Personal Injury Overview
Personal injury is a field of law that is referred to in legal text books as Tort Law. Tortious activity is broadly defined as a wrongful act. When a wrongful act causes injury to a person, or their property, damages in the form of money is the only form of compensation that will "make the person whole". In order to have a viable personal injury claim you must satisfy a 2 prong test: First someone must have done something wrong (liability), and that wrongdoing caused you to suffer an injury (damages). You must have both, or you do not have a viable case.
In order for a party to be liable, you must prove that a duty to act in a certain way exists and then you must prove that the party breached the duty. For example, you must operate a motor vehicle in a safe and prudent manner. If a person is speeding, if they change lanes before they are sure that it is safe, or if they follow too closely, they breach the duty of a reasonably prudent driver. A store owner must maintain a safe means of getting into and out of the store. If the store owner puts too much wax on the floor, or fails to clean up a slippery substance that has been present for a long period of time, they have breached their duty.
The value of the injury is referred to as damages. There are many, many factors that go into the valuation of a case. Some of the factors considered when determining damages are, the age of the injured party (how long will they have to live with the injury), the severity of the injury, what the injured party's life was like before the injury, are there any lost wages, what are the future medical needs, what degree of permanency exists, the place where the lawsuit is brought, etc. The value of the injury will be reduced by any comparative liability which means any responsibility for the happening of the accident referable to the injured party (failure to observe a hole in the sidewalk, intoxication, etc.). If a famous musician lost the use of his pinky the value of their injury would be substantial because he would no longer be able to play an instrument. The loss of use of a pinky, while still substantial, would be worth considerably less for someone who does not use their pinky as much as a musician, nor earn the money that a famous musician earns.
Causation is the connection that must be established between the occurrence of the accident and the injuries claimed. The defense may attempt to argue that the injuries pre-existed the accident. Or they may try to argue that the injuries were not diagnosed until some time after the accident. A medical opinion will be required to establish the causal connection between the accident and the injuries claimed.
Even if liability is clear and the damages are catastrophic, if there is no insurance, or limited insurance, you may very well obtain a significant judgment but you will not be able to collect any money. Auto insurance provides for self protection from these types of situations through uninsured motorist coverage as well as supplemental uninsured motorist coverage. You can purchase supplemental uninsured motorist coverage up to the limits of your liability coverage. Let's say that you have $500,000.00 worth of liability coverage. You could purchase $500,000.00 worth of supplemental uninsured motorist coverage. By way of example, if you are injured an accident with another vehicle and they have the minimum insurance required, you would only be able to recover $25,000.00 from their policy. You could then look to your own insurance company for an additional $475,000.00 (your insurance is allowed to reduce your entitlement by the amount of available insurance from the offending party). In New York State it has been estimated that more than 16% of all automobiles are uninsured! In addition a substantial percentage of the insured vehicles carrier minimal policy limits ($25,000.00). If you're involved in an accident with a vehicle that does not have insurance and you did not purchase supplemental uninsured motorist coverage, the most you could collect from your own carrier would be the minimum $25,000.00. The cost to increase your uninsured motorist coverage is usually pennies a day.
Putting It All Together
Let's say that a truck in front of you failed to secure a crate properly. The crate falls off when the truck stops short. The crate hits the hood of your car, but you do not suffer any injuries. In this example liability is not an issue, however your damages are limited to the cost to repair your car. Or, let's say that you lose your balance while in a nursing home and you fracture your hip necessitating surgery. In this example you may have suffered a severe injury, but based on the facts, your injury was not the result of anyone's negligence. Personal injury claims and lawsuits arise when people are injured by careless or intentional acts of others. When someone is found to be legally responsible for injuring someone else, they are liable for the injury, and may be made to pay the injured person compensatory damages. Compensatory damages attempt to put an injured person back in the position he or she was in before being injured.
Our firm represents clients located throughout New York State including Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and many other states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and California, and we will handle a case in any state provided we can do so in full compliance with court rules regarding multijurisdictional practice, association of local counsel and/or admission pro hac viche) who have suffered personal injuries as the result of various types of accidents:
Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents
Spinal Cord Injuries (quadriplegia, paraplegia)
Dog Bites or Animal Attacks
Municipal Liability (cases against county, city, state or federal government)
Injuries involving Children (playgrounds, schools, bicycles, etc.)
Injuries resulting from Defective or Dangerous Products
Nursing Home or Assisted Living Neglect
Claims Arising from Injuries at Work
Train and Subway Accidents
Our firm understands that your immediate goals after going through such a traumatic experience are to get the best medical care possible, make sure that your medical bills are covered, and make sure that you do not suffer financially through any lost wages. Our experienced attorneys will discuss your situation and go over the options available to you, as well as work with insurance companies and other parties involved in your case to make sure all your needs are handled quickly and appropriately.
If you or a loved one has been injured, CONTACT US ONLINE OR CALL US AT (516) 742-8897= (516) PIATTYS in Long Island, (212) 267-9377= (212) ANSWERS In Manhattan to set up a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your legal options. If you can't come to us, we will come to you in the hospital or we will visit you in our mobile office.