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Stamford, CT Personal Injury Resources

  1. Fatal Car Accidents Claim Hundreds of Connecticut Lives Each Year
  2. Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Medical Negligence Verdict
  3. Study Links Traumatic Brain Injuries and Neurodegenerative Disease
  4. Positive Teen Driver Accident Trends in Connecticut
  5. Connecticut Enhances Distracted Driving Penalties
  6. Record Connecticut Medical Malpractice Verdict in Birth Injury Case
  7. Connecticut Appellate Court Issues Opinion on Car Accident Liability
  8. Bus Cameras Provide Unexpected Perspective on Pedestrian’s Death
  9. What to Expect During Your Initial Attorney Interview After An Injury
  10. Understanding Automobile Insurance
  11. I’ve been hurt in an accident and I want to file a claim for my injuries. What’s the first thing I should do?
  12. Preventing Childhood Injuries
  13. Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Truck Accident Damages Award
  14. Glossary: Personal-Injury Damages

Fatal Car Accidents Claim Hundreds of Connecticut Lives Each Year

For most people in Connecticut, driving is a fact of life. We all rely on cars to get to work or school, to run errands, or to otherwise get where we need to go. Unfortunately, heading out on the roads comes with some risk.

Take, for example, a recent Norwich car accident that killed three people and seriously injured two others. Authorities believe that the five occupants in the vehicle were coming home from work when the driver fell asleep, lost control of his car and crashed into a tree.

The accident occurred just before 8:30 in the morning. When first responders arrived at the scene of the crash, none of the accident victims were conscious. One was pronounced dead at the scene, and two others died after being taken to the hospital. The driver and a passenger survived, but were seriously injured.

Sadly, accidents like this are far from rare occurrences. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 220 people died in Connecticut motor vehicle accidents in 2011. The year before, a total of 320 people were killed.

Of course, every loss of life is a tragedy. However, these accidents are particularly troubling because so many of them could have been prevented if the at-fault driver had made better choices behind the wheel.

Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to traffic safety in Connecticut. According to the NHTSA’s report, drunk driving was responsible for approximately 42 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2011. Speeding was the second biggest killer, playing a role in about 33 percent of traffic deaths in 2011. Drowsy driving and distracted driving (including texting while driving or talking on a cellphone) are also major causes of fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Connecticut wrongful death lawsuits

All drivers need to do their part to prevent fatal accidents from occurring. This means never getting behind the wheel after drinking and refraining from picking up a cellphone while driving. It also means using good judgment and avoiding behaviors like speeding, distraction or aggressive driving.

Driving this way is much more than an issue of good manners. Connecticut law imposes on every driver a duty to operate their vehicles with reasonable care for the safety of others on the road. Failing to uphold this duty can be considered negligence.

When a fatal car accident is caused by another person’s negligence, the families of the deceased victims have a right to hold the at-fault driver accountable in a wrongful death lawsuit. While nothing can bring the victims back, wrongful death lawsuits can help families recover financial compensation for a number of losses they experienced as a result of their loved one’s death, including medical and funeral expenses, loss of the loved one’s future earnings, loss of the decedent’s ability to enjoy life and the death itself.

It is important to recognize that Connecticut law limits the time a family has to bring a wrongful death claim. For that reason, it is advisable for families to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney soon after the accident. The attorney will be able to evaluate the circumstances of the crash to help the family figure out their best options for moving forward.


Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Medical Negligence Verdict

People who suffer injury or prolonged illness due to medical malpractice deserve access to justice and compensation for protracted suffering, ongoing medical expenses and other damages. When a doctor or oncologist fails to diagnose cancer or another serious illness, a patient can lose precious time to fight a serious or terminal condition. A recent case before the Connecticut Supreme Court involved a woman’s lawsuit against an obstetrician and gynecologist whom a jury had found negligent for failing to properly warn the woman of her risk for developing ovarian cancer. The woman has an extensive family history of breast cancer and had previously elected to have a bilateral mastectomy to reduce her own cancer risk.

She also underwent a partial hysterectomy under the defendant doctor’s care due to the presence of noncancerous tumors in her uterus. At that time, the doctor found her ovaries to be healthy and advised that her medical history did not indicate an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and they were therefore not removed during that surgery. A year after the hysterectomy, she received a diagnosis of advanced, terminal ovarian cancer, which had spread throughout her abdomen. After she sued the doctor for failing to provide proper gynecological care and other negligence, the jury concluded that she would not have developed ovarian cancer if the defendant had removed her ovaries at the time of the hysterectomy, found him negligent, and awarded the woman $4 million in damages.

