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When Can Sexual Assault Survivors Sue for Defamation?

Being a victim of sexual assault is bad enough, but finally finding the courage to speak up and then being called a liar -- or worse -- by the person who assaulted you, is even worse. There may, however, be a recourse for these types of circumstances. Women who have survived a sexual assault have been turning to defamation lawsuits to fight back against their attackers.In many instances, this is not only to clear their own name but also because the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim of sexual assault has passed. And while not every attacker who has called his or her victim a liar will win a defamation lawsuit, it's a viable option for sexual assault survivors who think they can prove the elements of defamation. The Elements of a Defamation Lawsuit Defamation laws will vary from state to state, but there are some general standards that make these laws similar to each other. In general, a person must prove the following in order to prevail in a defamation lawsuit: The defendant made a statement The statement was published The statement caused injury The statement was false, and The statement didn't fall into a privileged category Some explanation is necessary to better understand the elements listed above. The statement can be oral (slander) or written (libel), and a statement is "published" if a third party has heard, seen, or read the statement. Harm to reputation is enough to satisfy the injury element. Finally, while the other elements may be met, if the statement was privileged, a defamation lawsuit will fail. An example of a privileged statement is one given as a witness at a trial.As you can see, a sexual assault survivor isn't always going to be able to sue his or her attacker for defamation, but if may be possible if the attacker speaks badly enough about the victim. To understand if you have a legal claim, contact a personal injury lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Torts and Personal Injuries (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Sex Crimes (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault, Harassment: Top 10 Cases and Questions (FindLaw's Injured)
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Oklahoma Oil Companies Can Be Sued for Worker’s Death

The family of David Chambers Sr., a truck driver who was fatally burned after being dispatched to an oil well back in 2014, can proceed in their state lawsuit against the Oklahoma oil well operator. That's the unanimous (8-0) ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Strickland v. Stephens Production Company, a decision that highlights some of the complexities of state workers' compensation laws when it comes to favored (and politically savvy) industries. Workers' Compensation Laws Workers who suffer from work-related injuries are normally eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Compensation can cover medical expenses, lost income, costs of rehabilitation and continuing care, and potentially other losses. Workers comp, at least, generally isn't a fault based thing. Injuries are injuries and workers' compensation is designed to work more as an insurance system than a run-of-the-mill civil lawsuit. What's also common is for states to make workers' compensation an exclusive remedy. You can't receive WC benefits and then sue your company too. Or even, sometimes, as happened here, sue them at all. That's what Stephens Production Company argued after being sued by Chambers' surviving relatives for wrongful death, negligence, and similar civil claims in state district court. And the company had a point, since that's precisely what the state's statute said applied for oil and gas well operators. So what happened here? Striking an Oil Exception in Oklahoma The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the statute's limit on civil liability for oil and gas well operators as an unconstitutional 'special law' under the state's constitution. As the court wrote in its opinion, the legislature couldn't 'singl[e] out one specific industry for special treatment under the workers' compensation system.' Related Resources Browse Workers' Compensation Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Director) Workers' Compensation Laws by State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Workers Comp Law (KFOR News)
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If I Get Into a Fight at Work, Can I Still Get Workers’ Comp?

