Personal Injury Law
Our practice in personal injury law includes:
Personal injury lawsuits are filed by people (or their representatives) injured due to the negligence of someone else. The injury may be either physical or emotional, and it can arise from a variety of sources or types of conduct. Some of the most common types of personal injury cases include slip and fall, automobile accidents, assaults and battery, medical malpractice, and product liability. In general, the goal of a personal injury action is to determine who was responsible and to compel the responsible party to compensate the injured person for the losses sustained. If you or someone you know has been injured by the careless actions of another, contact a personal injury attorney at our firm to find out how we can help you preserve your rights.
A motor vehicle accident is an all too common occurrence in our society. Many of these accidents result in injuries to the occupants of the vehicle or to pedestrians. Our highly skilled attorneys and paralegals know how to navigate the difficult and sometimes frustrating areas of medical expense payment, wage loss reimbursement, negotiating with the insurance company, including your own, and attempting to obtain for you and your family a fair settlement. If necessary, our lawyers are skilled at presenting your case to a jury, judge or arbitrator if negotiations do not resolve the case. We also are experienced in alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
Premises liability law involves the legal responsibilities of property owners and occupiers to prevent injuries to persons on their property. One of the most common causes of such injuries is a trip or slip and fall, such as on an icy sidewalk, a loose or uneven stair tread, or a piece of debris or spilled liquid on the floor. Property owner liability varies depending on the rules and principles adopted in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. An experienced personal injury lawyer at our firm can evaluate the strength of your premises liability claim and help you recover damages for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
Some states' premises liability laws focus on the status of the visitor to the property. In such states, the injured person is generally defined as either an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.
- Invitee: An invitee is someone who is expressly or impliedly invited onto the property of another. The owner owes the invitee the highest duty of care, which includes taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the invitee's safety
- Licensee: A licensee, by contrast, enters the property for his or her own purposes but is present at the consent of the owner. The owner is required to warn a licensee of hidden dangers, but is not necessarily required to fix them.
- Trespasser: A trespasser enters the property without any right whatsoever to do so. In the case of adult trespassers, the owner generally has no duty of care and need not take reasonable care of his property or warn of hidden dangers. Even if a person was trespassing at the time of his or her injury, he or she may still be able to recover, however, if he or she can show that the owner knew it was likely that trespassers would enter the property.
Children are owed a higher duty of care, regardless of whether they are considered trespassers. A landowner's duty to warn is also heightened with respect to children.
In states where consideration is given to the condition of the property and the activities of the owner and visitor, a uniform standard of care is applied to both invitees and licensees. This uniform standard requires the exercise of reasonable care for the safety of visitors other than trespassers. To satisfy the reasonableness standard owed to invitees and licensees, an owner has a continuing duty to inspect the property to identify dangerous conditions and either repair them or post warnings as appropriate.
Proving Owners’ Liability in Premises Liability Cases
In proving a premises liability case, an injured person must show that the standard of reasonableness required by an owner has not been met. Perhaps the most difficult element an injured person must prove is the owner's knowledge of the condition causing his or her injury. The injured person must prove that the owner knew or should have known the condition in order for liability to attach, which is often quite often difficult to establish.
Defenses to Liability in Premises Liability Cases
One of the commonly applied theories to limit an injured person's recovery is comparative or contributory fault. A visitor has a duty, in most cases, to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety, and when that degree of care is not exercised, then an injured person’s recovery may be limited or reduced by an amount attributable to his or her own negligence.
In the cases where a person’s injuries are the result of slipping on an icy sidewalk in front of a business or on a grape, lettuce leaf, or other food item that has fallen on a grocery store floor, the property owner may or may not be liable for the person's injuries. Although property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in such a way to prevent injuries to lawful visitors, if a condition of the premises is noticed by a customer or other visitor or should be readily apparent, the property owner may avoid liability because the injured person has also a duty to protect himself or herself against the injury.
The property owner may also avoid liability by establishing that the debris had so recently fallen on the floor or that the ice had so recently accumulated that the responsible persons had no reasonable opportunity to correct the condition and avoid the hazard before the plaintiff fell. In other words, the plaintiff in a slip and fall case, whether it occurs in a grocery store or elsewhere, must show that the owner had a reasonable period of time in which to discover the dangerous condition and in which to remedy it. The determination of what constitutes a reasonable time will vary from case to case.