The doctor appealed, arguing primarily that the only issue that should have been considered was whether he had obtained informed consent from the woman to perform the surgery. The Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s verdict, holding that the woman had alleged a claim of medical negligence as well as lack of informed consent. Most important, the court established that a physician can incur liability for not meeting professional standards of care if he or she fails to provide a patient with certain information.

Subtle distinctions in legal meaning between concepts like “negligence” and “informed consent” can make a major difference in a patient’s right to recover damages. By working closely with a medical malpractice attorney from the original consultation to final appeal, a victim of substandard medical treatment can explore all legal theories for recovery or defend against a doctor’s attempt to deflect liability.


Study Links Traumatic Brain Injuries and Neurodegenerative Disease

To help an injury victim understand his or her legal options, a personal injury attorney must explain everything from theories of liability to the role of insurance coverage in maximizing compensation. When the client has suffered a serious brain injury or disabling neck or back injury, one of the greatest challenges can be proving the full extent of the harm suffered to an insurance company or jury.

For that reason, news of recent progress in documenting the effects of traumatic brain injuries published in the journal Science Translational Medicine is a welcome development. Researchers who research degenerative brain diseases caused by head trauma have drawn connections between the harm suffered by athletes, car accident victims and combat veterans due to hard contact, concussive explosions and other forces.

One key benefit of this research is a better understanding of the emotional and psychological challenges that head injury victims suffer due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTS), the condition that medical researchers have linked to multiple concussion sufferers such as career professional football players. The researchers found that even a single simulated blast trauma triggered CTS in mice. Common effects on the brains of autopsied human CTS victims included decline or death of neurons, clumps of a toxic protein, and damage to axons, which transmit signals between nerve cells.

While one important goal of obtaining compensation for any injury caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness is securing the best medical care possible, one brain injury researcher commented that the study may lead to an unfortunate and inevitable conclusion: ultimate recovery from the effects of TBI might be elusive.

For a car accident or bike accident victim who suffers serious changes in personality, cognitive abilities and moods after sustaining a blow to the head or similar trauma, the need for ongoing assessment and rehabilitation can lead to a lifetime of steep medical expenses. By explaining to clients their civil law remedies, personal injury lawyers can help them understand the possibility that injury symptoms can linger for decades.


Positive Teen Driver Accident Trends in Connecticut

Connecticut’s strict teen passenger restriction laws were passed in 2007, and the state Department of Transportation points to the graduated licensing rules as a factor in a decrease in the number of motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers. The number of crashes involving drivers who were 16 or 17 decreased 28 percent in the first years of enforcement.

Fatal car crashes involving Connecticut teens have also trended down from a high of 13 in 2007 to nine in 2010, and the latest numbers showed seven fatal auto accidents involving a teen driver through August of 2011. When deadly auto accidents involving teens decrease, fewer families must face their ever-present fear of a late-night visit from the highway patrol.

On the enforcement side of traffic safety, the DMV reports fewer convictions for distracted driving, speeding and intoxicated driving, but citations for teen passenger infractions have recently increased. One important factor to be considered in addition to these numbers is that the number of teens with drivers licenses has decreased despite stable teen population levels.

Connecticuts teen passenger restriction law

Connecticut has the strictest limits in the country on teen drivers’ ability to carry passengers, and drivers under 18:

  • Cannot drive with passengers except for a licensed parent or guardian for six months after first obtaining a drivers license (transporting brothers and sisters is permitted after six months)
  • Cannot drive with other teens in the car for one year after licensure
  • Cannot drive after 11 p.m. or before 5 a.m.

The risks of serious motor vehicle accidents are particularly high for inexperienced drivers, and Connecticut has taken an important step toward allowing young drivers to gain experience while avoiding distractions.

Despite the best precautions, accidents caused by reckless drivers, drunk drivers, defective automobile components and other reasons cause tremendous financial difficulties for injury victims and wrongful death survivors. To help potential clients understand the legal aspects of avoidable tragedies, personal injury attorneys can explain all aspects of car accidents, from insurance policy provisions to the relevance of traffic citations and other evidence of fault.


Connecticut Enhances Distracted Driving Penalties

Distracted drivers are a danger to themselves and everyone on the road, including passengers, pedestrians and other motorists. The U.S. Department of Transportation warns drivers that use of even hands-free cell phones and other electronic devices delays reaction times for drivers as much as intoxication. The faster a vehicle is traveling, the more likely it is that a moment’s hesitation will lead to a car accident.

The majority of states have passed laws to make phone use, texting and other activities illegal under certain circumstances or by certain drivers. Connecticut prohibits all cell phone use by school bus drivers and drivers less than 18 years old, and text messaging by all drivers. These distracted driving infractions are a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over a driver for the sole offense of texting and issue a ticket.

