American personal injury law is based upon the basic idea that if a person or business is careless or negligent in causing an injury or other damages, the careless person or business entity is responsible for the damages and injuries caused. It is this fundamental concept that is at the heart of all personal injury law whether it is an auto accident case, a slip and fall case, a medical malpractice case or product liability action.
Once in an accident, we rely on the safety net of insurance to help us through. Unfortunately, the process rarely goes smoothly while the medical bills just keep piling up. What are the legal options you have? A person who carelessly operates a vehicle may be required to pay any damages caused by that carelessness, either to other persons or to their property. Generally, people who operate automobiles must exercise "reasonable care under the circumstances." Failure to use reasonable care is the basis in most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident.
In New Jersey, your own automobile insurance is responsible for paying your medical bills, subject to certain deductibles. If you do not have insurance, your bills may be paid by the policy of a relative with whom you reside. New Jersey is also governed by the "verbal threshold" which means that you cannot make a claim unless you have a significant injury. Whether your claim meets the verbal threshold is something that you should consult with an attorney about. However, whether or not you have the verbal threshold does not limit your right to obtain medical treatment paid for you by your insurance company. If your insurance company does not pay your medical bills, the law provides certain penalties which you can enforce. Uninsured Motorist Coverage
An important type of automobile insurance is uninsured motorist coverage. This is coverage from your own automobile liability policy that protects the injured victim if that injured victim receives his or her injuries as a result of the negligence or carelessness of an uninsured driver. Because in this day and age where the hospital costs alone can be tens of thousands of dollars, it is important that each individual be adequately insured in regard to uninsured motorist protection. It is critical that each individual, for their own protection, make sure they have as much uninsured motorist coverage as they can reasonably afford. Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
Also critical is that a person have sufficient underinsured motorist coverage. As many drivers do have liability coverage, if a person is injured as a result of another driver’s negligence and the negligent driver has some insurance, uninsured motorist coverage would not apply. If, for example, the negligent driver had minimal coverage of $15,000 per person, but the injured victim’s injuries far exceed the $15,000 of coverage, the only other available protection would be if the injured victim had also underinsured motorist coverage.
This is again coverage that is part of a person’s automobile insurance policy that can be purchased that provides protection if an insured under the policy is injured through the carelessness of another driver who has minimal liability limits. The underinsured motorist coverage will then provide coverage above the liability limits of the other person up to the limits of the underinsured coverage. It is thus critically important that therefore each driver buy as much underinsured motorist coverage as they can afford to make sure that each are adequately protected in this regard.
Medical Malpractice and Medical Liability
Medical malpractice is the failure of a medical professional to meet the standard of good medical practice in the area in which the medical professional practices. If a doctor, or a lawyer, for example, ran a red light, he or she could be liable for the harm caused because of his or her negligence. Those same principles apply to the doctor when he or she is practicing medicine or within their profession. A medical professional may be a doctor, a nurse, a medical technician, or other health care provider. If the medical professional fails to meet the standard of good medical practice and harm results to a patient, the medical professional may be liable for any resulting damages. In the case of a doctor who is a medical specialist, the standard of care is determined by the standard of good medical practice in that specialty.
The manufacturer of a product has a duty to produce a product free of defects. Manufacturers, sellers and distributors of products have a duty to act reasonably in regard to the products that they put forth for the public’s use. As manufacturers and distributors have available to them the engineers and other professionals who are taught and trained to look at and analyze what is the hazards to products, if a manufacturer or other distributor nevertheless manufactures or sells a product that they know, or reasonably with thought should have recognized presented a hazard to the public and that there are reasonable design alternatives that could have reduced or eliminated that hazard, that manufacturer or distributor can be found negligent or careless because they did not exercise reasonable care.
