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Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law is an area of civil law concerned with providing monetary compensation to victims of accidents or social wrongs. The injured person bringing the lawsuit is called the "plaintiff," and the person or entity allegedly responsible for the injury is called the "defendant." In fatal accidents, the family of the decedent may bring a wrongful death suit against the person or entity responsible for the accident.
In some cases, there may be multiple responsible parties, and the plaintiff may be able to sue all of them to recover the full amount of compensation needed for his or her injuries. The defendant in turn may allege that another person or entity was responsible and bring that person or entity into the lawsuit as a cross-defendant.
The burden of proof in personal injury cases is typically lower than the burden of proof for criminal cases arising out of the same actions. This means that you may be able to recover in a personal injury lawsuit, even if the defendant was acquitted of criminal charges arising out of the same conduct. The objective in a personal injury lawsuit is generally to recover monetary compensation, rather than punish the defendant. However, in some cases, punitive damages may be sought and awarded for particularly egregious or malicious misconduct by a defendant.
Elements of Negligence
Personal injury lawsuits may arise out of any situation, including motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, professional malpractice, or nursing home abuse. Most injuries are the result of negligent or reckless conduct, rather than intentional conduct. In most states, a plaintiff claiming negligence will need to prove (1) the defendant's duty of care, (2) the defendant's breach of that duty, (3) actual causation, (4) proximate causation, and (5) actual damages.
A defendant's duty varies depending on the state and the circumstances. Generally, however, everyone has a duty to use reasonable care to avoid the risk of foreseeable injuries to others. For example, a driver who has had four cocktails shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car because of the significant risk he or she will get into a car accident. It also means that if a retailer notices that a handrail on the second floor of a store has come loose, such that a customer could lean on it and fall, the retailer has a duty to warn customers or to repair the loose handrail so that unwitting customers don't get injured. Failure to warn of a dangerous condition on property can result in a premises liability lawsuit against the person or entity in control of it.
Similarly, a doctor has a duty to act as a reasonably prudent doctor with similar training and expertise would act. He or she must order the appropriate tests or refer a patient to a specialist when faced with a potential diagnosis of a certain disease. A doctor who fails to meet the professional standard of care may be subject to a medical malpractice suit.
A plaintiff's failure to prove any of the elements of negligence can result in a case getting dismissed or in the defendant avoiding liability. If there are too many intervening events between the defendant's breach and a plaintiff's injury, the defendant's breach may not be considered the "proximate" or legal cause of the injury.
For example, consider a driver doing her makeup in the car. A motorcyclist decides to change lanes to avoid this distracted driver. Meanwhile, a deer crosses the road, and the motorcyclist swerves to avoid hitting the deer and crashes into a car that is illegally parked on the side of the road. In that case, the deer and the illegally parked cars are intervening causes of the motorcyclist's accident. The driver may have been negligent in putting on makeup in the car, but her conduct was not the "proximate" cause of the victim's injuries.
Forms of Compensation
In most personal injury cases, a plaintiff may recover economic and noneconomic compensatory damages, which may include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, vocational rehabilitation, household help, out-of-pocket costs, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.
Economic damages are those that are tied to tangible losses, often shown by submitting documentation. Usually, a plaintiff can try to recover all of his or her economic damages, such as medical expenses or lost income. In some states, however, pain and suffering or other noneconomic damages are "capped" in all personal injury cases, or sometimes just in medical malpractice cases. "Capped" means that a plaintiff cannot recover more than a set amount of damages.
The Personal Injury Process
Get Medical Treatment
The first thing that you should do after getting injured in an accident is to get medical treatment. If you are hurt, go to the hospital or see a doctor. Not only is this the right thing to do for your health, but, if you don’t see a doctor for some time after an accident, the insurance adjuster and the jury will assume that you weren’t all that hurt.
Choose a Lawyer
The next thing that you will have to do for anything more than a minor claim is to choose a lawyer. You should choose the lawyer soon after the injury. You can certainly settle a small personal injury claim yourself (although a lawyer is generally useful even for smaller claims), but you will absolutely need a lawyer for any personal injury claim where you suffered significant injury or other losses.
Georges Cote LLP can offer a wide variety of representation for many different personal injury claims. A qualified attorney from our firm will handle your case from start to finish, keeping you up to date on all relevant information and guiding you through the difficult process of an accidents aftermath. We offer free consultations and there are absolutely no upfront costs associated with your personal injury representation. Give us a call today for more information.
Lawyer Investigates Claim and Reviews Medical Records
The first thing that the lawyer will do is thoroughly interview you about how the accident happened, your background, and your medical condition and medical treatment. The lawyer wants to know everything that you know about the accident and your injury and treatment. Lawyers don’t want to be surprised, so make sure to answer all questions as completely as you can.
Then, the lawyer will get all of your medical records and bills relating to the injury and will probably also get your medical records for any treatment that you have ever had relating to the condition at issue in the case. This can take some time, so be patient. After all of the medical records come in, the lawyer will review them to see if, in their opinion, there is a possible case.
Lawyer Considers Making Demand and Negotiating
Many smaller personal injury claims are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed. If the lawyer thinks that the case can be settled, they will make a demand to the other attorney or the other side's insurance company.
Otherwise, your lawyer will file the lawsuit. In general, if your claim involves a claim of permanent injury or impairment, a good lawyer will not settle it before filing suit.
A good lawyer will also not make a demand until the plaintiff has reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is when the plaintiff has ended his/her medical treatment and is as recovered as he/she is going to get. This is because, until the plaintiff has reached MMI, the lawyer does not know how much the case is worth.
The lawyer should also not file a lawsuit until MMI. This is because, if the plaintiff is not at MMI by the time that the case goes to trial, the jury might undervalue the case.
