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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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Injured at Work? 3 Potential Options for Recovery

Getting injured at work is a pretty common occurrence, but what are your legal options if you get hurt? According to a FindLaw.com survey, more than one in five Americans said they've been injured on the job. Workplace injuries not only impact you physically, but it can affect you financially as well. Here are three potential legal options to seek out if you're injured at work: 1. Worker's Compensation In most states, worker's compensation ("worker's comp") covers employees who get injured on the job. The purpose of worker's comp is to provide employees who are injured on the job a way to receive fixed amounts of compensation without having to sue their employers. While it's often available, it's important to check to see if your state's laws, occupation, and employer align to provide you worker's comp. If you do receive worker's compensation, it's unlikely that you'll be able to sue your employer in a separate civil lawsuit. However, even if you file for a worker's compensation claim, you may still bring a lawsuit against a third-party if that individual was responsible for the workplace accident. 2. Disability Workplace disability insurance is another potential option for getting compensation for your workplace injury. Employees who've purchased private disability insurance plans may have their injuries covered even if their employers don't provide coverage. The duration for which employees may be compensated under disability insurance depends on whether the plan is a short term or long term plan. On the other hand, your employer may offer a disability insurance plan. Many of these benefits are regulated by the federal government and come with complex regulations that dictate exactly how claims should be filed and received. Errors in filing could lead to a denial of your claim, but you have the option to appeal the denial. While it's not necessary, you might want to have an ERISA lawyer help you file your claim to avoid missing any steps. 3. Sue the Employer If your job isn't covered by worker's compensation or other restrictions, you may sue your employer for your workplace injuries. Depending on the nature of your injury and how it occurred, there are several possible legal avenues for recovery. For example, if you slip and fall at work because your employer failed to clean up a spill or put up a warning sign, you may be able to sue them under premises liability law. Workplace injuries can be painful and keep you out of the office for a period of time. So if you're unsure how to recover damages for your injury, talk to a personal injury attorney in your area to get started. Related Resources: What Are the 7 Most Common Workplace Injuries? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Filing a Workers' Comp Claim (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do You Need a Lawyer for a Workers' Comp Case? (FindLaw's Injured) 4 Potential Ways to Prove Employer Negligence (FindLaw's Injured)
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Ex BigLaw Lawyer and IMF Director Christine Lagarde Discusses Women and Leadership

Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director and former Baker & McKenzie executive committee chair recently discussed women in leadership and it was a fascinating conversation. Lagarde took over the IMF immediately following the abrupt resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn over allegations of sexual assault. She was the first woman and first non-economist to lead the organization. Lagarde said, “I have a theory that women are generally given space and appointed to jobs when the situation is tough. I’ve observed that in many instances. In times of crisis, women eventually are called upon to sort out the mess, face the difficult issues and be completely focused on restoring the situation.” Maybe she is really on to something… especially when you consider that GM’s first woman CEO, Mary Barra, was appointed right at the start of a major crisis for GM. At first the news articles heralded her appointment as a true breaking of Detroit’s car industry glass ceiling. Then we started to hear that her pay was half of that of her predecessor and now CEO Mary Barra is at the heart of a controversy over the company’s recall of millions of small cars based on a flaw in the ignition switch which has lead to a Congressional Investigation. Lagarde discusses the need for women to get more comfortable in their own skin and bodies and to put aside the outside pressure to constantly change themselves. She explains that this mindset is an integral part of how a woman commands a room as a leader. She also discussed the need to have more women on the IMF board, which is currently made up entirely of men. She never had a career plan and shared the advice her American father gave her at 17… “Don’t let the bastards get you.” Great advice for a slew of circumstances that any woman criminal lawyer may find herself in. Read the entire interview on the Washington Post here.
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1st GM Ignition-Switch Defect Lawsuit Filed