It's not common, but workplace fights do happen. Tensions build. Voices are raised. Tempers flare. And, in the extreme, shoves, punches, and piledrivers may get thrown about. Whether it's started by an argumentative customer upset about their caramel macchiato or two colleagues having a heated debate about something-totally-not-worth-fighting-about, injuries can result. So when you're injured in a fight at work, is workers' compensation still a thing? What Is Workers Compensation? Workers' compensation is a workplace insurance system for work-related injuries. Injured workers may have medical costs, lose wages while out of work, and sometimes suffer long-term disabilities as a result. That's what workers' compensation is for. Construction workers, delivery drivers, even dishwashers who die taking out the trash can receive workers' compensation benefits. Police and fire departments often carry extensive (and expensive) workers' compensation policies due to the physically taxing and dangerous nature of their jobs. Workers' Comp for Workplace Fights So long as it's a work-related injury, it's potentially covered. But it shouldn't surprise anyone that the law imposes limits on workers' compensation eligibility when fights occur. Under California law, for example, a worker who's the initial aggressor isn't eligible for workers' comp. Purely personal disputes that overflow into a place of business might not qualify either. The idea behind the entire system is compensating injured workers, after all. The further the facts stray from that legal standard, the more tenuous the case. Find Out If You're Eligible for Workers' Compensation Workers' compensation cases can be complicated. Claims are heard through state agencies, and when an employer contests a claim, the going can get tougher. If you're injured following a fight at work, speaking to a workers' comp attorney is a smart move. Related Resources Find a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Workers' Compensation Laws by State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can I Get Workers' Compensation If Assaulted at Work? (FindLaw's Injured)
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How to Prepare for a Consultation With a Car Accident Lawyer

When injured in a car accident, it's common to feel bent out of shape. Your car might be a compressed chunk of metal. You might be sitting in the hospital or at home nursing some nasty injuries. And going to work, school, or about your daily routine? Yeah ... so much for that. It's normal to vent (and we certainly encourage you to vent). But, as they say, revenge is a dish best served by your lawyer. So here's some advice for preparing for your initial consultation with a car accident attorney. 1. Make a Timeline Cases are built on the facts. Your lawyer is going to want as many details as possible, and will press you for specifics, specifics, specifics. What happened, when did it happen, how did it happen, and in what order did it happen? It's a good idea to make a timeline with as much information and detail as possible. This will get you thinking about the case from a legal perspective, and give your lawyer a prepared account of the facts right off the bat. 2. Bring Records and Documents Written documentation is very important to lawyers, and gathering it is a major part of preparing a case. Prepare copies of accident reports, insurance information, witness contact information, medical records, photographs from the scene, and names of doctors, nurses, police officers, chiropractors, and medical facilities -- everything connected with the accident. You can use a checklist to gather records in advance. 3. Be Prepared to Answer Questions Lawyers are trained to tease out information and details with questions. You should be prepared to answer all of them as best you can. Besides being a tool for figuring out what happened, your responses tell a lawyer other, more subtle things too. Like whether you'd be a good client to take on and how a jury might respond to you on the witness stand. It's never too early to strategize! 4. Ask the Questions You Want to Ask Lawyers are trained to be lawyers, but no one is trained to be a client. The best way to get information is to ask an attorney. Feel free to ask a lawyer about her experience handling similar cases, background and training, fees, and what you should expect going forward. Knowing what to expect can bring relief and help make sure you and your lawyer are on the same page going forward. Related Resources Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Car Accidents (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Top 7 Car Accident Lawsuit Questions (FindLaw's Injured)
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Model Can Seek $1.5M for HIV Ad Featuring Her Image

