Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Slip and Falls on Uneven Stairs

Thousands of people trip and fall on stairs every year.  These cases deserve special consideration because dangerous conditions in stairs are not always clear to the untrained eye.  For example, most persons are not fully aware how important it is for steps to be built in a uniform manner.  When steps are uneven, a person's balance can be thrown off, leading to dangerous falls.  
It is always a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer whenever you experience a fall in a stairway.  A competent personal injury lawyer will contact an architectural expert who can determine whether the steps or stairs were designed in compliance with building codes.       
Every state has a building code that must be followed by property owners.  These codes establish requirements that the stair be uniform in terms of size, height and angle.  All steps have a vertical part called the "riser" and a horizontal part called the "run".  The building code requires a maximum and minimum measurement for the height of the riser and for the depth of the run.  If you have suffered a fall on steps or stairs, you should measure the dimensions of the steps where the accident happened to determine whether it meets the building code.  If you suspect that the steps do not meet the code, you should contact a personal injury attorney to represent you in filing a claim against the property owner.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Lawsuit Settled for $25,000, How Will I Pay a $50,000 State Lien?

The State of Connecticut matches up insurance company records, such as claims received for personal injuries, against records for public assistance, incarceration and care or support with either the Departments of Social Services, Corrections, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Developmental Services or Children and Families.  If money has been paid by the state on your behalf for these type of programs, a lien will be placed to recover the money that you owe.  These liens are generally referred to as "DAS liens".  Here is a brief explanation of how these liens are paid when a case is settled.

As you would imagine, the money that you may expect to receive from the insurance company can by reduced by the amount of the lien.  However, the good news is that, most of the time, you will not receive a 100 percent reduction of your settlement.

Generally, after attorney's fees and medical bills related to your accident are paid, the State takes up to half of the money left for you. You are still responsible for the remainder of the money but the state will not force you to pay it right away.

Many of my clients are shocked when they find out that they have a DAS lien.  They usually don't recall ever receiving assistance from the state.  The main reaons for this confusion is that the Sate of Connecticut is allowed by law place liens for services provided a long long time ago.   By state law, there is no statute of limitation to collect public assistance benefits. The Department of Administrative Services routinely places liens on lawsuits or inheritances for assistance received as far back as 1968.

However, it most be pointed out that, when an individual applies for State aid either with the Departments of Social Services, Mental Health & Addiction Services, Children and Families, Developmental Services or has been sentenced to serve a term in jail by a Connecticut Court they are liable for the full amount of assistance received, cost of their care or cost of incarceration.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Can You Have a Personal Injury Claim and a Worker's Comp Case?

If you have been injured on the job, you probably know that you cannot bring a personal injury claim against your employer.  With the exception of very unique circumstances, your sole option in seeking compensation against your boss is by filing a worker's compensation claim.  However, when an entity other than your employer is responsible for your on the job accident, you can bring what is known as a "third party personal injury lawsuit".
Unfortunately, many persons who are injured at the work place don't understand the concept of a third party lawsuit and fail to make a prompt personal injury claim against the liable third party.  For example, when a worker is injured on the company's parking lot he or she often assumes that the only route available to make a claim is through worker's compensation.  However, if the parking lot where the accident happened is owned by someone other than your employer, you will probably be able to file a personal injury claim.  This is why it is advisable to contact a competent personal injury lawyer whenever you suffer an accident.  A good personal injury lawyer will look up in the land records and determine whether the property where you fell is owned by an entity or a person that is different than your employer.  Moreover, --in this hypothetical scenario-- a third party lawsuit might also be viable if an outside contractor, such a maintenance company, has failed to clean or maintain the parking lot where you fell.     
You can file a worker's compensation claim and, at the same time, file a third party claim.  In fact, filling both claims is usually the best course of action.  A person who brings a third party personal injury claim is able to receive a broader range of compensation than a person who just files for worker's comp.  Under worker's compensation rules a person's compensation is limited to the payment of medical bills, a percentage of the wages lost and a fixed percentage for the disability rating.  On the other hand, in a personal injury lawsuit a plaintiff can recover far more money for his or her damages; full compensation can be obtained for all lost wages, for pain and suffering and, in some instances, for punitive damages.     

