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Personal Injury

Monday, February 16, 2015

Can You Sue if You Signed A Liability Waiver?

You might be asked to sign a liability waiver before engaging in a recreational activity.  For some endeavors that seem naturally dangerous, this will come as no surprise.  But, in day to day life, you might come in to contact with liability waivers on a more frequent basis than you expect.  You might be asked to sign a liability waiver when engaging in certain sports, such as skiing, watching certain live sporting events and even when signing up for a gym membership.  While signing the waiver is often a prerequisite to participation, you should know that these agreements are not always enforced from a legal standpoint.   Therefore, if you or your loved one is injured after signing one you still have a chance of recovering for your injuries. 

 A liability waiver is an agreement between two parties, wherein one party agrees to release another party from responsibility should the first party suffer some injury at the second party’s fault.  In the context of everyday recreational activities, the participating party is assuming the risk of injury from the hosting party and in some cases, giving up their right to sue altogether.  One type of contract that might qualify as a liability waiver is a contract of adhesion.  A contract of adhesion is a boilerplate form that is presented to a party who has no opportunity to negotiate the terms.  An example of this type of agreement is a preprinted waiver on the back of a receipt.

Although these agreements are very common, they can be invalidated based on certain factors.  Each state has a different take on liability waivers, and therefore the law varies greatly across the country.  Some state courts strictly enforce these agreements while others seem to disfavor them.  Most courts look at a combination of factors including how the document was drafted and the circumstances surrounding its signing.  Courts will inquire as to the nature of the document.  They favor documents that are clear and unambiguous and that include terms that a reasonable person would understand.  They also look at whether the waiver was obvious or evident.  Was the waiver presented to the party or was it hidden on the back of a ticket stub?  Courts favor an obvious approach.  As far as the circumstances surrounding the signing of the agreement, the courts will try to discover whether it was entered into voluntarily.  If someone was forced to enter into the agreement, it will likely not be upheld.  Lastly, any agreement that violates public policy in some way will usually be invalidated by a court. 

If you signed a liability waiver, but were subsequently injured, and want to know if you have a chance to recover in a personal injury action, contact us today for a case evaluation today. 

 


Friday, November 14, 2014

Defensive Medicine

Defensive Medicine: Many Doctors “Over-Treat” Patients Due to Fear of Medical Malpractice Claims

The skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums has changed the way many physicians practice medicine, prompting some to refuse certain patients with complex medical problems or to order unnecessary tests on other patients. Such “defensive medicine” can involve unwarranted lab tests or x-rays or even more invasive procedures to help ensure “certainty” regarding a diagnosis. Even more troubling for the most vulnerable patients, defensive medicine can result in a surgeon’s refusal to perform a complex operation on a sick patient for fear of a negative outcome and eventual malpractice lawsuit.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that many patients receive “too much” medical care and treatment. The study found that 42 percent of American primary care physicians believe that patients receive more aggressive medical care than is necessary. The study also revealed that many doctors feel they must provide “excessive care” to patients, due in large part, to concerns about being the subject of medical malpractice claims.

The study involved 627 physicians, most of whom had practiced medicine for nearly 25 years. Of the doctors surveyed, just 6 percent expressed concern that patients were receiving too little care. Most doctors reason that they could risk medical malpractice lawsuits if they fail to take every conceivable measure to cure or prevent an illness. They admitted over-treating and over-testing, in order to attain clinical performance standards, despite the small amount of time they have to actually consult with each patient.

The vast majority of physicians surveyed – 83 percent – believe they could be sued if they opted not to order every test that is indicated for a particular situation. On the other hand, just over 1 in 5 doctors believe they could be sued for ordering an unnecessary test.

Nearly half of the survey respondents reported that nurse practitioners and physician assistants provided more aggressive treatment than primary care doctors, and 61 percent indicated that subspecialists also provide more aggressive treatment. Experts believe that defensive medicine could be mitigated if doctors more effectively communicated with their patients about their illness and the pros and cons of various tests.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How are Damages Calculated in Personal Injury Cases?