Those that ascribe to the "any PR is good PR" mantra might be tempted to tell a model that any use of her image would be a good use. But what about a use that implies she is HIV positive? That happened to model Avril Nolan after New York's Division of Human Rights ran a full-color, quarter-page ad featuring her face, beside the words "I am positive (+)" and "I have rights," all without her permission. Nolan sued, claiming the ad was defamatory and that the DHR violated state civil rights laws. And a state appeals court agreed, with the defamation part at least. Per Se Bad Publicity The court's ruling is a bit dicey, politically speaking. Nolan is claiming that the unauthorized association of her image with HIV is a particular kind of defamation per se. Normally, in order to succeed in a defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that the false assertion caused some tangible damage to her reputation. But some false statements are considered so damaging that they are deemed defamatory on their face, and don't require the same proof of damages. One category of defamation per se is an indication that a person has a "loathsome," contagious, or infectious disease. The state tried to argue that an association with HIV wasn't inherently damaging, highlighting recent cases where courts ruled that merely calling someone gay was not slanderous, and even pointing to celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Magic Johnson who remain popular despite publicly affirming their HIV-positive status. But the Supreme Court of New York's Appellate Division wasn't on board: Further, claimant, in countering the State's anecdotal evidence regarding public figures with HIV, cites several sociological studies establishing that HIV continues to be a significant stigma. For example, she cites to academic studies from 2014 and 2015 that conclude that people fear getting tested for HIV because of the perceived social repercussions of a positive result. Since it can still be said that ostracism is a likely effect of a diagnosis of HIV, we hold that the defamatory material here falls under the traditional "loathsome disease" category and is defamatory per se. So while the intent of the ad campaign might've been to reduce the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis, enough of that stigma still exists to make a false association regarding such a diagnosis defamatory. Rejected Civil Rights Claims Nolan also alleged the DHR's unapproved use of her photo violated state civil rights laws that prohibit the nonconsensual use of a person's image for commercial purposes. The appeals court was less sympathetic to this claim, finding "DHR was engaged in a decidedly noncommercial campaign designed to advance its mission of promoting civil rights." Still, Nolan may recover up to $1.5 million in damages for the emotional distress she says she suffered after publication of the ad. Related Resources: Find Defamation Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Injured) What's the Difference Between Libel and Slander? (FindLaw's Injured) Invasion of Privacy: False Light (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Is Invasion of Privacy? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Los Angeles Settles Cyclist’s Pothole Injury Lawsuit for $6.5M

Peter Godefroy was riding his bicycle on Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California two years ago when struck a pothole, crashed his bike, and suffered "severe traumatic brain injury and numerous broken or fractured bones throughout his body." Godefroy sued the City of Los Angeles, claiming poor lighting and even worse maintenance led to a simple pothole becoming a "concealed trap for bicyclists." The L.A. City Council settled that lawsuit last week, voting 11-0 to approve granting Godefroy $6.5 million in damages. It's the second such settlement this year, after the council also awarded $4.5 million to the family of a man killed after he was thrown from his bike when he hit uneven pavement in the city. Bike Suits Bicycle accidents are sadly more common than you would hope. And if you don't have cycling insurance (yes, those policies do exist), you may be wondering about your legal options. In a crash scenario, hopefully the other party -- whether it be a driver in their car, a business-owned vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian -- will be insured and that will cover your injuries. If not, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recoup medical bills and lost wages. Most cycling accidents can be treated just like car accidents: exchange insurance information with the other party or parties, document the accident and any injuries as thoroughly as possible, and consider contacting the police if there are serious injuries or property damage. And the work doesn't stop the day after an accident -- make sure to track initial ambulance or hospital bills, additional or ongoing medical expenses, and lost work or wages as well as future income. City Liability It may sound daunting, but you can sue city hall. You may have to file a claim of injury with the city before filing a civil lawsuit to give the city a chance to compensate you or respond to the claim, and you'll have to do so within specific statutes of limitation. If the city fails to respond or denies your claim, you can move on to a full-blown lawsuit. As a general rule, municipalities are responsible for maintaining roadways (including bike lanes and sidewalks) so that they're safe for cyclists, and can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on public roadways. If a city or municipal entity fails to exercise reasonable care in keeping the roadways in good repair, they can be found liable for injuries that occur. However, in order to prove a city was negligent in repairing the road, you would also need to prove the city had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it. If you're considering a bike injury lawsuit against a city, talk to an experienced attorney first. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Severely Injured Cyclist Settles Broken Sidewalk 'Launch Ramp' Case for $4.84M (FindLaw's Injured) San Diego Cyclist Injured by Pothole Gets $235K Settlement From City (FindLaw's Injured) NYPD Accused of 'Hit and Lie' on Cyclist (FindLaw's Injured)
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When Can You Sue for PTSD for Auto Accident Injuries?