GM is facing a potential class action lawsuit over an ignition switch defect linked to the recall of more than 1.6 million compact cars. The lawsuit was filed in Texas federal court on Friday, alleging that General Motors knew about the dangerous defect in 2004 but failed to fix it -- putting drivers' lives at risk and reducing the resale value of their vehicles, reports Reuters. What does this suit mean for GM? Federal Suit May Become Class Action Daryl and Maria Brandt filed the lawsuit because of safety risks posed by their 2007 Chevy Cobalt, one of the many models recalled by GM over the ignition switch defect. According to Reuters, the couple claims they "have driven their car less than otherwise" fearing an accident caused by the ignition switch issue. The Brandts do not claim that they were injured in an ignition switch-related accident, but they do want compensation for diminished resale value and the loss of use of their vehicle. Their suit is seeking class action certification, so that the Brandts can represent similarly situated individuals across the country who may have been injured by GM's alleged wrongdoing. In order to be certified as a class action, a federal court must find that: It is impractical for each plaintiff to sue on his or her own, There is a common complaint shared between class members, Class representatives (in this case, the Brandts) have the same claims and defenses as others in the class, and The lawyers and representatives will fairly represent the class. Payouts in class action lawsuits can be substantial. You'll recall a class action suit related to Toyota's sudden acceleration issue settled for more than $1 billion. Legal Troubles Mounting for GM This potential class action suit is yet another legal action on GM's plate over this ignition switch defect. Both Congress and the Justice Department are looking into criminal and civil charges against the car manufacturer for allegedly misleading government regulators by not giving notice of the defect. GM car owners will want to check to see if their vehicle is included in the ignition switch recall, and will also want to consider contacting an experienced motor vehicle defect lawyer if they feel they've been injured by their defective vehicles. Related Resources: Lawsuit Filed Against General Motors Over Ignition-Switch Recall Losses (Insurance Journal) GM Recalls 780K Cars After 6 Deaths (FindLaw's Injured) GM Recall Expands to 1.6M Vehicles; 13 Deaths Reported (FindLaw's Common Law) GM Recalling 1.5M Vehicles Over Fire Risk (FindLaw's Injured)
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Who’s Liable for Snowboarding Injuries, Deaths?

Although spring is right around the corner, snowboarders are still hitting the slopes. So what factors can affect liability in a snowboarding accident? While snowboarding provides riders with an adrenaline rush, it can also result in injuries and even death. That's unfortunately what happened to a 22-year-old snowboarder who died after crashing into a tree in an off-trail area in upstate New York over the weekend, The Associated Press reports. With that accident in mind, here are a few factors that can affect the outcome of snowboarding injury and wrongful-death lawsuits: 1. Premises liability. Snowboarding resorts are responsible for making sure that the premises are reasonably safe for visitors. For example, the resort must regularly check to see that its slopes, equipment, and ski lifts are maintained. However, if a snowboarding injury occurred because of a snowboarder's own negligence, the resort may not be responsible; in some cases, the snowboarder may not be able to recover the full amount of damages. On the other hand, if a private individual owned the property where the snowboarding accident took place, then the land owner must make his land reasonably safe for invited guests. (For a discussion about trespassers, see below.) 2. Snowboarding off-trail. Although ski resorts can potentially be responsible for injuries that occur on their property, they probably won't be liable for snowboarding injuries that happen off designated trails. Still, property owners may have a duty to warn snowboarders about dangerous conditions near the slopes if injuries can be anticipated. For example, the resort may have a duty to warn visitors about a steep cliff that's 20 feet away from the designated course by providing either verbal warnings or putting up warning signs. 3. Liability waivers. Consenting to a liability waiver can affect your ability to sue a ski/snowboarding resort. For instance, some resorts require season pass holders to waive liability for their injuries when they purchase the pass. This waiver could even apply to past seasons if the liability waiver contains a retroactive clause. Liability waivers are also common with regular day passes, so review your agreement carefully. 4. Trespasser or ticket holder? Resorts may be responsible for making sure their slopes are reasonably safe for ticket holders, but they aren't obligated to protect trespassers who enter the property without permission. However, if the resort knows it's prone to trespassers trying to get in for free, the resort must use reasonable care to warn trespassers about dangerous conditions the resort knows about. Like every snowboarding trick, each snowboarding injury lawsuit is unique. So if you've been injured while hitting the powder, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to figure out your next move. Related Resources: Police release name in fatal snowboarding accident (Burlington, Vermont's WPTZ-TV) Ski Injuries: 3 Factors Affecting Lawsuits (FindLaw's Injured) Ski Lift Accident: When is Ski Resort to Blame? (FindLaw's Injured) Ski Accidents: Top 3 Ways Not to Get Injured (FindLaw's Injured)
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After a Truck Accident, 5 Questions to Ask a Lawyer

