Practice Areas: Personal Injury Understand What To Do When You've Been Injured In New York City
Understand What To Do When You've Been Injured. In and around New York City, after a serious accident leaves you or a family member injured, you need to speak with an attorney who will answer your questions and who will help you pursue the maximum compensation possible for your recovery. In addition to motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, medical negligence and other areas of personal injury law, at the Law Offices of Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, we have experience handling a wide range of accident cases, including:
Injuries to children
Knee and shoulder surgery cases
Paralysis: paraplegia and quadriplegia
Seasonal accidents in fall and winter
Seasonal accidents in spring and summer
Drownings and diving accidents
Sexual harassment claims
Spinal cord injuries and brain damage cases
Vision loss and hearing loss
Experienced Personal Injury Representation
Build a partnership with our firm and let us help you, a friend or a family member recover compensation if injured in an accident. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.
Call the Law Offices of Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern at 212-571-5500
Q. What is a "Personal Injury" Case
"Personal injury" cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm. A personal injury case can become formalized through civil court proceedings that seek to find others legally at fault through a court judgment or, as is much more common, such disputes may be resolved through informal settlement before any lawsuit is filed:
- Formal "Lawsuit" Unlike criminal cases, which are initiated by the government, a formal personal injury case typically starts when a private individual (the "plaintiff") files a civil "complaint" against another person, business, corporation, or government agency (the "defendant"), alleging that they acted carelessly or irresponsibly in connection with an accident or injury that caused harm. This action is known as "filing a lawsuit". Our discussion on negligence and proof is especially helpful.
- Informal Settlement In reality, most disputes over fault for an accident or injury are resolved through informal early settlement, usually among those personally involved in the dispute, their insurers, and attorneys representing both sides. A settlement commonly takes the form of negotiation, followed by a written agreement in which both sides forgo any further action (such as a lawsuit), choosing instead to resolve the matter through payment of an agreeable amount of money.
Q. What is a Statute of Limitations?
Plaintiffs have a limited time in which to file a lawsuit, called a "statute of limitations." Generally speaking, the period of time dictated by a statute of limitations begins when the plaintiff is injured or discovers the injury.
Statutes of limitations are established by state law and often vary by type of injury. For instance, the statute of limitations for injuries to an individual in Texas is two years, but five years for sex crimes and one year for libel or slander.
Q. Where are the Laws that Govern Personal Injury Cases?
Unlike other areas of the law that find their rules in statutes (such as penal codes in criminal cases), the development of personal injury law has taken place mostly through court decisions, and in treatises written by legal scholars. Many states have taken steps to summarize the development of personal injury law in written statutes, but for practical purposes court decisions remain the main source of the law in any legal case arising from an accident or injury.
Q. When should I hire a lawyer?
Many people choose to hire an accident lawyer after they've been involved in a car crash that results in personal injury and monetary losses
Q. Why Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Technically, you can file a personal injury claim against an insurance company by yourself. Some people choose this route when they've suffered only mild injuries and have the time to research the legal claims process themselves. Also, skipping an attorney will save you some money in legal fees.
However, an accident attorney— especially a personal injury attorney—can help you go up against big auto insurance companies and their team of lawyers. Your attorney already knows the personal injury laws and procedural rules and can effectively handle all the legwork for you. He or she will act as your advocate throughout the entire case.
Because an insurance company's lawyers have the knowledge to reduce compensation and even deny the claim altogether, hiring an accident attorney is the best option for people who:
Have suffered severe injuries.
Are faced with expensive medical bills.
Have experienced a significant loss of wages due to their injuries.
Q. Why should I consult an Accident Attorney
Consider hiring an accident attorney if any of the following apply to you.
Auto Accident Injuries
Generally, the severity of your personal injuries is measured by the:
- Type of injury (or injuries) you've sustained.
- Length of time it takes (or will take) for you to recover.
- Cost of medical bills (and any other therapeutic procedures) you've incurred.
- also can include the estimated cost of future medical procedures.
Long-Term or Permanently Disabling Injuries
Generally speaking, a long-term injury is one that lasts for around a year or longer, while a permanent injury is one that disables you for life. These types of personal injuries seriously affect your ability to become and stay employed—not to mention the quality of your life.
Proving long-term and permanently disabling injuries can be tricky business, and your personal injury attorney probably will consult with each medical professional you've seen. He or she even might request the presence of your medical professionals during any legal proceedings.
When an insurance company disputes its policyholder's liability for the car crash, the company is basically saying that the policyholder is not at fault (or is at least claiming you don't have enough proof of fault) and, therefore, the insurance company is not responsible for paying for your damages.
An accident attorney will help you provide this proof and show that the other party was indeed at fault.
Refusal to Pay
Refusal to pay (which can but doesn't necessarily stem from a disputed liability) or refusal to pay a fair amount is when an insurance company outright won't make a fair settlement offer—or any offer at all.
Slip and Fall
Q. Should You Hire a Lawyer for a Slip and Fall Injury Case?
When liability is unclear for a personal injury claim -- as it often is in slip and fall cases -- a lawyer may be worth the cost.
Q. When should I get an attorney's help?
There are some types of injury cases where you do not necessarily need a lawyer -- some workers' compensation cases and small car accident cases, for example -- but, if your injury is at all serious, you should look for a lawyer rather quickly. The reason that you can handle a small car accident case by yourself is that, in a car accident, if the defendant is at fault, the fault is usually obvious.
In contrast, defendants' fault in slip and fall cases is not often obvious, and insurers in slip and falls cases will rarely acknowledge liability to an unrepresented person. If you have a slip and fall case and do not have a lawyer, you will generally not get very far with your case.
