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Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case?

If you're involved in a car accident, do you need the help of a car accident attorney? For very minor accidents, filing an insurance claim with your or the other drivers' insurance is often the easiest way to repair damage to your vehicle or to cover medical expenses related to minor injuries. Drivers also have the option of taking a claim for a relatively minor amount to small claims court. But there are other situations in which the assistance of an attorney may be necessary. When should you consider hiring an attorney to handle your car accident case? Here are a few common scenarios: There's a dispute about who's at fault. In a car accident, the party at fault for causing the accident is generally liable for the other person's damages or injuries. When fault in an accident is in dispute, a lawyer can help you prove that the other party was entirely or at least mostly at fault. There's a dispute over how much you have to pay or how much you'll receive. The majority of personal injury claims arising from car crashes are settled before ever reaching trial. But you may need a lawyer to successfully negotiate your settlement to ensure that you don't get stuck receiving less or paying more than you should. Serious injuries resulted, especially injuries that require ongoing medical care. When injuries arising from a car accident require long-term medical attention, calculating damages may be more difficult and the amount of damages involved may be dramatically increased. A lawyer will know how to properly prove or dispute these damages in court. You're being taken to court. If you are being sued as a result of your car accident, trying to defend yourself in court may be more difficult than it seems. An experienced lawyer will know the court system inside and out; he or she will be able to gather the evidence needed to defend you in court or negotiate a fair settlement with the other side. You just don't want to have to handle your own claim. Bringing or defending a car accident claim may take years to resolve and in any event may require a significant amount of time and effort. Having a lawyer handle your case can take the pressure off, preventing you from agreeing to an unfair settlement or missing an important deadline in your case. If you have more questions about your case, keep in mind that many car accident attorneys offer free consultations. You can also learn more about car accident lawsuits at FindLaw's section on Car Accident Liability. Related Resources: Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) 5 Things a Car Accident Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Injured) Can You Settle a Car Accident With No Insurance? (FindLaw's Injured) 5 Signs You May Need a Car Accident Lawyer (FindLaw's Injured)
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GM Recall Compensation Fund: 4K Claims, 93 Settlement Offers So Far

GM's ignition-switch recall compensation fund is no longer accepting claims, as the January 31 deadline has passed. But that doesn't mean consumers are without recourse if they (or their loved ones) were injured in a recalled vehicle. As you probably know, GM issued a series of recalls in 2014 after an ignition-switch defect in about 2.6 million vehicles was linked to dozens of injuries and deaths. As federal investigations began, GM set up a victim compensation fund to deal with death and injury claims. In a regulatory filing released Wednesday, GM disclosed details about the fate of many of those claims, The Detroit News reports. Here's what consumers need to know: GM Compensation Fund Claims: By the Numbers GM's victim compensation fund began accepting claims August 1, 2014. According to GM's regulatory filing, during the six-month claims period that ended January 31: A total of 4,180 claims were filed, including more than 1,100 in the final week alone; So far, 482 claims have been rejected, including one that sought compensation for a dog's death; and Reportedly, 455 claims involved a death. Officially, 51 deaths have now been linked to the GM ignition-switch defect. To date, GM has made 93 settlement offers, and none have yet been rejected, according to The Detroit News. It could take another six months to review all of the claims. Is It Too Late to File a Claim? Though GM is standing by its January 31 cutoff date for compensation fund claims, some politicians want the company to extend the deadline. Regardless, anyone injured in a recalled GM vehicle may still be able to pursue legal action; because each case is different, an experienced attorney can review your claim and advise you on the best way to proceed. As for GM car owners who believe they've suffered economic damages (i.e., loss of their vehicle's market value) because of the recalls, a potential legal roadblock related to GM's 2009 bankruptcy reorganization could stand in the way of compensation. (We previously blogged about the "old GM" v. "new GM" issue here.) Despite the potential bankruptcy reorganization issue, more than 100 class-action lawsuits have been filed against GM seeking economic damages. The bankruptcy issue is being heard in a New York courtroom this week, The Detroit News reports. Related Resources: Injured in a recalled GM vehicle? Have an attorney review your claim for free. (Consumer Injury) GM Recall: Do You Need a Lawyer? (FindLaw's Injured) Should You Hire an Injury Lawyer Even If You Plan to Settle? (FindLaw's Injured) GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit: Overview (FindLaw)
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Injured on Someone Else’s Property: Can You Sue?

