Personal Injury FAQ

How is the amount of damages suffered in a personal injury determined?

To bear responsibility for injury to others, your negligent action (or failure to act in certain situations) must be the proximate cause of the injury without any intervening causes interrupting the natural sequence of events.

Once the first three elements of a tort (duty, breach, and causation) have been established, it is then a matter of determining the amount of damages suffered so that an injured party can be compensated for the damages sustained as a result of the tortfeasor's act or omission (a "tortfeasor" is the person who breached his/her duty which caused damages).
Some common "damages" that a person may suffer include:

(1) Medical expenses - such as doctors fees and hospitalization costs
(2) Rehabilitation therapy - the cost of obtaining services provided by others who assist a person to return to the same or similar physical condition s/he was in prior to the negligent act or omission. This could include training for a new occupation if the injury prevents the injured party from working in his/her normal trade or occupation
(3) Lost wages - wages and earnings that would have been earned by the injured party but for the negligence of the tortfeasor
(4) Pain and suffering - compensation for the hurt that an injured party is caused to endure as a result of the negligence of the tortfeasor.
(5) Punitive damages - assessed against reckless or irresponsible behavior to prevent such behavior from the tortfeasor in the future and to deter others from acting in a similar manner.
In many personal injury lawsuits, expert witnesses are retained to assist in determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party and to present this evidence to a jury.

What is a "slip and fall"?

A "slip and fall" or "trip and fall" is the generic term for an injury which occurs when someone slips, trips or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else's property. It includes falls as a result of water, ice or snow, as well as abrupt changes in flooring, poor lighting, or a hidden hazard, such as a gap or hard to see hole in the ground.
If you are on someone else's property and injure yourself as a result of a dangerous condition on the property, the land owner or business proprietor may be liable for your injuries. If you are a property owner and someone injures himself on your land, you may find yourself legally responsible for his or her injuries.

Suppose the other person's insurance company offers to settle with me?

Do you know the full extent of your injuries? How long they will last? How difficult the recovery process might be? How much income you will lose, not just in the time you are out of work, but afterwards? How much money is traditionally recoverable by persons who are similarly injured who have legal representation? Due to inexperience in these matters, you may know none of these answers. However, the insurance company has vast experience with these things, and may not share this knowledge with you. You may be negotiating in the blind, without any idea of what you may be entitled to recover. An experienced lawyer can help you to negotiate the best possible result.

What about "accidents" resulting from defective products?

Few manufacturers set off intentionally to create and sell an inherently dangerous product and conceal its dangers. Yet there are many products that do injure people, despite reputable manufacturer's efforts to create good products, and all sorts of government regulations designed to make products safe and well labeled.

If you use a knife to slice a bagel, and cut your hand in the process, neither the manufacturer of the knife, nor the bagel bakery, will likely be held responsible. But if the knife snaps and injures you because of a defect in manufacture, the manufacturer and possibly the distributor and the store that sold it to you may be liable. Similarly if the bagel contains impurities that make you very ill, the bakery may be liable.

If the products do not meet the standards set by the government, or if required government clearance of a product (such as a new drug) was obtained by suppressing negative test results, there also may be liability on the part of the manufacturer. A lawyer can assess the facts and circumstances, and also candidly evaluate what a likely recovery might be.

What is premises liability?

The term "premises liability" generally refers to accidents that occur due to the negligent maintenance, or unsafe or dangerous conditions upon property owned by someone other than the accident victim. Many states have laws that generally require landowners to maintain their property in a manner that does not cause injury to those that, for various reasons, visit the property. Often, these laws pertain to both business owners and homeowners.

In many states, property owners and business establishments have been found to have a duty to provide a safe environment for individuals on their premises. If you are injured because a property owner or a business establishment fails to provide a safe environment, you may have a right to bring a claim for various damages incurred due to your injury. In many states, these damages include pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages.

Premises Liability cases involve injuries sustained on the property or premises of a negligent third party. These types of cases often involve slip and fall accidents, which usually occur when a defective condition, foreign substance or object causes a fall. Crucial to settlement recovery is being able to show how long the defect or substance was there, how visible it was, and how much notice the owner had of the dangerous condition before the accident.