Thus, the attorney's first job in a slip and fall case is to get the attention of the defendant and the insurance company. You cannot settle a personal injury case without having a line of communication with the insurer.
But even in a small case, a lawyer can help you in many ways. All personal injury litigation boils down to proving liability and damages, and a lawyer will recognize all of the different factors that can affect liability and damages, both positively and negatively.
Q. How do I prove liability?
In order to get your case in a position to be settled or go to trial, you have to prove liability. This means that you and your lawyer have to prove that, more likely than not, the defendant was negligent, and that the defendant's negligence played a part in causing your injury. This is often straightforward in a car accident case, but can be far more subtle and complex in a slip and fall case.
The first thing that the lawyer needs to do is to confirm with you how your injury occurred. Falls happen very quickly, and many people do not understand exactly how they went from going up or down stairs to being on the ground and injured.
Here is an example. Let's say that you fell down some stairs. But that is just the beginning of the inquiry. How did you fall down the stairs? Which foot missed the stairs? What were you wearing on your feet? Were you holding onto the handrail? What, if anything, were you carrying? Which hand were you carrying it in? Were you on the phone? Were you texting? Did your foot trip or slip? Where were you looking while you were going down the stairs?
All of these facts, and many more, are critical facts that the insurer, the defense attorney, and, yes, the jury will want to know before offering or awarding you any money.
But all of this just addresses the physics of how you fell. Now the attorney has to figure out how to hold the defendant legally responsible for your fall. Here are some possibilities for why you fell:
- you missed a step
- you slipped on something on the stairs
- you tripped over your coat, your dress, your belt, or something else
- you reached for something (perhaps a handrail or your phone) and lost your balance
- the risers (the height of each step) were of varying heights, which unknowingly destabilized you as you descended the stairs and caused you to lose your balance and fall
Not all of these theories are the defendant's fault. A premises owner is not legally responsible for you tripping over your own clothing and falling down the stairs. But the premises owner is certainly responsible for a poorly constructed staircase, such as one with risers of varying heights.
A good lawyer will examine the scene, discuss all of these possibilities and more with you, and help you to figure out exactly why and how you fell. Then he/she will review the applicable state, federal, and local laws to determine if the condition of the premises violated any of those laws and retain an expert witness, if necessary, to testify as to the defendant's negligence.
Q. How do you prove damages?
A. Proving damages is not just a matter of saying, "I broke my leg, and was out of work for two months." You and your lawyer have to properly document your lost income through your employer's pay records and tax forms and your tax returns. Your lawyer must obtain and organize all of your medical records and bills. It can be surprisingly difficult to obtain a complete copy of your medical records. You are of course entitled to receive all of your medical records, but health care providers are often more preoccupied with providing health care than with photocopying the medical records of former patients. Many personal injury lawyers have someone in the office whose main job is to track down and obtain all of the clients' medical records and bills.
Then, if your medical records do not contain a legally sufficient opinion that your accident caused the conditions that you are suffering from, your lawyer will have to write your doctor and ask him/her to write a medical report or letter specifically addressing causal relationship. These letters can cost up to $1,000 or more. Finally, your lawyer has to carefully review your pain and suffering with you so that he/she can present it in the best possible light to the insurer.
Q. What is the cost of representation?
Obviously, hiring an attorney is going to cost you. In a personal injury case, lawyers typically work on a contingency fee -- that is they only get paid out of your final settlement or jury award. This works well because you don't have to worry about paying your lawyer up front to handle your case, and you are not "out" legal fees if the case turns out badly for you. On the flip side, you'll give somewhere between 25-40% of your settlement money to your attorney. You could keep all the settlement money if you handled the slip and fall claim yourself, but you may be missing out on a much larger settlement that a professional would be able to negotiate.
Q. What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional's failure to act prudently results in harm or damage to a patient. If the harm resulted due to a deviation from generally accepted standards of practice or a provably negligent act or omission, the medical professional may be found legally liable for said harm.
Q. What are some examples of medical malpractice?
Examples of medical malpractice include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, prescription errors, birth injuries, and nursing home neglect, among numerous others. They can be perpetrated not only by doctors, but also by hospitals, clinics, nurses, lab technicians, paramedics, psychologists, and other medical professionals.
Q. Who can file a medical malpractice claim?
Anyone who has been harmed or suffers a medical condition as a result of a medical professional's negligence or wrongdoing is entitled to file a medical malpractice claim. In the event that medical malpractice leads to birth injury or harm to a child, the child or newborn's family may seek compensation. If medical malpractice results in wrongful death, the decedent's dependents and beneficiaries may seek damages.
Q. What damages could I recover in a medical malpractice case?
Economic damages that may be recovered include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Lost or diminished earning capacity
- Funeral and related expenses
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages for which compensation may be awarded include:
- Past, present and future pain and suffering
- Disability and disfigurement
Punitive damages (in case of gross or intentional acts - intended to prevent the defendant and others from committing similar acts)
Q. Should I get a lawyer if I suspect that a loved one or I have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice?
Although most medical malpractice cases settle, less of them do so than other personal injury cases. This is in part because insurance companies know that since medical malpractice cases tend to be relatively complex, expensive, and lengthy, plaintiffs are less likely to see them through.
Some states require that you first try to resolve your case through mediation or arbitration. A qualified legal expert can evaluate every aspect of your case, present options, and explain their potential consequences and benefits. But be aware that each state also has different statutes of limitations, or time limits by which you must file a case, so we suggest that you at least consult with an attorney sooner, rather than later.
Personal Injury FAQ
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