When you're injured on someone else's property, the owner of that property may sometimes be held liable for your damages. Generally, a legal doctrine known as premises liability makes the owner of property liable for damages caused by conditions on that property. But whether an injured person is able to recover for his or her injuries from a property owner depends on a number of different factors. What should you know about suing for injuries on another person's property? Here are a few important considerations: Were you trespassing? In claims brought by injured persons against the owner of property, whether the injured person was on the property with the permission of the owner will determine the level of reasonable care the owner is required to maintain. However, even a trespasser may be able to recover for injuries in certain circumstances. Who is the property owner? Another important factor in injury claims is whether the owner of the property is an individual or a government entity. Injury claims against the government may be affected by federal or state tort claims acts which generally limit the government's liability in injury lawsuits. Was there a violation of the law? An injured person may be more likely to show the property owner was negligent if it can be shown that the owner was violating a law and that violation caused his or her injury. For example, in Massachusetts, property owners are required to clear snow from their property under state law. A property owner who fails to do so may be more likely to be found negligent if someone slips and falls on accumulated snow or ice. Did the property owner fail to remedy a known dangerous condition? Even when no laws were broken, a property owner may be found to have been negligent if he or she failed to remedy a known condition on a property, and that condition caused a person's injury. Although laws vary by state, generally property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to those on their property. Were you partially at fault? An injured person's own fault in causing his or her own injury may have an effect on the potential for a successful lawsuit. In most states, even a person who is partially at fault for causing his or her own injury may still recover for the portion of damages attributable to the other party, as long as that person was equally or more responsible for causing the injury. If you have suffered an injury on another person's property, a personal injury lawyer can help explain your legal options. Learn more about personal injury lawsuits at FindLaw's section on Accident and Injury Law. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) Injured in a Park? Here's How to Sue (FindLaw's Injured) When Can You Sue for Trespass to Property? (FindLaw's Injured) 5 Things a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Injured)
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What’s the Difference Between Libel and Slander?

What's the legal difference between libel and slander? As you may know, both libel and slander are forms of defamation -- a false statement that harms a person's reputation. To prove either libel or slander in court, a victim also needs to show that the statement was negligently, recklessly, or intentionally "published" (disseminated) to a third party. However, there are a few legal distinctions between libel and slander, notably regarding how the alleged defamation was disseminated (written or spoken) and whether a victim must prove monetary damages as a result of the false statement. Here's a brief overview: Written or Spoken? In general, a defamatory statement that's in writing (like in a newspaper article) is considered libel, while a defamatory statement that's spoken aloud (like in a speech) is considered slander. But in some cases, the distinction may be called into question. For example, what about TV programs? A defamatory statement made by someone on TV may seem like slander because it's spoken, but if the statement was scripted, as opposed to ad-libbed, a court may call it "libel" instead. In fact, if the form of defamation is more permanent -- like a printed news article, or perhaps even a recording -- then a court is more likely to consider it to be libel. Other factors that suggest a defamatory statement is libelous include premeditation and broad dissemination of the statement. Do You Need to Prove Damages? Why does it matter if a defamatory statement is libel or slander? In many cases, it boils down to damages. In most states, if you're suing over a statement that's libelous "on its face," then general damages are presumed and you don't need to specifically prove the amount of your loss (known as "special damages"). By comparison, if you're suing over a slanderous statement, then in many cases you do need to prove special damages -- unless the statement falls into a category that's considered "slander per se." As with any set of general legal rules, there are exceptions that may affect the outcome of your case. To learn more, check out FindLaw's section on Defamation, Libel and Slander, or contact an experienced defamation lawyer near you. Related Resources: Browse Defamation Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) 3 Tips When You Sue for Online Defamation (FindLaw's Injured) When Does Gossip Cross the Legal Line? (FindLaw's Injured) How Do Free Consultations Work in Personal Injury Cases? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Contractor Injured at Your House: Are You Liable?