How are Damages Calculated in Personal Injury Cases?

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligent conduct, you may be considering a lawsuit to recover compensation. The compensation awarded to you, called “damages,” falls within two categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for actual losses sustained, and are further divided into “special damages” and “general damages.”

Special damages are those fixed amounts relating to your actual losses, such as medical expenses, lost income or costs to repair your property. General damages, on the other hand, include non-monetary losses, such as “pain and suffering”, your decreased ability to perform certain functions, or the loss of a loved one. Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are designed to punish a defendant or deter similar conduct in the future.

The damages to which you are entitled are typically calculated based on the severity of your injuries, the underlying circumstances of the incident in question, and whether the case settles or proceeds to a trial. The following factors are typically considered:

  • Medical treatment expenses
  • Estimated costs of future medical treatment or therapy
  • Past lost wages or income
  • Future lost wages or income
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • Your out-of-pocket expenses, such as insurance deductibles or copayments
  • Rental car expenses
  • Funeral expenses, in wrongful death cases
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, if the underlying act was particularly egregious or intentional

In the American legal system, damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff sufficiently to make him or her “whole,” i.e. restore the plaintiff to the same position he or she was in prior to the accident or injury. If you mediate your dispute or otherwise settle it out of court, the parties and lawyers will negotiate each item and come to an agreement. If your case is tried in a court, the judge or jury will calculate how much you are entitled to receive, based on the evidence presented at trial.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Bringing a Claim for Injuries When the Accident Was Partly Your Fault

Bringing a Claim for Injuries When the Accident Was Partly Your Fault

In order to prevail in a personal injury case, you must be able to prove that your injuries were directly caused by the negligent actions of another. If you can prove that your injuries were at least partly caused by another, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses.

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation from anyone else who partially caused the accident, even if the accident was partly your own fault. The legal theories of “contributory negligence” and “comparative negligence” apply in cases where the plaintiff in a lawsuit was partially responsible for his or her own injuries.

“Contributory negligence” means the injured person’s actions, at least to some extent caused his or her own injuries. For example, someone who ignores a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign and subsequently slips and falls may be deemed to have been careless and, thus, at fault for his or her injuries. As such, contributory negligence can prevent the injured person from recovering any compensation, even when his or her carelessness was minor as compared to the fault of the other party. In some states, accident victims are entitled to recover compensation only if they can prove that the other party’s fault was greater.

In some jurisdictions, the concept of contributory negligence has fallen out of favor and is no longer applied. Instead, it has been replaced with the concept of “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence means that the fault for causing an accident is compared among all parties, typically broken down as a percentage of fault attributed to each party. When this occurs, the monetary recovery awarded to the injured plaintiff is reduced by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if you were injured in a car accident that was determined to be 25% your fault, your monetary recovery from the other driver’s insurance company would be limited to 75% of the amount of your damages from the accident, an amount equal to that driver’s percentage of fault for causing the accident. By applying the concept of comparative negligence, each party is held accountable only for his or her percentage of fault for causing the injuries.

You may be deemed to be partially at fault for your injuries if you have failed to act with reasonably prudent care under the circumstances of the accident, or if you voluntarily assume a portion of the risk by exposing yourself to danger, such as by failing to use the available restraints on an amusement park ride or ignoring a posted warning sign.

The total value of your claim is based on many factors, including how easily fault can be apportioned among the parties, the seriousness of your injuries, medical treatments received and insurance coverage limits. Once the claim’s total value is established and the percentages are applied, a final figure for the injured plaintiff’s compensation can be determined.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Your Doctor Made a Mistake – But Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

The term “medical malpractice,” sometimes called medical negligence, refers to a situation in which a health care provider fails to act in accordance with standards of accepted medical practice, causing injury or death to the patient. A physician, nurse or other health care professional is considered negligent if his or her conduct is below the “standard of care,” i.e. the degree of care and skill that the typical health care professional would provide to a patient seeking treatment for similar symptoms or under similar circumstances.