When a person is injured in an auto accident, they may be entitled to recover monetary damages for their injuries. In some circumstances, an injury victim can be entitled to recover after suffering an emotional, or mental health, injury, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result of a car accident. Unless the mental health injury rendered a person incapacitated, they will need to file a lawsuit within the normal time period allowed by their state to file. While uncommon, in severe auto accidents, particularly when there is a loss of life, severe injuries, or maybe just a whole lot of property damage, it is easily foreseeable that an individual could suffer from PTSD. However, to establish a personal injury case based upon a PTSD diagnosis can be rather challenging. Unlike broken bones, cuts, bumps, and bruises, a mental health injury may not visible on the surface. Problems of Proof When suing for a PTSD injury related to a car accident, a plaintiff will need to prove that a qualified doctor made an accurate PTSD diagnosis and that the diagnosis is attributable, at least in part, to the accident. To accomplish this, it is highly likely that expert medical witness testimony will be required. However, despite what a medical expert states, other problems could arise if the accident was only a minor accident, or there are other tragic incidents, particularly recently, in the plaintiff’s past, or a prior diagnosis for PTSD. However, even if a diagnosis may not be attributable to an accident, a flare up of PTSD symptoms may still be relevant. In other words, it can be claimed that a car accident made an individual’s PTSD worse. One Bite of the Settlement Apple A significant problem with PTSD auto accident claims is the timing of a settlement. Frequently, injury victims will settle their cases within 6 month or a year after their injury without ever filing a lawsuit. Just as frequently, PTSD can go undiagnosed for months, or longer if a victim does not have a solid support network. Unfortunately, in nearly every state, once a person settles a personal injury claim, they cannot reopen the case unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as a fraud in the inducement to sign. Typically, an undiscovered injury will not qualify to reopen a settled case. Related Resources: Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Can You Sue Over Mental Stress, Trauma? (FindLaw’s Injured) Can You Get Workers’ Comp for PTSD? (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Ways to Prove Emotional Distress (FindLaw’s Injured)
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NY Brain Surgeon Faces Three Malpractice Lawsuits

One of the leading brain surgeons that co-founded the North Shore University Hospital’s Chiari Institute is facing three malpractice lawsuits over surgeries to correct Chiari malformations. The suits all allege that Dr. Bolognese improperly or needlessly performed a surgery to correct a Chiari malformation in each of the three separate plaintiffs. The Chiari malformation is a rare condition where part of the brain forms under the brainstem where it connects with the neck and spinal cord. The effects of a Chiara malformation are varied from no symptoms at all, to severe. Currently the only treatment is surgery. History of Getting Sued Dr. Bolognese has seen quite a bit of trouble. According to one source, though the doctor was not out of operating room for long, he was suspended back in 2010 for failing to show up for a surgery. Also, he has faced approximately 20 medical malpractice lawsuits. In addition to the malpractice lawsuits, a former employee who sued her hospital for sexual harassment, described some very strange behavior by Dr. Bolongese during surgery, including disappearing mid surgery and openly using expletives when frustrated. A Surgeon’s Malpractice Liability Surgeons, like any other doctor, can commit medical malpractice. Discovering surgical malpractice is difficult however as frequently patients are under anesthetic and therefore unaware while the surgeon is working. If it is something obvious, like the surgeon operated on the wrong body part or patient, this will be easily discovered. However, if a surgical sponge or other implement was left behind, or the surgery was unnecessary, or some other avoidable mistake occurred, discovering the problem is the first step and may require expert medical assistance. Once the mistake or problem is discovered, it must be determined, generally by more medical or surgical experts, whether the surgeon in your case fell below the standard of care. This means that a surgery that doesn’t work isn’t necessarily grounds for a malpractice suit. It only will be grounds for a lawsuit if the doctor made a mistake that made the level care provided fall below the standard of care that should have been provided. Related Resources: Injured my medical malpractice? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) When to Sue a Chiropractor for Injury (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Controversial Medical Treatments Still Used Today (FindLaw’s Injured) When to Sue a Pediatrician for Malpractice (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Timeline for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

