your injuries, and you may be entitled to compensation.
>> I fell and injured myself in a commercial parking lot. Do I have a case?
Commercial property owners in New York State have a legal responsibility to ensure that their property is safe. If you have fallen and suffered an injury on a parking lot or in a commercial building, be sure to photograph the location to document surface defects like potholes or ruts. If you weren’t able to photograph the area immediately after your injury, your attorney should send you out with an investigator to find the spot and the surface defects. Witnesses could also strengthen your case.
>> I’ve fallen on stairs. What should I do?
If you’ve fallen on stairs, the first thing you should do, after arranging for medical treatment, is to take a photograph of the area. By examining the photograph, your attorney will be able to evaluate your claim. Your attorney might take a step further and send an investigator to the scene to take measurements and do a more thorough evaluation. If you’re presenting a claim for an injury from falling on steps, you need to document the fault in the steps that caused your fall. If you can do this, the property owner may be legally obligated to compensate you for your injuries.
>> I’ve been bit by a dog. Is the owner responsible?
Thousands in America suffer dog bites every year – and small children, unfortunately, account for about 75% of these cases. Beyond the physical pain, dog bites can cause permanent disfigurement and long-lasting fear. Every year, about 15 dog bites end in death.
In New York State, dog owners are liable for the medical expenses of anyone injured by a bite or attack. The owner may be liable for additional damages if:
- The owner was negligent.
- The dog was unrestrained.
- The dog has a history of biting others.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, after ensuring you get proper medical treatment, you should follow the same steps you’d take in an auto accident. Get the name, address, phone number, and insurance information of the owner. Get contact information for any witnesses. Call the police and have them file a report. Take pictures of the injury and of the dog if possible. Do not, under any circumstances, talk to the dog owner’s insurance company – this should be your attorney’s job.
Injuries on the Job
Workplace injuries can be devastating. Some of the most dangerous occupations, like construction, farming, and heavy industry, require manual labor, which means that any injury, whether sustained on the job or elsewhere, could affect your ability to do your job, and even threaten your employment.
>> I’m a construction worker and I’ve been injured on the job. What do I do?
Construction workers are injured on the job more frequently than, say, retail employees. If you work in construction or heavy industry, you probably entered the field accepting a certain amount of risk. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve given up your rights. Remember that the law requires your employers, general contractors, and subcontractors to maintain a safe working environment, ensure that job sites comply with state safety regulations, and alert employees to any hazardous conditions. Common job site injuries include:
|v Traumatic brain injury
v Broken/fractured bones
v Loss of limbs
v Spinal cord injury
v Wrongful death
Personal injury attorneys with experience handling construction and industrial accident cases know that employers violate simple safety standards and use defective products regularly. Employers in these fields know that many injured workers never file claims, for fear of losing their job or suffering other consequences. If you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, you have a much better chance of securing your rightful compensation, and getting your life back on track.
>> I was injured using farm equipment. Do I have a case?
Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S., not only because of the heavy equipment involved, but because farmers often work alone, in remote areas far removed from adequate medical care.
Sometimes farm equipment lacks proper safety features, such as shutoffs, guards, or shields. Some farm equipment isn’t properly maintained. If you’ve been injured on a farm, a product manufacturer or, if you’re a laborer, your employer, could be legally responsible for your injuries. Personal injury attorneys with experience in farm accident cases can do more than offer counsel about a settlement. If you choose a firm with the right resources, they can bring in professional engineers to analyze the equipment, call on medical experts to examine your injuries, and connect you with occupational consultants to advise you about when it might be the right time, or the wrong time, to return to work.
If your injuries make it impossible to return to work at your farm or other place of employment, you might be able to use part of any settlement to help you qualify for a position in another field. Any kind of injury sustained while working on a farm requires serious consideration. After treating your injuries, consult with an experienced attorney.
Injuries to Children
At 18, children can file claims for themselves. If a child is under 18, parents or guardians have to file a claim on his or her behalf. Filing a claim on behalf of an injured minor brings additional complications. Children are commonly hurt in car accidents, accidents at school, accidents caused by other children, sporting accidents, and by dangerous conditions on another person’s property. Most of these are situations of overlapping responsibility.
Because children are developing physically and mentally, injuries at a young age can have long-lasting repercussions. When your child is injured, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying for medical expenses – secure the best possible treatment for your child’s recovery and let experienced personal injury attorneys ensure that you’re compensated.
>> My child was injured at school. How do I know who’s responsible?
Injuries that occur at school are usually cases of overlapping responsibility: teachers might be responsible for failing to supervise the child, administrators might be responsible for failing to provide adequate resources for supervision, and the school district or board might be responsible for failing to provide a safe environment. In some cases, another child may be responsible. Often it is a combination of these. If your child has been injured at school, you need a team of experienced personal injury attorneys to conduct a full and fair investigation.