It’s not just doctors and nurses who can be sued for medical malpractice. Any licensed health care provider who is in a position of trust can be held accountable for diagnosis or treatment that causes injury or death. These can include lab technicians, radiology technicians, specialists who interpret your test results, ambulance companies and their employees, and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies.

There are many types of mistakes which may be considered “medical malpractice,” depending on the overall circumstances of your injury or illness and the treatment you received. Common medical malpractice claims include:

  • Incorrect or missed diagnosis
  • Failure to conduct appropriate diagnostic tests
  • Failure to properly treat your medical condition
  • Failure to properly administer medications
  • Failure to properly perform a surgical procedure
  • Failure to manage a pregnancy or safely deliver a baby
  • Failure to warn you of the risks of treatment, which would enable you to give your fully informed consent to the treatment
  • Failure to anticipate a problem which should have been anticipated in accordance with the standard of care

Even if your medical treatment results in a negative outcome, the doctor’s or nurse’s conduct may not rise to the level of malpractice or negligence. Furthermore, even if the treatment you received clearly fell below the standard of care and is deemed “negligent,” you may run into difficulties bringing your claim due to the high cost of litigating a medical malpractice case. Because medical malpractice cases often hinge on the definition of the “standard of care” required for that particular situation, experts must be consulted and retained to prepare reports, give depositions and testify in court.

You should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you determine whether the health care provider’s negligence was truly the result of malpractice and whether your case is worth pursuing. Your attorney will review your medical records and will likely have to retain a medical expert who can review your records to evaluate the merits of your claim. Due to the significant expense involved in performing such reviews and obtaining assistance of experts for a medical malpractice claim, the vast majority of meritorious cases settle before the case goes to trial.
 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Common Accidents Injuries

Common Injuries in Automobile Accidents

If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you may be seriously injured and not even realize it. At least, not immediately. Serious injury can occur even in slow or low-impact collisions, and accidents which cause no damage to the vehicle. For example, accident victims can suffer from “whiplash” in collisions involving a sudden change in vehicle speed of just 2.5 miles per hour.    

Motor vehicle collision injuries range from minor cuts and scrapes to catastrophic, life-ending trauma.  Bleeding, broken bones or bruising are obvious indications that a driver or passenger has sustained an injury and needs treatment. However, there are also less-obvious injuries that are much more difficult to diagnose and treat, including myofascial injury (“whiplash”) and mild traumatic brain injury.

“Whiplash” is one of the most common auto accident injuries. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognizes whiplash as “a range of neck injuries related to sudden distortions of the neck that commonly occur in rear-end crashes.” Specifically, this term may refer to a cervical strain, cervical sprain or hyperextension injury. Any sudden impact, even at very low speeds, can cause a whiplash injury to the ligaments, muscles and vertebrae in the neck or back, although the damage may not become apparent for several hours or days. A whiplash injury can be mild, such as a muscle strain, or more severe, including nerve or disc damage, ruptured ligaments or vertebrae fractures.

Treatments for whiplash can include ice, anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, muscle relaxants, massage therapy, or immobilization of the neck or back with a cervical collar or brace. In cases involving severe muscle or ligament damage, cervical traction or surgery may be required. Recovery time for a whiplash injury is typically between a few weeks and three months. Untreated whiplash victims can suffer lasting effects, including chronic pain, an increased susceptibility to future neck or back injuries and posture problems.