Connecticut has recently increased penalties for using a cell phone or texting while driving. The fine for a first offense will increase to $125 and a second offense will have a $250 penalty. Fines for subsequent offenses can go as high as $400. The biggest change passed in 2011: truck drivers and other commercial motor vehicle operators could lose their licenses if caught texting while driving, with exceptions for emergency situations.

Connecticut personal injury attorneys protect the interests of injury victims

Imposing harsher penalties for text messaging or using mobile phones is one key to reducing distracted driving on Connecticut streets and highways. The human and financial costs of truck accidents, motorcycle accidentsand other motor vehicle accidents devastate families and harm society.

A Connecticut motor vehicle accident lawyer can help an injury victim assess the full extent of the harm suffered and present the other driver’s insurance company with a clear case for compensation. Another crucial service, especially in truck and other commercial vehicle accident cases, is identifying the full range of potentially liable parties to help clients obtain full compensation for severe injuries.

After a fatal car accident, an attorney can explain a family’s legal options in a wrongful death claim to compensate for lost income and other losses from the avoidable tragedy. Litigation provides legal solutions when even stiffer criminal penalties fail to stop reckless driving and operator negligence.


Record Connecticut Medical Malpractice Verdict in Birth Injury Case

birth injury lawsuit based on an obstetrician’s mistakes during delivery has led to the largest med mal jury verdict ever awarded in Connecticut. The child, who is currently eight years old, suffered severe brain damage when the doctor failed to perform a timely delivery. The boy faces a life of being unable to walk, talk or eat.

A Waterbury jury determined that the family should receive $58.6 million in damages due to the tragic maternity error and the lifetime of medical care, adaptive equipment and nursing care the child will need. The birth took place at Stamford Hospital, which was originally named as a defendant by the plaintiffs, but dropped from the lawsuit when no hospital negligence was revealed by their attorney’s investigation.

Birth injuries pose steep challenges for families who receive terrible news on a day they expected to be joyous. One of the greatest risks for newborns is being denied sufficient oxygen (hypoxia) during the delivery process. For that reason, strict medical monitoring and protocols must guide an obstetrician’s discretion as to when or whether to perform a cesarean section.

Oxygen deprivation during birth can cause cerebral palsy, and the full effects of this condition may not become apparent for months or years after a child’s birth. Due to Connecticut’s statute of limitations on med mal claims, it is particularly important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to quickly understand whether something may have gone wrong that justifies legal action.

Assessing the causes of injuries at birth

Prior to the jury’s determination that the circumstances of the case justified the record damages award, the plaintiffs presented evidence that the doctor’s delays in delivery caused permanent brain damage. Specifically, the obstetrician failed to make incisions to relieve the upper uterus to facilitate a less traumatic delivery, then failed to timely decide to perform a c-section.

In any medical malpractice case, expert assessment of the medical records is the first step in assembling a legal strategy. Whether the patient harmed is a new child whose life of possibilities is jeopardized, or a family breadwinner who suffers a wrongful death due a surgeon’s error, aggressive advocacy from a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney can help a family pursue justice and restore financial stability.


Connecticut Appellate Court Issues Opinion on Car Accident Liability

In the aftermath of any motor vehicle accident, personal injury lawyers help clients understand their full range of legal options. One vital aspect of this service is assessing the evidence to identify all potentially liable parties and pursue full compensation for a client’s losses.

In legal language, the concept of “proximate cause” applies to how far liability can be extended, and a recent opinion by the Connecticut Supreme Court has clarified this principle. The case involved a motorist who suffered severe injuries when his car skidded out of control and struck a parked fire truck and bridge railing on I-95.

The emergency vehicle was blocking two lanes to divert traffic due to a tractor trailer accident that had occurred more than two hours earlier. The truck driver had lost control of his rig, striking both the bridge railing and center barrier before regaining control and coming to a stop. The semi tractor leaked over thirty gallons of diesel fuel on the highway due to damage cause by the impact.

The injured motorist filed a negligence claim against the truck driver and his employer, alleging that his physical injuries had resulted from the trucker’s negligent operation of the truck. The trial court dismissed the claim, ruling that the plaintiff’s “collision with an emergency vehicle several hours after the defendant’s accident was not reasonably foreseeable nor was it the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s accident and injuries.”

Persistence on appeal: Exhausting a personal injury victim’s options

The plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court characterized the case as a “rare circumstances in which the trial court properly may find a lack of proximate cause as a matter of law” because no facts were present that could “permit a trier of fact to draw an unbroken line of causation” between the earlier truck accident and the subsequent collision with the fire truck.

While the motorist’s attempt to hold the truck driver and his employer responsible for the accident was unsuccessful, a separate appeal was resolved in his favor. The Appellate Court of Connecticut previously held that the trial court had improperly denied the motorist’s separate claim against the town of Greenwich, which had been dismissed based on the concept of governmental immunity. By diligently exploring all theories of liability, an experienced car accident attorney can protect a client’s interests.