After you're involved in a truck accident, choosing the right lawyer to handle your case is important. So what questions should you ask a truck accident attorney to make sure he or she is the right one for you? Truck accident injuries and fatalities are on the rise, according to the latest government data. But unlike "regular" car crashes, pursuing a truck accident lawsuit often requires particular knowledge in areas such as vehicle codes, individual and employer liability issues, and how to deal with the trucking company's lawyers and insurance agents. There are many factors to consider in a truck accident case, so here are five questions you may want to ask your prospective lawyer: Where are you licensed to practice law? In order to legally practice law in the state where your truck accident occurred, attorneys must be licensed by that state's bar association. So be sure to find an attorney who's licensed in the state where you live in or the state where the accident occurred. Keep in mind that national law firms will often have local attorneys who can help. What are your legal fees? Depending on the complexity of your case, attorneys will either charge a contingency fee, a flat fee, or an hourly rate. Contingency fees are based on a percentage of the amount awarded in the case, so if you don't win, the lawyer doesn't collect the fee -- but you'll still have to pay some expenses. Flat fees are usually offered in more simple cases, while hourly fees will accrue as the case goes on. You should find an attorney whose fees work with your budget and expectations. Have you handled truck accident cases before? Finding an attorney who's experienced in dealing with truck accident claims is essential because these claims often involve multiple parties including the truck driver and the trucking company. Truck accident cases can also require a lot of technical evidence such as truck maintenance reports, training records, and employment handbooks. So make sure your attorney knows the ins and outs of successfully litigating a truck accident case. Is a truck accident lawsuit worth the effort? One question to ask a truck accident attorney is you even have a case that's worth pursuing. For example, in states that have pure contributory negligence laws, injured parties may not be able to collect any damages even if they're found to be just 1 percent at fault. So if you live in one of those states and may have contributed to the accident (for example, by following the truck too closely), you may have a hard time winning your case. Your lawyer will be able to help you analyze your situation from both a legal and a practical standpoint. What documents should I bring to my initial consultation? You should bring all documents relevant to your accident to your initial consultation. This may include medical records, pictures of the damage, and any details you may have collected from other drivers and witnesses at the scene. If you're ready to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential truck accident case, head over to FindLaw's Truck Accident Lawyer Directory to connect with one today. Related Resources: Top 10 States for Fatal Truck Crashes (FindLaw's Injured) Interviewing a Lawyer (FindLaw) Truck Accidents: 3 Potential Ways to Sue (FindLaw's Injured) Dump Truck Hits, Kills Mom Putting Kid in Van (FindLaw's Injured)
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GM Recall Spurs DOJ, Congressional Probes