It could take months or years for the plaintiff to reach MMI, but a good lawyer will just wait, if the plaintiff can financially afford to wait. Obviously, if the plaintiff needs money, then the lawyer should put the case in suit as soon as possible.
The Lawsuit is Filed
The filing of the lawsuit starts the clock running on when the case might get to trial. Every state’s pretrial procedures are different, but generally it will take one to two years for a personal injury case to get to trial. Keep in mind that a lawsuit needs to be filed within strict time limits that every state has set by passing a law called a statute of limitations, in Massachusetts, the statute of limitations is generally three years.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process is the procedure in which each party investigates what the adversary’s legal claims and defenses are. They send interrogatories (a fancy word for questions) and document requests to each other, and take depositions of all of the relevant witnesses in the case, generally beginning with the plaintiff and defendant. This process can last six months to a year, depending on the court’s deadlines and the complexity of the case.
Mediation and Negotiation
As the discovery period ends, the lawyers will generally start talking about settlement. Sometimes the lawyers can settle a case just by talking among themselves, but, in other cases, they will go to mediation. Mediation is a process in which both clients and both lawyers go in front of a mediator to try to settle the case.
Often mediation works, but, if it doesn’t work, the case is scheduled for trial. A personal injury trial can last a day, a week, or even longer. The length may be increased because, in many states, trials are held for only half a day instead of over a full day. That doubles the length of a trial, but also lets the lawyers and judges get other things done in the afternoon.
One important thing to know about trials is that just because a lawsuit is scheduled for trial does not mean that the trial will actually occur on that date. Trials often get rescheduled because of the judge’s schedules. If your trial gets cancelled, you should not automatically assume that the lawyers are conspiring against you or that something unfavorable is happening. Trials are delayed all the time, and for the most innocuous of reasons.
A Visual Overview
We Fight For You!
While it may be an extremely difficult time in your life, you have a limited window of opportunity to seek damages and get the justice you deserve. will investigate the scene, gather evidence, interview witnesses, help you document any and all losses, research any cases or statutes that will apply to and benefit your case, and take the time to get to know exactly how an accident has affected your life. At Georges Cote, we will fight with unwavering dedication to get you the damages you need and deserve, and in the timeliest way possible.
Anyone can become the victim of a personal injury accident but, that doesn’t mean you should ever chalk it up to bad luck. Some victims may try and handle the accident claim themselves, however insurance companies stay in business by influencing victims to settle quickly and settle for less. Don’t make this mistake, and allow an attorney at Georges Cote to aggressively negotiate , or file suit, with the insurance companies and other parties involved on your behalf.
You can focus on recovering while we focus on getting you the justice and settlement you deserve.
What Type of Personal Injury does Georges Cote, LLP handle?
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Oftentimes personal injury claims stem from negligence of another driver. Whether it is texting while driving, or driving under the influence, these acts can cause irreparable damages. These lawsuits are often brought to get compensation for medical bills and any other future medical expenses, such as rehabilitation. There can also be compensation for lost time at work, and other physical and emotional suffering endured.
Premises Liability/Slip and Fall
Those who have slipped and fallen on someone’s property may find themselves with an injury that could have been avoided if the property owner did their due diligence in maintaining their property. This type of fall can cause injuries that linger for years resulting in both lengthy medical treatment, as well as costly medical bills. Slip and fall lawsuits can be a lot of work at times, but if you have the evidence to show negligence, the owner of a restaurant, store, or other establishment may be held liable for your damages.
Construction jobs are inherently risky, and construction sites are home to many on-the-job injuries. And as such, many construction accident injury claims can also fall into other categories.
Dog bites and attacks can be far more serious than they sound. Those who have been bitten by someone else’s pet can potentially file a lawsuit against the owner and their homeowners’, if it is determined that the victim was not provoking the dog. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and emotional distress.
Birth injuries are among the most dangerous forms of medical malpractice. A negligent mistake by an obstetrician can result in physical injuries to a newborn, that can lead to lasting disorders, such as cerebral palsy, paralysis, and brain damage. This is traumatic to the whole family, especially the child, in addition to major financial strain on the family. A personal injury lawsuit for these types of cases gives the family the potential to recover compensation for these tangible and intangible damages.
Brain & Spinal Cord Injuries
The most alarming types of injuries that can stem from a multitude of things ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice are any kind of brain and/or spinal cord injuries. In these personal injury cases involving these specific injuries, there can potentially be permanent physical and/or mental damage to the victim. Because of these extreme circumstances, a lot of work goes into proving there was negligence and a breach of care by the other party. because the potential compensation the victim and his or her family can get is much higher, as it would be for long-term medical expenses.
Burn injuries are some of the most dangerous injuries one can be inflicted with, as negligence can cause fiery motor vehicle accidents, faulty electrical wiring, scalding water, and more. These can cause horrific burns.
There are different degrees of burns; some heal quickly. Others can lead to lifelong scarring and trauma. As such, compensation received in a burn injury lawsuit is often awarded for long-term medical expenses, as well as for pain and suffering.
Personal injury cases that have resulted in a fatality fall into the category of wrongful death. In addition to the usual medical bills and expenses one can attain in a personal injury lawsuit through compensation, the victim’s family can potentially be compensated for the costs of the funeral.
Families could also be eligible to receive other damages. For example, if the victim was the primary source of income, a spouse or family could possibly receive compensation for their sudden lost income. Compensation is also available for the pain and suffering, as well as the loss of companionship. These damages can help the family obtain some peace of mind after a sudden loss.
Let Us Help You.
The ways that another person’s negligence can injure you are larger in number than you may have thought, and more severe. But there are options for you in the aftermath of your injury. Georges Cote’s personal injury attorneys may be able to help you through these difficult times.