Medical negligence, or medical malpractice, is often misunderstood. It is a very difficult area of law, in that insurance companies pay large amounts to hire attorneys and expert witnesses to defend doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. Doctors often have the right to refuse to settle, which means that the insurance companies must spend large amounts on defense.
In addition, juries are historically sympathetic with doctors and health care providers. Therefore, attorneys who represent injured patients must carefully evaluate cases, and we can only take those cases where the negligence is clear and relatively easy for a jury to understand. Even when cases are carefully selected, medical malpractice trials are lost approximately 70% of the time. In automobile accident cases the opposite is true, with auto accident trials won by the injured person approximately 70% of the time. Because we try to select cases carefully and to prepare them well, over 90% settle and do not need to be taken to trial.
Although animal-attack claims most commonly involve dog bites, many other types of domesticated animals, such as ferrets, cats, and even birds, can also bite humans. Even non-domesticated animals, such as large cats ordinarily found in the wild, but owned by some people as pets have been known to attack children and adults. An owner’s liability for injuries caused by his or her pet, if any, will vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A lawyer from our firm who is experienced in handling personal injury claims is an excellent source for accurate advice and information if you have been injured in animal attack.
Proving Owners’ Liability in Animal Attack Cases:
To succeed in most animal attack cases, the injured person must prove that the animal that caused the injury was owned and kept by the defendant. In the past, the injured person was also required to show that the owner knew or should have known that his or her animal was dangerous, mischievous, vicious, or prone to such threatening behaviors. Under current law, however, when it is proven that an owner was somehow negligent, such as by not properly restraining or containing the animal, the injured person may often recover damages without proving the animal's viciousness.
An owner of an animal may be found liable under any circumstances in which he or she had knowledge of the animal's viciousness but failed to act in order to prevent injuries to others. Accordingly, if an animal exhibits vicious or uncontrollable behavior, the owner should take steps to shield the public from the animal. For example, if an individual owns a pit bull with a propensity to attack and bite without provocation, the owner should probably keep the dog indoors and, while outside, in a yard from which it cannot escape. If he or she does not adhere to these common-sense guidelines and the animal attacks, the injured party may be able to recover his or her damages.
Those who keep animals generally considered wild, such as lions, bears, and monkeys, are typically liable for injuries caused by such animals regardless of whether the particular animal is known to be dangerous. Because wild animals are generally presumed to have a natural tendency to revert to their wild mannerisms no matter how well trained or domesticated, owners of such animals are often said to be "strictly liable" for any injuries caused by their wild animals. However, strict liability may not apply if the animal injures someone while it is confined or restrained on its owner's property, but this is a factually dependent argument that will not apply in every case.
In some states, it is not always necessary for the animal to actually bite or attack the victim to hold the owner liable for an injury. For example, a pedestrian who breaks his or ankle in a frightened attempt to get away from a fenced in dog’s snapping, barking, or other aggressive behavior, may nonetheless be able to sue the dog's owner successfully if he or she can show that the actions of the dog led to the injury.
Defenses to Liability in Animal Attack Cases:
People who are injured in animal attacks are not always entitled to recover damages. If the injured person provoked the animal, for instance, recovery may be denied. Similarly, if a pet owner informs his or her neighbor that his or her pet parrot is not friendly and should not be touched, but the neighbor does not heed this warning and is thereafter pecked or bitten, recovery may be denied. If the owner merely stated that the parrot was not always friendly, on the other hand, but still encouraged the neighbor to pet it, the owner could likely be liable.
People who are injured by an animal while on the owner’s property are generally unable to recover if they are trespassing at the time of the attack. In many states, in order to successfully bring suit under a dog bite statute, the injured person must show that he or she was lawfully in the place where the injury occurred. If injured person was a trespasser at the time of the attack, the animal’s owner may not be liability for injuries caused by his or her animal. If, for example, someone jumps over a fence into an enclosed junkyard with "Beware of Dog" warnings posted and taunts the German shepherd guard dog with a stick, the junkyard owner may not be liable if the dog bites the trespasser.