The DOJ is investigating General Motors for allegedly failing to address dangerous safety problems for years before issuing a recall. Federal prosecutors have been joined by members of Congress, who are beginning their own investigation and will conduct hearings on GM's culpability in allegedly waiting a decade to recall 1.6 million vehicles, reports The New York Times. With so much federal scrutiny, this may be a rough year for GM. Recall, Defect Investigation It isn't uncommon or unseemly for auto manufacturers to issue recalls when a safety issue or defect is discovered. In fact, auto companies are required to issue a recall for any vehicle or part that fails the minimum performance standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or whenever a safety-related defect is discovered. According to the Times, federal prosecutors are reviewing whether GM failed to disclose defects to federal regulators like NHTSA -- or even intentionally misled them. At the center of this investigation is a safety defect in the ignition switch in more than 1 million GM vehicles from model years 2003 to 2007. This defect, which put more than three-quarters of a million American cars at risk, could cause engines to turn off while vehicles are in motion. The defect has been linked to at least six deaths, and prompted a massive recall by GM. Investigators will attempt to figure out why GM allegedly failed to fix this defect for so long. The company may have known about the problem as early as 2004, reports the Times. Criminal and Civil Charges Ahead You may not think that executives can charged under criminal law for failing to issue a recall, but that's exactly what the top brass at GM could potentially be facing. Under the TREAD Act -- one made famous by the Firestone tire disaster -- any person who intentionally misleads federal regulators with respect to dangerous or deadly car defects can face up to 15 years in prison. Anyone at GM who intentionally misled government officials regarding the ignition switch defect could be facing serious federal prison time. Aside from that possibility, the company could also be held liable for millions in civil damages, if lawsuits are successful. However, anyone wishing to sue GM for defect-related injuries will likely need the charges approved by a bankruptcy court. According to Automotive News, when GM emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, it agreed to leave all pre-2009 defect issues with "Old GM" in a bankruptcy court. Related Resources: Congress, Justice Department open probes in GM recall (Detroit Free Press) 'New' GM Wants Vehicle Liability Claims to Stay with 'Old' GM (FindLaw's Injured) GM Recall Expands to 1.6M Vehicles; 13 Deaths Reported (FindLaw's Common Law) Browse Motor Vehicle Defects Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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GM Recalls 780K Cars After 6 Deaths

General Motors is recalling more than three-quarters of a million cars because of safety issues linked to six front-seat fatalities. But GM also blamed some of the deaths in part on drivers themselves. GM announced that the 778,562 affected cars are at risk for the ignition switching out of the "run" position, turning off the engine "and most of the car's electrical components," Reuters reports. How do these GM cars suddenly shut off, and which GM vehicles are affected? Ignition Issue Identified The affected cars in the GM recall are at a much higher risk for the ignition switch to move out of the "run" position, shutting off the engine and the car's critical electrical components while the car is in motion. Airbags failed to deploy in some cases, a GM spokesman said. According to Reuters, GM pointed to "weight on the key ring" or "road conditions" as possible factors leading to the ignition switch's failure. But a GM spokesman also told Reuters that drivers' alcohol use and failure to wear seat belts were also factors in some of the six fatalities. As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration begins its own investigation, relatives of those killed in the recall-related crashes could potentially sue GM for wrongful death, claiming that the company violated its duty in releasing a defective and dangerous product. Prior deaths due to defective cars have resulted in multimillion-dollar awards for relatives of those killed by the defect and/or a company's negligence. Is Your GM Vehicle Affected? Although Reuters reports that GM has laid blame for the ignition switch failure on parts make in Mexico, drivers of affected cars are still entitled to a free repair and replacement of the defective parts. The recall only involves the 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5, models which GM no longer makes. A GM spokesman explained that fewer than 80 percent of the recalled vehicles are in the United States. The remainder are in Canada and Mexico. Affected vehicle owners should be receiving a letter from GM notifying them if their cars are part of this large recall. GM owners can also visit GM's website and enter their cars' Vehicle Identification Numbers to verify if the vehicles are under recall. Related Resources: 6 killed in GM cars with faulty ignition switches (USA Today) GM Recall Announced on Hummer and Corvette Vehicles (FindLaw's Common Law) GM Class Action Suit: GM Only Fixed Police Cars (FindLaw's Injured) GM Recall on 243,000 SUVs and Crossovers for SeatBelt Problems (FindLaw's Common Law)
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