I have suffered a personal injury. What rights do I have? (part I)

I would like to begin this article with a personal note. I have decided to leave the Smith Sovik law firm for which I have worked for the last 4 years. I left to start my own law firm: The Law Offices of Jose Perez located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Telephone number: 315-480-5085.

If you had an accident, you may have a personal injury action against another person or corporation. If someone else is more at fault for your injury than you are, you may make a claim against that person or business and their insurance company, if any. The type of accident and the cause of the accident may affect your entitlement to compensation.

We see and hear many things about personal injury actions or personal injury law. But, many of us, are not really sure when we have a claim for a personal injury. As many dictionaries put it, personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body, mind or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property. The term is most commonly used to refer to a type of tort lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff’s injury has been caused by the negligence of another.

Every tort claim or personal injury claim , regardless of its basis, whether intentional, negligence, or strict liability, has two basic issues—liability and damages.

What type of personal injuries may be compensable?

  •  Maria’s motor vehicle accident: Automobile accidents are the most common area where personal injury actions arise. There are “fault” states and “no-fault” states.  New York is a no-fault state.  Maria was driving on a highway and suddenly another car hit her car on the driver’s side and caused Maria’s car to go off the road and flipped.  Maria is injured and taken to the hospital by ambulance. Maria will have a negligence claim in a “fault” state if she was injured by a driver who failed to exercise reasonable care.  As you know, drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care anytime they are on the road. When they breach that duty and your injury results, personal injury law says you can recoup your losses. Maria will have a negligence claim in a “no-fault” state (such as New York) if she was injured by another driver and her injuries meet the serious injury threshold. You should consult with me or another attorney in order to determine whether you can pursue a personal injury action based on a motor vehicle accident in the State New York.
  • Carlos’ commercial accident (such as in stores, supermarkets, parking lots, etc): Carlos was shopping at the supermarket. While going down the aisle to get a bag of rice, Carlos slipped and fell on a puddle of water.  He did not feel bad at the time. However, a week later he was very sore and in pain. Carlos’s injuries would be compensated as long as they were caused by an unsafe condition that the owner should have known of, appreciated, and corrected before the accident.  Here, the puddle of water should have been corrected before Carlos fell. The owner did not correct the condition. He will be liable. Same thing would have happened if Carlos slipped and fell in the supermarket’s icy parking lot.
  • Luis’ injury at a neighbor’s house (or farm, apartment, recreation, etc.): Luis was walking his dog on the sidewalk and he broke his ankle in front of Karla’s house (a neighbor).  Or, for example, Luis was going to the bus stop to take the bus for work and, when he was going down the street, Karla’s dog bite him.  As you know, renters, owners, or residents may be found liable for injuries they caused by negligent maintenance, oversight, or attacks by pets.  Those same individuals may still be liable even if you were a guest at their houses, apartments, etc.
  • Stephanie’s injury at the City Hall (or injuries caused by Government employees or at government’s premises): Stephanie was a passenger in a city school district’s bus. The bus driver fell asleep and crashed. Stephanie injured her back and neck with the impact.  Injuries caused by negligent public employees or unsafe conditions can be compensated. However, you should know that compensation may be subject to stringent notice and claim requirements.
  • David’s workplace injury: As we have seen in my previous articles, injuries at work generally are covered by worker’s compensation benefits, which compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent impairments, without regard to fault. However, personal injury actions may arise in workplace accidents. David was working at a warehouse. His job was to seal the boxes of lettuce coming down on the conveyor belt. When two boxes were falling off the conveyor, David rushed to grab the boxes. Before he was able to get the second box, David’s hand got caught on the belt and was fractured. David may maintain a personal injury action against the manufacturer of the machine.
  • Elizabeth’s intentional injury:Elizabeth was jealous and followed her boyfriend everywhere. Her fears became real when she saw her boyfriend entering Julia’s house. Elizabeth was outraged, entered Julia’s house, and beat her up. Injuries inflicted on purpose by any means are not usually covered by the guilty party’s (Elizabeth) liability insurance.  However, Elizabeth may be personally liable for Julia’s injuries.
  • Other accidents: There are rules that determine if injuries caused by dangerous products, users of firearms, dog owners, operators of restaurants, hotels, and public transportation, faulty professional services, or public utilities would be compensated.

An important thing you should know is that you should not to need spend one penny in order to file a personal injury action.  Next month, we will talk about statute of limitations, percentage of fault, expenses covered, etc. There are many issues that arise in personal injury actions or potential actions.  Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of consulting with me about the facts of your case.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about personal injury actions or potential actions.  Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in a personal injury case.  Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes. 

I handle personal injury cases.  If you have any questions or concerns about a personal injury you, a friend, or a family member sustained, you can call me at (315) 480-5085, send me a fax at (315) 480-5085, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Please look for my next article in the May edition.

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