Homeowners having work done to their homes may be concerned about not just the quality of the work, but also about the potential legal liability for injuries sustained by contractors performing the work. By virtue of owning the property, homeowners may generally be held responsible for injuries caused by negligence in failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. What is considered negligence in a given situation depends in part upon the status of the injured person, but also the cause of the injury and the circumstances surrounding an accident. A homeowner's eventual liability may also depend on whether an injury will be covered by insurance. What do homeowners need to know about the possibility of a home-improvement or construction contractor being injured? Duty of Care Owed to Contractors Although contractors are on a person's property in a professional capacity, homeowners still owe them a duty to reasonably maintain the property. For the purposes of homeowner liability, injured parties are grouped into three categories, each of which are owed varying levels of care: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Contractors are generally considered to be invitees, which include visitors on a property for business purposes (such as workers or customers in a store). Homeowners owe the highest degree of care to this group of visitors, including a duty to repair known dangers and inspect for undiscovered hazards in areas an invitee may have access. When a homeowner fails to live up to this duty, and a contractor is injured because of a condition that the homeowner would reasonably have been expected to discover and correct, the homeowner may be liable for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. What About Insurance? In some instances, a homeowner's insurance policy may protect against personal injury liability. Although individual policies vary, some homeowner's policies provide coverage for accidents and injury claims, including those by contractors. A contractor's injury may also be covered by the contractor's own insurance. If the contractor is working as an employee of a larger company or contractor, he or she may be covered by worker's compensation. Contractors may also have other forms of insurance coverage that may provide coverage for injuries sustained by the contractors themselves, or a contractor's employees and subcontractors. If you are concerned about potential liability for a contractor injured on your property, you may wish to contact a personal injury defense attorney. You can also learn more about liability for injuries or accidents at FindLaw's section on Homeowner Liability and Safety. Related Resources: Browse Personal Injury -- Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Who's Liable for Your Holiday Party Injury? (FindLaw's Injured) If Your Tree Falls Onto Neighbor's Property, Are You Liable? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Want to Sue a Home Contractor? 3 Things to Consider (FindLaw's Injured)
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How Do Free Consultations Work in Personal Injury Cases?

Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. This allows a lawyer to learn more about the facts surrounding your case before deciding to take you on as a client. As the first step in the process of pursuing a potential personal injury claim, your initial meeting with an attorney will also be an opportunity for you to find out more about your legal options and to get a feel for whether you and the attorney would work well together. But how do these initial meetings work? And what should you expect from a free consultation with a personal injury attorney? Setting Up, Preparing for a Consultation Attorneys who offer free consultations generally make it clear on their websites or in advertisements that they will review an injury claim for free. Setting up a consultation with an attorney who offers these consultations is typically as easy as calling the attorney's office or filling out a form on the attorney's website. In order to get the most out of a consultation and to make sure the attorney has everything he or she needs to assess your case, you will need to do some preparation for your consultation. It's a good idea to make a list of questions you want to ask the attorney, about your case and about his or her experience and fee arrangement. You should also make a list of things to bring with you to your consultation. This list should include: Medical records; Receipts for any expenses you've incurred because of your injury; Police reports, if any; Insurance information; Paystubs, which may help in claiming lost wages; and Any legal documents or correspondence from other potential parties in the lawsuit or insurance companies. What to Expect at Your Consultation Consultations typically last around 30 minutes to an hour, but can last longer, so be sure to allow for extra time if needed. The lawyer will have questions for you about your injury, your medical treatment, and other facts regarding your potential case. Before deciding on whether to take or decline your case, the attorney may want to take time to consider the information you have provided, or may suggest that you seek further medical advice regarding your injury. In some cases, the attorney may refer you to another lawyer, if he or she cannot take your case for any number of reasons. You should also feel free to consult with more than one attorney before deciding which one to work with. Meeting with several different attorneys can often provide you with more information regarding the merits of your case. Find more tips on the initial steps to take following an injury or accident, including meeting with an attorney, at FindLaw's section on First Steps After an Injury. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) 5 Things a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Injured) When Will Lawyers Answer Questions for Free? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) How Much Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Joan Rivers and Alleged Medical Malpractice: 3 Things to Know