If your first thought after a work injury isn't, "When can I get back to work," it's probably, "When can I get paid for getting injured at work." Missing work is tough, especially if you're missing paychecks, too. If you got injured on the job, you probably know you can file a workers' compensation insurance claim. But how long is that going to take? While all cases are unique, here's a quick look at what to expect from your workers' comp claim. Your Steps The timeline for your workers' compensation claim begins at your injury, and there are some steps you'll want to take immediately to ensure your claim is reviewed and completed as quickly as possible. First, take care of yourself and seek any necessary medical attention, even if you're worried you can't afford it. Most states require employers or their insurance company to pay for an injured employee's medical bills as soon as they file a claim. So you do not have to wait until your claim is approved to receive compensation for medical costs. Second, report the injury to your employer, and, if possible, report the injury in writing and keep a copy of the report for personal records. Your employer is then required to offer you a claim form immediately. Make sure the claim form is filled out completely and specifically and that you file it as soon as possible. You should also keep a copy of your completed claim form for your records as well. Employer and Insurer Steps Once your employer receives your claim form, it is their responsibility to immediately notify their insurance company and arrange medical assistance and compensation for you. Your employer may also be required to complete and file a wage verification form with the insurer within a certain amount of time after your claim or compensation form. After receiving your claim, the insurer generally has 30 days to either accept or deny your claim and notify you of its decision. (Be aware this time limit can vary by state.) If your claim is approved, the insurer must start paying out benefits soon after. If your claim is denied, you can request a hearing to review the decision. There is a time limit on the request for a hearing, normally around 60 days after you received notice of denial. A hearing date will then be set, usually within 30 days of your request. After the hearing, the hearing officer normally has 15 days to make a final decision. If you need help filing a workers' comp claim, or if your claim has been denied, you may want to contact a local workers' comp attorney for advice. Related Resources: Hurt on the job? Have your injury claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) How Long Do I Have to Be Employed to Get Workers' Comp? (FindLaw's Injured) How Long Will Workers' Compensation Benefits Last? (FindLaw's Injured) When Is It Too Late to Sue for Injury? (FindLaw's Injured)
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How Does SSDI Impact an Injury Lawsuit?

If you are on SSDI and are considering filing a lawsuit or pursuing an injury claim, you may be concerned about how a settlement or court award could impact your receipt of benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal program designed to assist disabled individuals that are unable to work by providing those individuals with an income source. While SSDI will want to know if you have received wages, the general rule is that an injury settlement or court award for an injury case are not wages, UNLESS a portion of that award is meant to compensate you specifically for lost wages. Also, it should be noted that if you receive punitive or exemplary damages, or any interest on the award, these may also be concerned as unearned income. Can SSDI Affect Your Settlement? While your SSDI is generally safe from loss as a result of an injury settlement or court award, your settlement or award may be less than you might expect because of your SSDI. Often, injury plaintiffs are disappointed when they find out that their cases are not as highly valued as they expected. Many times, a case’s high value lies in the plaintiff’s status as a high-wage earner. If someone who makes $1,000,000 per year misses one day of work because of the injury, that one day of lost wages could be worth at least $2,700 or more. If that person misses ten days, that can add $27,000 to their case. If you are on SSDI, there will be no wage loss to recover because SSDI covers your wages, and therefore, any settlement may feel a little bit lower than you might have expected. Don’t Confuse SSI With SSDI It is important to not confuse SSI with SSDI. Supplmental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based federal program that provides disabled and elderly individuals with income to supplemental SSDI or regular social security benefits. Any income or monies a person receives can have an impact on a recipient of SSI benefits. It is highly advisable for a recipient of SSI to seek the advice of an attorney regarding how to handle settlement or court award money as SSI benefits can be easily lost if a person receives a lump sum. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) If You Can’t Get Workers’ Comp, Can You Get SSDI? (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Things a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can’t) (FindLaw’s Injured) Personal Injury Lawyer Dropped Your Case? Now What? (FindLaw’s Injured) When to Sue a Pediatrician for Malpractice (FindLaw’s Injured)
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