Q: My daughter was seriously hurt on our neighbor’s swing set. What should I do?
A: Without knowing the exact circumstances and the nature of the injuries, that’s difficult to answer. Sometimes accidents happen and people get hurt, but no one is really to blame. However, if the swing set was defective in its design or if it was assembled improperly, you may have a claim against the manufacturer or installer. The most important thing, however, is to have your daughter evaluated by her pediatrician. Once you know the extent of her injuries and understand how the accident happened, you’ll be in a better position to determine if you want to make a claim. Also, take a photograph of the equipment and contact any witness, as that would be very helpful. Then, if you decide you want to proceed, an attorney can help guide you through the legal process and protect your interests.
Q: I was involved in a car accident and my neck really hurts. How much is my case worth?
A: The value of your case depends on the liability of the other driver, and what a jury would determine is a fair and reasonable amount to compensate you for your pain and suffering. Factors that determine your pain and suffering include the type and cost of the medical treatment, lost wages and permanent physical and mental impairments. It’s impossible to determine the value of your case until you’ve received the appropriate medical treatment and your injuries are resolved, and you are at “maximum medical improvement.”
Q: I was in a car accident but the person who hit me left the scene before the police came. What should I do?
A: If you have not already reported your accident to the police and your insurance company, do so immediately. It is important to have an official record of what happened. If you were able to get a license plate number, that would be especially helpful to track down the other driver’s insurance company. In the event that you did not, your insurance company needs to be apprised of the fact that you may have an uninsured motorist claim. Once you’ve notified the authorities, get a thorough check up from your physician. While you may feel fine right after the accident, it is not uncommon to have symptoms even days later. And lastly, get an attorney who will work for you and your interests. The entire process can be overwhelming. Getting good medical care and reimbursement for the damage to your vehicle are your priorities. Your attorney will make certain that you get everything you deserve.
Q: I have been involved in a car accident and my car was hardly damaged. Why do I feel so much pain?
A: Due to advances that car manufacturers have made in construction, a car can withstand the force of a low-speed collision showing little or no property damage. While the auto may be built to withstand a low impact collision, our bodies are not. The most typical bodily injury is a soft tissue injury. The back and neck experience pain, sometimes as late as 24-72 hours or more following the impact, as the muscles tighten. The neck of a driver or passenger will be caused to whip forward causing a whiplash injury. Typical soft tissue injuries are contusions (bruising), sprains or strains. It is very important to seek medical attention. Even if your car had little or no damage, if you feel pain you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible so that you are sure to protect your rights. Not protecting yourself can cause thousands of dollars and untold hours of non-reimbursed pain and suffering.
Q: My son was a passenger in his friend’s car and they got into an accident. His friend didn’t report the accident but I think he should. Who is right?
A: You are, especially if there was property damage or someone was injured. And while your son may feel fine now, he could begin to become stiff and sore over the next few days. Hopefully, those symptoms will go away, but it’s always prudent to see a doctor immediately following an accident. And if it turns out that your son needs on-going medical treatment, it’s especially important that there is an official record of what happened. To protect your son’s rights, consult with an attorney who can help you determine the best course of action.
Q: I am still being treated for an injury and can’t return to work. Do you recommend borrowing money from a pre-settlement lawsuit funding company?
A: Pre-settlement funding is provided to an injured party in return for a promise to repay the advance after an award or settlement. It is “non-recourse” funding, in that if no award or settlement is obtained, the advance does not have to be repaid. There is a big risk to the funding company and therefore the fees and interests are substantial. Generally, pre-settlement funding is not recommended because of the enormous costs. If you are considering an advance, contact an attorney so that you can be certain that your rights are protected
Q: I was involved in a car accident and I can not afford an attorney. How can I pay my legal costs?
A: Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. The standard contingency is 33.3% of your recovery. In other words, if you are not successful, your attorney will not receive a fee and you will have no other obligation to your lawyer. Attorneys receive their fees and costs upon settlement of your case or receipt of an award following a trial. You should absolutely retain an attorney to protect your rights. The right attorney will help you maximize your recovery by protecting your rights.
Q: I was on a bus and it got into an accident. The bus company paid for my doctor, and they’ll give me $1500 if I sign a paper saying that I’m OK. I don’t think it’s a good idea. What should I do?
A: Trust your instincts and don’t sign anything until you speak with an attorney. The bus company wants you to sign a release; once you do, you can never get any money from them, even if you find out that the accident caused a serious injury matters and can prepare reports to help your case. At this point, the best thing you can do is get good medical treatment so you get well and find a good personal injury attorney, so you get everything you deserve.
Q: We live in Fairfield County, and we were having a birthday party in the backyard for my ninety-year-old mother. All of a sudden, my neighbor’s dog, which has been a problem in the past, crawled under the fence. He began running through the party creating utter chaos. Several specimens rose bushes were trampled, children were crying and screaming, my mother fell and broke her leg and my wife was bitten when she tried to shoo the dog away. Aren’t people supposed to keep their dogs leashed?
A: Connecticut has a lot of laws aimed at controlling dogs and while the general statutes do not require dogs to be leashed at all times, they are not allowed to roam on someone else’s land or public roads. Depending on where you live, your town might have a leash law. First, let’s talk about liability. Your neighbor is responsible for any damage to your property as well as for the injury to your wife and mother. Their damages will include reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages if applicable, as well as pain and suffering. If the bite resulted in a scar or nerve damage, the amount of damages will be increased proportionally.
Hopefully, you reported the bite to your town animal control officer, who must immediately investigate the attack. At the very minimum, the dog will be quarantined for 14 days after which time the animal control officer may order that the dog is restrained or euthanized.
Q: My husband and I were talking about that famous case, where the lady sued McDonald’s for millions when she got burned by hot coffee that spilled on her while she was holding the cup between her legs. I think coffee is supposed to be hot and who holds hot coffee between their legs anyway. Comments?
A: You’re referring to Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants, arguably one of the most famous (or infamous, depending upon your political orientation) product liability cases in the last twenty-five years. Mrs. Lieback was 79 years old when the incident happened in 1992. She was sitting in a parked car and put the cup between her legs so she could remove the cap. Unfortunately, the entire cup of steaming coffee spilled onto her legs, resulting in third degree burns, a week in the hospital, and additional hospital stays for skin grafts. Initially, Mrs. Lieback’s family asked McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover the cost of her expenses and lost wages. They countered with $800 and Mrs. Liebeck hired an attorney. At trial, Mrs. Liebeck”s attorneys showed that in the ten years prior to this action, more than 700 people had been burned by McDonald”s coffee, which was served at temperatures higher than the industry norm. It took a twelve person jury only four hours to award Mrs. Liebeck her out-of-pocket expenses plus $200,000 for pain and suffering, less 20% for contributory negligence. On top of that, however, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The judge hearing the case reduced the total award to $640,000, which was appealed by McDonald’s. The amount of the final settlement remains undisclosed. So yes, coffee is supposed to be hot. And it’s not a great idea to hold a cup of steaming hot coffee between your legs. But McDonald’s had been put on notice that the high temperature of their coffee had caused many injuries, yet they failed to act. A primary purpose of civil lawsuits is to protect the public by informing them of hazards and encouraging manufacturers and providers to make their products safer.