Comedian Joan Rivers' death was the result of medical malpractice, her daughter claims in a lawsuit. What can consumers learn from this pending case? As you may recall, Joan Rivers underwent a procedure to remove a growth from her vocal cords last summer. She suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest during surgery and was rushed to a hospital; Melissa Rivers later decided to remove her mother from life support. But according to Melissa's lawsuit, Joan Rivers' death can be blamed on doctors and the New York City clinic where her procedure was performed. Here are three legal facts about medical malpractice cases to keep in mind as this lawsuit proceeds: 1. The Lawsuit Does Not Specify the Amount of Damages. Lawsuits often seek a specific dollar amount in terms of damages, but Melissa Rivers' lawsuit does not. Under the laws of New York, where the suit was filed, lawsuits alleging personal injury or wrongful death are not allowed to state an amount for damages. This allows a jury to come up with an amount on its own, without being influenced by what the plaintiff feels he or she deserves. Other states have similar laws about specifying damages in these types of cases. 2. What Counts as Malpractice? Many medical errors can be considered malpractice, including wrong-site surgeries and retained foreign objects (i.e., sponges left inside a patient). But these cases all assert that a medical professional breached his or her duty to a patient by failing to act as a reasonable professional would. In Melissa Rivers' lawsuit, she names the Yorkville Endoscopy Center and five physicians, including her mother's personal doctor Gwen Korovin, as defendants, Reuters reports. The doctors failed to recognize Joan Rivers' declining vital signs, performed a procedure that Rivers had not consented to, and were slow in calling 911, the suit asserts. The suit also calls out one doctor for allegedly taking a "selfie" with Joan Rivers while she underwent the procedures. 3. The Case May Come Down to a 'Battle of the Experts.' If the case goes to trial, the question of malpractice may come down to a "battle of the experts." That's when both sides present dueling expert witnesses to testify about how a "reasonable" medical professional would have acted in a similar situation. As you can see, there are a lot of legal factors to consider in a medical malpractice lawsuit. To lean more, check out FindLaw's section on Medical Malpractice or contact an experienced attorney to review your case. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) 5 Signs You May Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney (FindLaw's Injured) Joan Rivers' Estate Plan: $150M to Daughter, Grandson, Dogs (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Joan Rivers' Death: 3 Legal Facts About Life Support (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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Injury Lawsuits: When Can You Sue for Lost Wages, Future Earnings?

When calculating damages for an injury lawsuit, lost wages are often included in the total amount. Lost wages typically include money that a plaintiff would have earned from the time the injury occurred until the settlement is reached or a trial is complete. However, an injury lawsuit may also seek recovery for the loss of future wages, known as earning capacity. Damages for lost earning capacity seek to compensate an injured person for his or her diminished ability to earn money in the future due to impairments caused by an injury. When can a plaintiff seek these two types of damages? Lost Wages Lost wages fall into the category of special damages, which generally include any out-of-pocket expenses caused by the injury or the defendant's actions. Unlike general damages for which it may be difficult to determine a specific value (such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium with family members), special damages such as lost wages generally must be proven with specificity in order to be awarded. Lost wages can typically be proven by showing what the injured worker's normal rate of pay was, and what that person would've earned from working in the absence of the injury. In some circumstances, even a person who was unemployed at the time of an accident can recover lost wages, if he or she can prove that money would have been earned during the period following the injury. Loss of Earning Capacity If an injury results in a person becoming unable or less able to earn money in the future, then lost earning capacity damages may be awarded in addition to lost wages. The amount of future earning capacity lost is generally harder to prove with specificity. In addition to your past earnings, the court will likely consider a number of other factors including your age, occupation, skill, and life expectancy. If you've been injured in an accident, a personal injury attorney can help you determine the strength of your case and how much your potential claim may be worth. You can also learn more about damages in a personal injury lawsuit at FindLaw's section on Injury Damages. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Brain Injury Lawsuits: How Much Is Your Case Worth? (FindLaw's Injured) Truck Accident Damages: How Much Can You Collect? (FindLaw's Injured) 5 Things a Personal Injury Lawyer Needs to Know About Your Case (FindLaw's Injured)
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Falling Carry-On Bag Leads to Injury, Airline Lawsuit