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Personal Injuries Caused by Horses: The Debate Intensifies in Connecticut

On March 26 the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a controversial decision which defines the duty of care imposed on a horse owner.  The decision states that: "the owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a species or breed that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries".  See  Vendrella v. Astriab Family Limited Partnership .
This decision has caused great uproar in the State, particularly among persons associated with Connecticut's stable industry.  Most critics of the opinion were upset that the Court had unanimously stated that, as a species, horses are "naturally mischievous" or have a "vicious propensity".  There is no doubt in my mind that true horse lovers were extremely offended by the words used by the Court.  However, Even though the debate became very emotional, the true critics of the decision were those who have economic interests at stake. 
Just a few weeks after the decision, the legislature was persuaded to pass a new law that limits the a horse owner's liability in cases where persons are injured by the acts of horses.  House Bill 5044 --An Act Concerning Domestic Horses-- was passed unanimously. 
As a result of this new law those injured by horses in Connecticut have far less protections than those injured by dogs.  Here is a summary of the three main points contained in House Bill 5044:
First, it states that in any lawsuit brought against a horse owner there is a presumption that the animal is domesticated, is not inherently dangerous and does not possess a vicious propensity.
Second the legislation states that if there is evidence that a particular horse had previously caused harm to a person, the owner is on notice and has a special duty to protect others.
Third, it clarifies that horse owners do not have strict liability for their horses, as is the case for dog owners.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Faulty GM Ignition Switch Costs Only 57 Cents to Fix - GM Litigation Part II

It was recently revealed that the piece needed to fix a defective ignition switch linked to 13 car accident deaths would have cost just 57 cents to fix, according to records provided by GM to the U.S. Congress who is investigating why the company took 10 years to recall cars with the flaw.

General Motors engineers were well aware of serious problems with ignition switches in GM small cars, but rejected several opportunities to make fixes, according to dozens of confidential documents released by a Congressional committee investigating the deadly defect.

This controversy regarding regarding GM has a close resemblance to the infamous Ford Pinto debacle from the 1970's.  In fact, it is estimated that the number of deaths from faulty GM switches could easily surpass that 27 attributed to the Pinto gas tank defect. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Personal Injury Lawsuits Against GM for Faulty Ignition Switches

Personal injury lawyers representing victims of faulty ignition switches in GM cars estimate that at least 13 deaths have been caused by this defect.  In response to these lawsuits, GM has issued a recall of several of its vehicles.  Its is estimated that 1.7 million cars are affected by this recall.  Here is a list of the vehicles involved:

  • 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2005-2007 Pontiac G5
  • 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada)
  • 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2007 Saturn Sky
What is most problematic about these lawsuits is the fact that GM was well aware of the issues that were causing these accidents as early as 2004 and failed to take any appropriate action.  In court papers and depositions of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a Georgia Nurse who died in a car crash, GM employees testified that they already knew how to correct the defect back in 2004 but filed to take appropriate measures.

The problem in the recalled vehicles occurs when ignition switches unexpectedly shut down, sometimes while the car travels at high speeds.  In many instances, accidents have been caused when the engine and other electrical equipment suddenly does not function.  Even more alarming is the fact that this electrical problem has caused air bags not to function, causing additional injuries.  

One particular legal problem anticipated by GM's actions is the fact that the fact the statue of limitations might have run in many cases.  However, given the fact that the car manufacturer concealed the problem for 10 years, public pressure in mounting in favor of the creation of a special fund and special legislation that would compensate victims and their families for injuries suffered in car accidents caused by this defect.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Claims for Car Accident Related Concussions

It is relatively common for car accident victims to suffer from a concussion.  These personal injuries often happen as a result of an impact to the head, although this condition can also occur when a person's upper body is violently shaken during a motor vehicle collision.  If you have suffered a concussion from a car accident or from any other type of injury, it is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention.

Concussions occur when an impact or a sudden movement causes the brain to hit the inside wall of the skull.  These injuries can vary greatly in terms of severity and, in many instances, its symptoms can take several days to appear.  If you have been in a car accident and are suffering from any of the following symptoms, you might have suffered a concussion:
  • Loss of memory
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Slow pulse
  • High blood pressure
  • Restlessness
Approximately 10 % of the persons who suffer from concussions suffer from a condition known as "post-concussion syndrome".  A person with this condition will continue to experience concussion related symptoms for weeks, months or even a year.  

As a part of a car accident claim, a person who has suffered a concussion is entitled to monetary compensation for pain and suffering.  One of the problems with proving these type of claims is that concussion symptoms can often appear to be vague and highly subjective. In order to to prove damages it is advisable to obtain the medical opinion of a neurologist or any other qualified medical specialist.  It is also a good idea for the person who was injured to maintain a dairy of the symptoms in case that he or she has to testify in court about the pain and suffering following the accident.     

Even though personal injury claims for concussions are not as clear cut and obvious as claims for other injuries such as bone fractures, substantial damages can be obtained if the person who is injured hires a competent personal injury lawyer.  Moreover, I encourage my readers never to settle their cases with the insurance company immediately after the accident.  Since concussion symptoms can be long lasting, accident victims should contact a lawyer and seek medical attention first in order to recover the best possible compensation.