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is a high-level concussion, defined by the Brain Injury Association of America as a “physical injury to the brain that causes a disruption of normal functioning.” MTBI involves a loss of consciousness or loss of memory before or after the accident. There are a wide range of MTBI injuries, from a temporary disruption of normal brain activity to permanent brain changes that affect how a person functions physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally. Early MTBI symptoms can include mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness or confusion. In later stages, MTBI sufferers can face difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue or a quick temper. These later stage symptoms can be difficult to attribute to the auto accident because they only become apparent long after the injury was sustained.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, the body’s natural physiological responses often mask the soft-tissue injuries that can occur. But once your body has had a chance to relax, you may experience a number of symptoms related to the accident, including neck and back pain, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, headaches, dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance or equilibrium, shooting pains, muscle soreness, numbness or tingling in the extremities, emotional and behavioral disturbances, or memory and concentration difficulties.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Importance of Accident Testimony

Importance of Credible Accident Reconstruction Testimony 

If you have been injured in an automobile collision, your attorney may require the assistance of an experienced accident expert to help prove who is at fault for the accident. Generally, in order to recover any compensation for your injuries or property damage, you will have to prove that the other party was somehow negligent. Accident reconstruction experts are professionals who have obtained specialized training in order to analyze the physics of the accident scene, determine vehicle speeds and movements, and effectively communicate their findings to the court or insurance company representatives.

These professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, including science education, engineering, or law enforcement who have undertaken special training. These experts can evaluate the scene of the accident, develop calculations and assessments regarding how the accident occurred or how damages were sustained, and can testify to these facts and findings before a judge or jury. They do so by offering a variety of services, including site visits to the scene of the accident, taking photos, interviewing witnesses, applying the applicable scientific principles and preparing a final report. That report often forms basis for the expert’s testimony in court. Generally, the importance of the accident reconstructionist’s testimony is directly tied to the complexity or controversial nature of the accident in question.

Expert testimony regarding how an accident occurred is key to settlement negotiations. Using illustrations, simulations, models, animations and other methods, accident reconstructionists can show exactly what happened, how it happened, and how it could have been prevented.  Even if there are photographs of crash scenes and medical records, these can usually demonstrate the severity of the accident or damages sustained rather than proving who was at fault.

Usually, both sides hire their own reconstruction experts and, not surprisingly, those reports often conflict with one another. When this happens, the experts' credibility becomes a key issue. As in every case where there is conflicting testimony, the decision-makers must make a determination regarding which expert to believe.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Settling a Case

The Pros and Cons of Settling a Case

If you have been injured by the negligent actions of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses. Deciding whether to settle a personal injury lawsuit without taking the case to trial is a major decision demanding the full consideration of many factors.

Some plaintiffs wish to settle the matter quickly, while others want to let a judge or jury determine whether damages should be awarded and how much. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option; only you can decide what is best for your specific situation but an attorney can help you put the pros and cons of each option into perspective.

The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits never see a courtroom, evidence that the benefits of early settlement are compelling to a great number of injury victims. Settling a case is often more advantageous to the injured party, rather than taking the case to trial.If you have received a settlement offer from the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company, you should review the offer with your attorney as soon as possible.

Settlement agreements have many advantages. Settling your case is much quicker than taking your case to trial, which can take up to a year – or more, depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case. You can receive the money, or at least a portion of it, immediately so you can pay off your medical bills and repair property damage. Your attorneys’ fees and other legal costs are greatly reduced by avoiding protracted discovery and the trial itself. Additionally, the emotional benefits are undeniable. You have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much money you will receive, and you can get emotional closure right away so you can move on. Finally, settlement agreements can remain confidential, whereas court proceedings are public records.

On the other hand, there are tradeoffs. In exchange for the benefits stated above, you will typically have to accept a smaller monetary award than you might get if the case goes before a judge or jury.

Taking your case to trial, letting the court decide the outcome, also has its advantages and disadvantages. If you go to trial and win, you may feel a sense of emotional satisfaction having prevailed in the lawsuit. And, as noted above, you may be awarded a much higher amount than what was offered in the settlement negotiations.

However, there is never any guarantee that you will win your case at trial, or that the amount awarded will be more than what you could have settled the case for. The value of any settlement offer or potential court verdict must be weighed against the increased costs of dragging the case out for many more months before a trial can take place. In considering your options, an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide you with a realistic assessment of whether a settlement offer is fair, and the likelihood of winning a greater award at trial.


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