A man who claims he was injured on a Southwest Airlines flight by a falling carry-on bag has filed a lawsuit against the airline. Jerry Reinhardt was seated on a Southwest plane at Portland International Airport in 2013 when another passenger tried to fit a large carry-on bag into the compartment above Reinhardt's head, reports The Oregonian. Reinhardt's lawsuit claims that when a flight attendant came to help the passenger cram the bag into the overhead bin, the bag fell on him, causing him to suffer an injury. Why does Reinhardt think the airline should be responsible for his injury, and how much is he seeking to recover? Negligence, Failure to Train In his lawsuit, Reinhardt claims the airline is at fault for his injury because it allowed the passenger to board the plane with a bag that was too large to fit in the overhead bins provided for carry-on luggage. In a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff generally must prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to act with a certain level of care in a specific situation and that the defendant's failure to uphold this duty led to the plaintiff's injuries. In this case, Reinhardt will likely argue that Southwest should have prevented bags too large from fitting in overhead bins from being taken onto the plane and that failing to do so led to Reinhardt's injury, which was a foreseeable result of Southwest's alleged negligence. Reinhardt also claims that Southwest failed to properly train its employees. In addition to generally being liable for the on-the-job negligence of employees, an employer may also be liable for negligent training if employees were not trained properly and that failure leads to an injury. Lawsuit Seeks $49K in Damages Reinhardt is seeking $49,000 in damages from Southwest. He claims the bag caused him to suffer a compressed disc in his back, leading to $10,000 in medical bills and $5,000 in lost income. The remaining $34,000 in damages is for pain and suffering. In a personal injury case, compensatory damages are awarded in order to compensate an injured person for losses related to an injury. In addition to medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses incurred as a result of an injury, compensatory damages may also include pain and suffering damages, which compensate an injured person for mental and physical anguish caused by an injury. In Reinhardt's case, he claims in his lawsuit that the injury to his back and neck caused him to suffer headaches, dizziness, and nausea, all of which may factor into a potential pain and suffering award. Southwest did not return The Oregonian's calls seeking comment about the lawsuit. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) How to Sue an Airline Over Damage, Injury (FindLaw's Injured) Injured on an Airplane: How Can You Recover? (FindLaw's Injured) Lawyer Sues Airline Over Cockroaches on Plane (FindLaw's Injured)
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Brain Injury Lawsuits: How Much Is Your Case Worth?

Brain injuries can cause permanent physical and mental damage. Determining the value of a person's injuries can often be complicated. Generally, damage awards in a personal injury case include two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Punitive damages are typically reserved for cases in which a defendant's actions justify a monetary punishment as opposed to simply compensating a victim, and are generally awarded at the discretion of a judge or jury. In most injury cases, the value of your case will largely depend on the amount of compensatory damages you are awarded. How are these damages calculated in a brain injury lawsuit? Calculating Damages There are a number of different factors that may contribute to the amount of damages a court determines were caused by an accident or injury. In a case involving brain injuries, it may be important to consider not just damages that have already occurred, but also those that are likely to occur in the future as a result of a brain injury. For example, lost wages from work missed following an injury are one common type of damage recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. But in a brain injury lawsuit, it will also be important to show the loss of future earning capacity due to the long-term physical, mental, and emotional effects of a brain injury. Other Types of Compensatory Damages Lost wages and future earning capacity are just two of many potential factors in a damages calculation. Some other common sources of damages include: Medical expenses. These may include not only the cost of treatment following an accident or injury, but the need for future medical expenses as well. Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering damages allow a plaintiff to recover for both past and present mental and physical anguish suffered as a result of an injury. Loss of enjoyment. Sometimes included in pain and suffering damages, loss of enjoyment damages, also known as hedonic damages, compensate a plaintiff for a loss in quality of life. Of course, each brain injury case is different, which is why you'll want to consult an attorney about the best way to pursue compensation. To learn more about brain injury lawsuits, head over to FindLaw's section on Brain Injury. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) $150M Lawsuit Over Punch at Kid Rock Concert (FindLaw's Injured) Ex-Clemson Soccer Player Sues Over Hazing, Brain Injury (FindLaw's Injured) When Can You Sue for Punitive Damages? (FindLaw's Injured)
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