Slip and Fall Premises Liability
"Slip and fall" is a term for personal injuries that are caused when a person slips and falls on a floor, sidewalk, stair, or other surface. As a broad general rule, if you are the owner of a house, a building, a parking lot, or other premises, you are responsible for injuries resulting from a slip and fall on the premises. An occupier of the premises, such as a tenant in an apartment building or a storeowner who leases a store, may also be liable for injuries if the occupier has control over the premises in which the injury occurred. Special rules apply for storeowners and for other commercial properties.
Compensation for Your Injuries
The purpose of personal injury litigation is to compensate a person for what that person has lost. As the law recognizes that an injured victim has suffered an injury because of the negligence of another, the person physically cannot be made the same person as he or she was before the injury.
The only way to compensate a person for their loss is try to arrive at a monetary figure that, as best as possible, compensates the injured victim for the losses suffered. The purpose of compensation is not to make a person rich, but simply to compensate an injured victim for the loss suffered. As the purpose is to compensate that particular injured victim for his or her loss, no two injuries are exactly alike. The impact an injury has had on each individual person will vary with that particular person. Thus, in properly evaluating a claim, it is important to know the nature and extent that the injury has affected the particular injured victim.
In considering what a person’s loss is as a result of an injury and thus what the reasonable compensation would be, the law considers many factors. Among the damages often considered are:
a) Past hospital, medical, chiropractic, prescriptions and other out-of-pocket expenses;
b) Past wage or earnings loss;
c) Past pain and suffering;
d) Future hospital, medical, chiropractic, prescriptions and other out-of-pocket expenses;
e) Future loss of earning capacity; and
f) Future pain and suffering.
Beware of Credit Agencies
Compensation for injuries received during an accident can take some time, due to the nature of the process. Even if you’re unable to work, you could have to wade through the red tape of PIP to get your medical bills paid for. This can leave people in limbo as the process unfolds, which is why there are numerous credit agencies who will offer to give them upfront cash in exchange for a percentage of any future settlements. Of course everyone’s personal situation is different, but in general we recommend to our clients to stay away from these firms as the reason they are willing to “generously” give out money is because they are signing clients up to hand away a hefty portion of any settlement they should receive.
This is less about trying to maximize your returns then it is falling prey to an unscrupulous credit lender who will take a disproportionate amount from the compensation you receive. The agencies tend to build-up promises of monumental settlements which may not materialize, or if they do, could take up to several years to complete.
How much of a Difference does an Attorney Make?
For bodily injury claims, statistics show that those who sought the representation of an attorney received substantially higher gross recoveries than those who did not. For those who did not retain an attorney, this meant receiving a recovery that is significantly less and possibly not fully covering their economic losses and medical costs. The effect that an attorney can have in receiving compensation has been proven and well-founded, especially when dealing with insurance companies.
Personal injury lawyers can help ensure that their clients receive the maximum amount of damages recoverable by law. Some of the items for which injured parties are legally entitled to compensation include past and future lost wages; past and future medical expenses; damages for both physical and emotional pain and suffering, again both past and present; and damages for disfigurement.
Personal Injury attorneys do more for their clients than simply seek compensation, although that is certainly one part of the process. Between the time of the injury and when that compensation is awarded, there is a gap that can leave some in limbo. The person may be clearly in pain and need care, but without having their legal issues resolved, there can be conflict over who is responsible to pay for any medical procedures. This can even cause issues with one’s credit, or cause the procedure to get denied or delayed. But, with an attorney on your side, they can fight for their clients to make sure they are not getting bullied and are on track to get the best possible care as soon as it is needed. And, when a settlement is eventually reached, all that care will be accounted for and factored in accordingly so that the client isn’t left responsible.
When a personal injury attorney first undertakes to represent a client relative to a potential personal injury claim where the client or a family member has been injured or killed as the result of the negligence of another, many considerations face that attorney. First, it is critical that the attorney gather as many facts as possible from the victim or the family regarding all of the events that were related to the accident, including what happened, the names and addresses of witnesses, photographs and the like. It is important to know that personal injury claims can be handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that if there is no recovery, no fee is due.
The Law Offices of John Morelli
203 West Somerdale Road
Voorhees, New Jersey 08043.