Injuries to the Elderly
The elderly are a vulnerable population, and too often abuse – mental or physical – that occurs in nursing homes goes unnoticed or overlooked. As shocking as it often is to families, the causes of nursing home abuse are easy to identify: most homes operate at the lowest possible cost, with employees over-worked, inadequately trained, and with minimum qualifications to justify low wages. The elderly residents, in turn, are often hesitant to start trouble with the people who serve them – and in some cases those people manipulate their residents because of mental infirmities or their dependent condition.
Common signs of nursing home abuse are weight loss, failure to treat pressure sores, poor pain management, dehydration, malnutrition, and even starvation. These can lead to complications and even death.
Nursing home claims and lawsuits are on the rise due to increased attention to this vulnerable population. If you or a person you know has been a victim of nursing home abuse, contact a personal injury attorney with experience in this area.
Product liability law is complicated because of the number of players involved. If you’ve been injured because of a defective project, both the manufacturer and the seller bear some responsibility for making that defective product available to customers. If multiple manufacturers were involved, all might bear responsibility. If there were middlemen between the manufacturers and retailers, they, too, might be responsible. Defects aren’t the only things for which a manufacturer or seller might be liable, either: they also have an obligation to place adequate warning labels or other instructions on all potentially dangerous products.
>> How do I know if I’m entitled to file a product liability claim?
Only the consumer of a faulty or inadequately labeled product, a person to whom the product was loaned, or a bystander injured due to the operation of such a product can file a product liability claim. There are no federal product liability laws, but most states have them.
>> How do I win my product liability case?
To win a product liability case, your attorney must prove that the product is defective in one of three areas:
- Manufacturing Defect: These occur during the production of the item.
- Marketing Defect: These are improper instructions, or a failure to warn consumers about the dangers of a product.
- Design Defect: Design flaws are distinct from production flaws, which assume a sound design.
>> I suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. Am I entitled to a claim?
Carbon monoxide causes approximately 30 deaths and 450 injuries in the U.S. each year. Low blood oxygen levels from carbon monoxide intake can result in loss of consciousness and death. The most frequent causes are portable camping heaters, stoves, and lanterns used inside tents or enclosed spaces, as well as campers or vehicles. Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen; risk increases at high altitudes, after alcohol and drug use, and in enclosed spaces, where portable camping heaters, stoves, and lanterns are strictly inadvisable. Pregnant mothers and unborn children, the elderly, and people with circulatory problems are also at greater risk.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
People suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning often mistake their symptoms for the cold or flu. If you go camping and develop flu or cold-like symptoms you must immediately see a doctor.
Some carbon monoxide injuries and deaths are preventable – and not your fault. Sometimes defective products like the ones listed above cause carbon monoxide leaks, followed by death or injury. Some products that release carbon monoxide are inadequately labeled. If you or someone you know has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and you suspect a faulty product, contact a personal injury attorney with experience in this area.
Cases Involving Death
>> A person I loved passed away because of an accident. Am I entitled to any compensation?
Accidents resulting in death are very different from all other types of personal injury cases. In most personal injury cases, the claimant needs to demonstrate the extent of any injuries sustained, and establish the legal responsibility of the other party.
If a loved one has died in an accident resulting from another’s negligence or crime, you may be entitled to make a claim for “wrongful death.” Some common causes for wrongful death claims are medical malpractice, vehicle accidents, occupational exposure to hazards, crime, or death during a supervised activity. In any case, the claimant has to demonstrate “pecuniary injury”: loss of support or services from the deceased, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. A jury and judge may award additional “punitive damages” in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing. That said, New York State law and precedent do not allow survivors to recover damages for pain and suffering caused by the death – these would include emotional suffering, loss of companionship, etc. – even if the deceased is a parent or child.
>> A person I loved was murdered. Can I sue for wrongful death?
While the most common cause for wrongful death suits is medical malpractice, some suits follow violent crimes. One famous example is the case of O.J. Simpson. Though a jury acquitted the football star of all murder charges in 1995, the Goldman family brought a civil suit for wrongful death in January of 1997. U.S. double jeopardy laws prevent Simpson from ever again being tried – and found “guilty” – for murder. However, in part because wrongful death cases have a lower burden of proof than murder cases (a “preponderance of evidence,” rather than “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”), a civil jury after five days of deliberations found Simpson “liable” for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, awarding $33.5 million to the Goldman family.
The statute of limitations on wrongful death cases in New York is two years. Wrongful death cases are sensitive, and the outcome of any suit depends on too many factors to make generalized predictions. If a loved one has died because of another’s negligence or crime, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney.