Frequently Asked Questions

Auto Accidents

What do I do if I am involved in an auto accident?

Stop your vehicle, no matter how minor the accident. If you are injured, do not try to get out of the vehicle unless it is safe. Call the police and wait for them to arrive. Do not move the vehicles until the police view the scene unless it is necessary to do so. In some accident situations, if there are no serious injuries and only minor vehicle damage, the police may not come to the scene. In that case, ask the other driver for their license information, address, telephone number, insurance company, and policy number. If at all possible, take pictures of the accident scene. Never tell anyone at the scene that the accident was your fault. Anything you say can be used against you later.

What if I am injured in the accident?

In most cases, you will be under the stress of the accident, or in a state of shock, and won't realize the extent of your injuries. If your injuries are apparent and serious, don't hesitate to be taken to a hospital by ambulance. If you are injured, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. When you see your doctor, tell him or her about all your injuries, no matter how minor. If possible, photograph any injuries to your body.

Do I contact my insurance company before I call a lawyer?

You should contact your attorney first. Then, you should notify your own insurance company about the accident. Your policy will require you to cooperate with your insurance company. Do not give your insurance company a statement without first consulting your attorney.

What if I am contacted by the other driver's insurance company?

Do not give any information to the other driver's insurance company. Their adjuster and investigators will try to convince you it is necessary. They will try to convince you they care about you and want to be your friend. Their job is to see that you get as little money as possible for your claim.

Who is responsible for paying my medical bills?

You should consult with your attorney to determine who is responsible for payment of your medical bills. If you use your insurance, you may need to pay them back when you recover from your injuries.

Do I give my own insurance company a statement?

In most cases, yes. You have a written "contract" with your insurance company in the form of your "policy," which generally requires that you fully cooperate with your insurance company. A few instances may arise when you should speak to an attorney, if possible, before giving your insurance company a statement. This may arise in cases where the other driver has no insurance.

How long do I have to file suit for my injuries and damage?

The "statute of limitations" for bringing suit will vary depending upon the circumstances. Unless you bring a lawsuit in the proper time, you are barred from doing so. It is critical to contact an attorney for proper advice. In some cases, it may be one year, but in other cases it may be much shorter. If a "public entity" is liable, you may need to file a "tort claim" with the public entity within a few months, or you are barred from suing the public entity. Many people are confused about what a public entity is. A public entity may include the obvious, like a state, county or city government and schools, but it may also include a utility or private companies in contract with the government.


Elder Abuse

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, neglect, fiduciary abuse, abandonment, isolation, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering, the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.

Who is consider an "elder" under the law?

Elder abuse protection applies to resident who is 65 years of age or older.

Who can bring an elder abuse lawsuit?

An elder or dependent individual who is living. The elder's or dependent individual's estate or successors in interest if the elder or dependent individual has died. The elder's or dependent individual's family members if they witness the abuse. The conservator or guardian of an incompetent elder or dependent individual.

Where does elder abuse most frequently occur?

Under the law, elder abuse can occur in any setting. Most cases arise out of nursing homes which are understaffed, and the staff that exists is poorly trained.

What does a plaintiff have to prove to win an elder abuse case?

To be entitled to the special remedies in an elder abuse case, the plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is liable for physical abuse, neglect, or fiduciary abuse and that the defendant has been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud, and malice in commission of the abuse.

What damages are recoverable in elder abuse cases?

If the elder is still alive, he or she can recover past and future medical expenses which would include increased care expenses, past and future wages lost if there is any, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. The elder can be awarded punitive damages if the misconduct is severe enough. In cases where the elder has died, the survivors are entitled to recover all of the above damages plus damages resulting from the loss of society care and comfort which would have been provided to them by the elder.


Defective Products

What constitutes as a defective product

A product may be found to be defective because of a manufacturing defect, a design defect or a warning defect.

What is a manufacturing defect?

A manufacturing defect exists if, when the product left the manufacturer's control, it differed from the manufacturer's intended result or from apparently identical products of the same manufacturer and the product was used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the defendant, but caused the plaintiff injury.

What is a design defect?

A design defect exists when a product is manufactured exactly as the manufacturer intended, yet the product is legally defective because of a design flaw.

What if the products contained a disclaimer? Does the manufacturer still have a duty to warn?

A product manufacturer cannot avoid a strict liability claim by placing any type of disclaimer on the product. Disclaimers are unenforceable for the purposes of product liability law. A product that is not otherwise defective in manufacture or design may still be considered legally defective if a suitable warning about its dangerous propensities is not given or the manufacturer fails to provide appropriate safe use instructions.

What if the product that injured me is old?

The age of a product does not act as an automatic bar to a product liability suit. Older products are not expected to meet modern standards of production and safety.

Will my defective product case settle out of court?

Maybe. Although most cases settle out of court, product liability cases may be the exception since the manufacturer's do not want to admit it designed a defective product. Even with a confidential settlement, there is a hesitancy to settle. This is why you need to retain an attorney willing to take the time and expend the money necessary to try a product liability case.

What damages can I recover in a defective product case?

If a plaintiff can prove that the product is defective, he or she is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress, and if the plaintiff can establish bad enough conduct on the part of the company, punitive damages.


Construction Accidents

Do I need to retain an attorney in a construction accident case?

Yes. Even if you believe that you were partly responsible for your own injuries or that your employer was solely responsible, it is generally wise to at least consult with an attorney who handles construction accident cases to determine if there is a potential case against someone other than your employer. The law in construction accident cases is extraordinarily complex and you need an attorney who knows his or her way around construction accident litigation.

Will my construction accident case settle out of court?

Probably. Ninety to ninety-five percent of construction accident cases do settle sometime before trial. There are complex issues and the presence of workers' compensation liens make these cases difficult to settle without intensive litigation.

How important is it for my attorney to retain highly qualified experts in construction cases?

It is almost always necessary for a plaintiff's attorney to retain construction practice experts and safety experts. There will be many insurance coverage issues, contract issues, and issues of relative liability between the various trades which require the retention of a sophisticated expert to be able to explain to a jury the relative responsibilities of the parties. Further, a construction safety expert will be able to point to the negligent way in which the construction project was conceived and monitored.

Can I file a lawsuit against persons or entities that caused my injury even if I am collecting workers' compensation benefits?

Yes. If you can establish that somebody other than your employer at the job site acted negligently and contributed to your injuries, you can still bring a lawsuit even though you are collecting workers' compensation benefits. Your workers' compensation carrier may be entitled to get some or all of their money back out of your recovery against the other responsible parties.


Toxic Exposure

What type of toxic situations give rise to toxic exposure cases?

Toxic conditions that give rise to legal cases can be chemical, physical, mechanical, or biological in nature. Most toxic cases involve a chemical agent that causes human beings significant injury when they are somehow exposed to the toxin.

Who can sue for toxic exposure?

Any person injured as a result of a toxic exposure, no matter how long or how short the exposure, how direct or indirect the exposure, can sue if they are able to establish that some person, company, or entity is at fault for the exposure and plaintiff can establish actual damages from the exposure.

If I have been the victim of toxic exposure, who can I sue for my damages and damages to my family?

There are a number of potential defendants who can be held liable in toxic exposure cases depending upon the type of toxin and the type of exposure. You can sue anybody who wrongfully causes your toxic exposure which, depending upon the case, can include chemical manufacturers.

What are some of the common illness arising out of toxic exposure cases?

Toxins can affect every portion of our bodies and bodily functioning. Frequently, toxins cause respiratory distress, skin disease, stomach problems, neurological defects, injury to the immune system and cancer.

What damages can I recover in my toxic exposure case?

An injured plaintiff is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical expenses, past and future loss of income/earning capacity, suffering, and emotional distress and in cases in which the defendant's conduct is particularly negligent, punitive damages are the exemplary damages which are awarded to punish the defendant.

How soon must I bring my toxic tort case?

There is no simple answer to this question. The statute of limitations in toxic tort cases is extraordinarily complex because in many toxic tort cases, there will be a long exposure to a toxic substance, a long period in which your disease or injury slowly developed to the point of being perceptible, and a not infrequent time gap between the time you began suffering from your injury and the time that you realized that it may have been caused by a toxin.

Will my toxic exposure case settle out of court?

Toxic tort cases are some of the most frequently tried cases. If you are the victim of a clear toxic event, such as a refinery explosion in which there are hundreds or thousands of other plaintiffs banned together, then your case will probably settle. If your case involves a more subtle toxic exposure with a number of people who are similarly situated to you not suffering from any disease or injury, your case may be more likely to go to trial. There is definitely strength in numbers in toxic exposure cases.

Do I need to retain an attorney in a toxic exposure case?

Absolutely. If there is already a class action underway, you may wish to become part of the class and retain the attorney representing the class. Otherwise, you will have to seek private consultation and hopefully be able to find an attorney who is willing to take on your case.


Trucking Accidents

Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Any person or entity that was at fault for causing the accident can be sued. This includes the truck driver and the trucking company as well as any other driver, person, or entity who in anyway contributed to the accident such as the manufacturer of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, the manufacturer of a tire that contributed to the accident, or the owner of any public or private property whose negligence contributed to the accident.

Can I still sue even if I was partially at fault for causing my own injuries in the accident?

A person can sue for serious personal injury even if they are partially at fault as long as they can prove that one or more other parties are also at fault. The amount of a plaintiff's recovery will be reduced by the amount of their fault.

Is an investigation important in a truck accident case?

Yes. If the truck was commercially owned, in most situations, large trucking companies will perform their own investigation immediately after the accident. It is important that you retain an attorney to immediately investigate the case to attempt to pin down liability on any potential at-fault defendants.

Are expert witnesses necessary to prove fault in a truck accident case?

Unless there is no question but that one party was completely at fault, a plaintiff in any serious injury or death case involving a truck should usually retain an expert. That expert should have special expertise in the design, manufacture, and operation of trucks and the rules of the trucking industry.

What damages can I recover or the survivors of a loved one recover in a truck accident injury or death case?

A seriously injured plaintiff is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical expenses; past and future loss of income/earning capacity; past and future medical expenses; suffering and emotional distress, and in cases in which the defendant's conduct is particularly negligent, punitive damage are the exemplary damages which are awarded to punish the defendant.

Will my truck accident injury or death case settle out of court?

Probably. It is highly likely that your case will settle. Over 90 percent of truck accident cases settle at some point before trial.

Do I need an attorney to litigate my truck accident case?

Yes, unless you have a minor injury, which is rare in truck accident cases, you will need to retain an attorney to establish liability against any potential defendants and help maximize your damage recovery.

How soon must I bring an injury or death case based on a truck accident?

A serious personal injury victim has one year from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. If the case is against a public entity, a claim must be filed within six months whether the plaintiff is a minor or adult. In the case of minors, a case can be brought on behalf of a minor up until their 19th birthday. There are exceptions to all these rules. You should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible if you are suffering a severe or serious personal injury stemming from a truck accident or if a loved one has died.


Child Injury

What should a parent do when their child is injured?

When a child is injured, the initial focus of all parents will be to do whatever they can to ensure that their child recovers as completely as possible from their injury.

Will my child be traumatized if we bring a lawsuit for their injuries?

No. The laws have changed dramatically in recent years to protect child injury victims. Even in civil cases involving molestation, the identity of the child will be protected and the child will not be able to be cross-examined in the way people sometimes see on TV and in the movies. The parent or guardian for the purpose of the litigation will be more involved in the lawsuit, and the child will usually be able to live their normal life without the lawsuit interfering in any significant way.

What if my child has died due to the fault of another?

In this tragic situation, the parents, whether still living together or separated, each have a right to bring a lawsuit for their loss of comfort, society, and care of a child. Most parents feel a certain amount of empowerment from this type of lawsuit and it can help to deal with the overwhelming grief to know that some type of justice was attempted or done.

What if my child is partially at fault for causing their injury or death, can I still sue?

A person sues for serious personal injury even if they are partially at fault. As long as they can prove that one or more other parties are also at fault. The amount of a plaintiff's recovery will be reduced by the amount of their fault.

What if the defendant blames us for causing our child's injury or death?

It is true that if at all possible, the defense will attempt to blame the parents for injury or death to their child. This may occur in a case which the defense will attempt to claim that the parents should have supervised their child more closely and that supervision would have avoided an accident or sometimes a molestation.

What damages are recoverable in a child injury or death case?

The survivors are entitled to the value of future monetary contributions from the decedent and the value of any personal service, advice, or training that would have probably been given if the decedent had lived. This is determined by projecting the amount of money the decedent would have earned in the future but for their death and subtracting from that the amount that the decedent would have "consumed" on their own expenses. The parents will have to establish that the child would likely have contributed to the injury.

How soon must we bring a lawsuit on behalf of our child?

If your child is injured, you generally have until he or she is 18 to bring a case on behalf of your child, and once your child turns 18, they have an additional one year until their 19th birthday to bring a lawsuit. It is generally not a good idea to wait very long to bring a case because important evidence will be lost and the case of a younger child will be worth more than an older child who has generally recovered well from the injuries.

Will my child's injury or death case settle out of court?

Probably. Over 90 percent of child injury and death cases do settle at some time before trial.

Do I need to retain an attorney?

Except in cases of very minor injuries, you will probably want to hire an attorney to handle your child's case. Any settlement involving a child's case of more than $5,000 must be approved by the court, and attorneys will be able to help walk you through the process of having the guardian appointed and the settlement approved.


Personal Injury

What is a personal injury claim?

A personal injury claim arises any time you are injured in your body. This may occur in numerous situations. Today we refer to personal injury claim when your body is injured as a result of the negligence of someone else. The legal community uses different set of words to refer to bodily injuries that are a result of intentional acts of others, namely assault and battery.

How do I know that I may have a right to be compensated?

Your right to be compensated usually depends on a careful assessment of what happened and some common sense. After careful assessment of the facts of the incident, the question to be determined is who was careful and who was careless. This essentially means that ultimately the person at fault has to be identified.

Can I still be compensated even if the accident was partly my fault?

Even if you might have partly caused an accident yourself, you can still receive compensation from anyone else that was careless and partly caused the accident. The person who is assessed a bigger share of carelessness will be responsible to compensate the other with a lesser share of fault or carelessness in causing the incident.

What should I do when I am first injured in an incident?

The first thing you should do is to calm yourself and quickly assess your condition. If your condition is such that you must immediately seek medical attention, you should do so. If your condition is not life threatening, you should take a mental note of all the Who, What, Where, and When questions. You may wish to preserve your mental notes in writing for future reference. If you are involved in an automobile accident, you must exchange your information with the other driver.

What is included in my compensation?

You as an injured person should be paid for all that you have suffered because of the incident. This typically includes the expenses for your medical care, the cost of repair for damages to any of your personal property and the cost of renting a comparable item for the duration of its repair, the cost of the income you have lost for being unable to attend to work, and the temporary and permanent pain and other physical discomfort that you have experienced as a result of the incident.

What is the role of a personal injury lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer will collect the facts and determine whether it is likely that some other person or company was careless and negligent in causing the incident. The lawyer, with legal expertise and experience, advances reasonable argument showing that the other person or company was careless and therefore at fault. The lawyer then negotiates with an insurance company for a maximum recovery. If an insurance company declines to settle or offers a very small amount of money, the lawyer will file your claim in court and formally demand compensation.


Premise Liability

What is a premise liability case?

Any type of case in which someone was injured on the property belonging to someone else. The most frequent types of cases involve grocery stores, swimming pools, trip and falls, and slip and falls. The injuries generally occur because of a defect on the premises, a slippery floor, or other dangerous condition. Some examples are sidewalk defects, hazardous steps, water on the floor, ice and snow on the sidewalk, oil slicks in the parking lot, debris on the floor, improper lighting, and a defective covering over a water meter.

Why should the owner be liable?

The theory behind premise liability cases is that the owner/occupier of property will either know or should know of dangerous conditions or propensities of that property and is in the best position to either eliminate or reduce the danger or to warn of it. If the owner fails to do that, there could be liability for any injuries resulting from that danger.

What must a property owner do to keep people from being injured?

The general rule is that the owner of property, such as land or a building, has a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition under the circumstances. If it is certain that someone will get seriously injured if the property is kept in its current condition and the cost of preventing such injury is low, there is certainly a duty on the owner to make the property safe. He will be liable for injuries should he fail to do so.


Medical Malpractice

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient or patients.

Does someone who is not satisfied with the results of his or her surgery have a malpractice case?

There are no guarantees of medical results and unexpected or unsuccessful results do not necessarily mean negligence occurred. To succeed in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff has to show an injury or damages that resulted from the doctor's deviation from standard of care applicable to the procedure.

What should I do if I think I have a medical malpractice claim?

You should talk to a lawyer who specializes in such cases. Tell the attorney exactly what happened, from your first visit to the doctor or other health care provider, through your last contact with him or her. Obtain your medical records and bring them to your first meeting with the attorney. There are time limits governing how long someone may bring a medical malpractice claim.

How does a jury determine if a doctor's actions were negligent?

A jury will consider the testimony of experts, usually other doctors, who will testify whether they believe your physician's actions followed standard medical practices or fell below the accepted standard of care.


Product Liability

What does the term "product liability" mean?

Product liability refers to a manufacturer or seller being held liable for placing a defective product in the hands of a consumer. Potentially liable parties include the manufacturer, a manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, and the retail store that sold to the end consumer.

What options are available to someone who has been injured by a product?

A person injured by a defective or dangerous product may be able to bring an action for product liability, and recover damages under one of the following theories: strict product liability; negligence; or implied warranty.

What is strict product liability?

Strict product liability refers to one of the theories under which a plaintiff can proceed when bringing action based upon an injury caused by a product. In a strict product liability action, a plaintiff can recover damages without showing that the manufacturer or seller of a product was negligent.

What are implied warranties?

Implied warranties are established by state law. Implied warranties include the "warranty of merchantability." These warranties state that a product will be fit and safe for its intended purpose.

Can I bring a product liability action if I was injured by a product I borrowed from my neighbor and did not pay for myself?

A contractual relationship, known as "privacy of contract," had to exist between the person by a product and the supplier of the product in order for the injured person to recover. In most states, that requirement no longer exists, and the injured person does not have to be the purchaser of the product in order to recover.

What types of products can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit?

Just about any dangerous or defective products from automobiles to children's toys to prescription drugs can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit. The manufacturer and other related entities owe the user of a product a duty to create only safe products, not ones that are unreasonably dangerous. If the manufacturer or related entity breaches that duty to provide you with a safe product, and that product injures you causing you damage, you may have a legitimate legal case based on product liability law.


Wrongful Death

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim alleges that someone's negligence or recklessness caused the victim's death. Each individual state has a "wrongful death" statute to allow certain survivors to bring this type of claim.

What are the elements of a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death occurs when a death is caused, in whole or in part, by the conduct of a negligent or reckless third party.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

Although the exact category of people allowed to bring such a claim varies, generally the decedent's spouse and/or children may bring these claims.

When must a wrongful death claim be filed?

Each state has its own time limit, or "statute of limitations," that defines the time frame during which a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed. In Florida the statute of limitation for a wrongful death claim is generally two years. A claim, even a valid claim, may be denied by the courts if it is filed after the statute of limitations has run.

How is the amount of damages decided upon?

Each state defines who may sue for wrongful death. It is limited to spouses and children in some states, but can also cover grandparents and other relatives in other states.

How long will it take to settle my wrongful death claim?

The majority of wrongful death claims are satisfied with pre-trial settlements. Wrongful death claims are a very complicated area of law and a quick resolution may or may not happen.


Mesothelioma/Asbestos

What legal options are available to individuals injured by asbestos?

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease (asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma), you can bring a legal claim against the manufacturers, sellers, and installers of asbestos products. Filing a legal claim can help you address the medical and financial problems that asbestos-related diseases can cause victims and their families.

If I don't remember how I was exposed to asbestos, what can I do?

There are many people who suffer from asbestos-related diseases but cannot recall how or where they were exposed to asbestos. In fact, even your doctor may not be entirely familiar with the wide range of spectrum of asbestos exposures. This is especially true because asbestos diseases are latent; it takes years for the symptoms and injuries caused by asbestos to appear.

Are there time limits for filing a legal claim?

There are laws in every state which limit the time for individuals and their families to file claims for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. If you do not file your case within these time limits, you will likely be barred from receiving compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately.

How long will it take for my lawsuit to be completed?

Experienced attorneys specializing in asbestos litigation will make every effort to advance your case as quickly as possible.


Pharmaceuticals

Who is liable for harm suffered from prescription drugs?

Depending on the facts of your individual case, liable parties can range from the drug manufacturer, to your treating physician, to the pharmacy that dispensed the medication.

I've been taking a drug that was not prescribed by a physician; do I still have a possible legal remedy for injuries suffered from this drug?

In a case where no physician prescribed the drug which caused your injury, but you purchased it on your own, you may still have a claim against the drug manufacturer.

Does my doctor need to inform me of all options when it comes to prescription drugs and medical devices?

You have the right to be told about all alternative courses of treatment, even if your health insurance may not cover them or you may not be able to afford them.

Do I need a lawyer if I believe I may have a drug or medical device claim?

Due to complex issues involved in drug and medical device claims, discussing your case with an attorney experienced in the area is the best way to ensure a thorough evaluation of your case and your success in getting the appropriate remedy.

What has been done so far with regard to Vioxx heart attack and Celebrex litigation?

One class action suit has already been filed. Others are pending.

What options do I have if I've been affected by Vioxx or Celebrex?

You may qualify for future class action litigation against these drug makers. You may also have grounds for an individual suit for specific damages.