Bus Cameras Provide Unexpected Perspective on Pedestrian’s Death

A recent Connecticut Law Tribune article highlighted the case of a 56-year-old research scientist who was killed crossing the street in New Haven. He was well known and respected in his field of biomedical research.

As a molecular biologist, he was particularly interested in developing new treatments for heart disease and the underlying causes. He was struck by a bus making a left turn. At first glance, the incident appeared to be the fault of the pedestrian.

It seemed obvious; he was speaking on a cell phone, distracted and crossing against the light. The bus had a green light. The State Police investigation concluded he was at fault and under Connecticut comparative negligence law, unless the bus company was at least 51% liable for the accident, the pedestrian’s family would be barred from any recovery in a negligence lawsuit.

Clearly at fault?

Because of this, it did not appear to be a very promising lawsuit. The police report did include a list of passengers, so there were potential witnesses. The bus also had an innovative technology installed that used cameras to record six images within the bus, with one camera aimed straight ahead, two recording the left and right rear view mirrors, one on the driver, and one recording the passengers in the front of the bus.

While the State Police had reviewed the camera images and still concluded the pedestrian was at fault, the attorney for the family wasn’t so sure. One problem with the images was the way they were displayed. The video plays in a confusing sequence, with each camera’s point of view shown for one second. This disjointed flow made it practically impossible to sequence with precision the chain of events.

To make the replay intelligible, they hired a video expert to reassemble the views in a meaningful sequence, allow one to obtain a clear view of the accident.

What really happened

What became clear was that the bus driver was watching the other side of the bus when he drove into the pedestrian. The camera aimed on the driver showed he was concerned about another vehicle coming up behind the bus as it made the wide left turn.

The bus driver’s head was turned far to the left and he was completely unaware of the pedestrian walking in the front of the bus. The cameras captured the impact of the bus and the shattering of the front window. The cameras also demonstrated the driver was not watching the front of the bus, as the passenger camera shows the frightened face of a passenger watching the pedestrian being struck.

When the attorney showed the replay to the State’s claims agents, they immediately began discussions to settle the case.

The facts of this case demonstrate the value of an experienced attorney working for a client. The State Police have experienced investigators who work dozens of cases each year. They probably should have noticed the bus driver wasn’t watching the front of the bus.

However, they have dozens of cases on their desk and State Governments have been hit hard by the recession, limiting their time and resources that they can commit to a case. They also may not have had the resources to take the video images apart and make them coherent.

The value an attorney brings to a case

An experienced trial attorney may be your most powerful asset if you have suffered a personal injury. They areyour advocates, working on your behalf, protecting your rights. When serious injuries create the need for serious compensation, don’t expect an insurance company representative to look out for your interests.

A great deal of the value in hiring attorneys is their ability to look at the facts of an “obvious” case, to be able to see the things that don’t add up and to develop a strong theory of the case that is supported by evidence. They are able to present this in a compelling narrative that will convince a judge, jury or claims agent that your case is strong.

If you or someone you know has been injured you should call The Pickel Law Firm, LLC, at 203-348-4100 as soon as possible for a free consultation.


What to Expect During Your Initial Attorney Interview After An Injury

During the initial interview, your lawyer will, of course, want to hear about what happened to you and collect a variety of information from you. The length of the initial interview can vary a lot, depending on your injuries. In a simple negligence case it probably won’t take too long, especially if you have prepared for the meeting, whereas a complex case or a case involving serious injuries could take much longer.

As you tell the lawyer about your accident, he or she may ask questions about it. Frequently, lawyers wait until you have told them everything before asking questions. Some of the questions may be difficult to hear, let alone answer. Be brave. Your lawyer needs to know the answers to help you find the best solution for your case. The lawyer will collect a variety of information from you that relates to the accident, your medical treatment, who else was involved in the accident, potential witnesses and the like. Here’s the sort of thing you can expect:

  • The lawyer can obtain your medical records.
  • The lawyer will want to know about all your insurance coverage.
  • The lawyer will ask if you have talked to any insurance adjustors and if so, what you have said and whether you provided a recorded or written statement about the accident.
  • The lawyer will ask you if anyone else has interviewed you about the accident or your injuries, and if so, whom you talked to and what you said.
  • The lawyer may ask you, if it’s not evident by looking at you, about the current status of your injuries, whether you are in pain, what your prognosis is, and so forth.
  • The lawyer may advise you to see your doctor regularly if you have any physical problems or complaints. If you don’t see your doctor, the defendant may argue that you aren’t seriously hurt as no visits tends to indicate that there are no problems.
  • The lawyer may tell you that your case will be considered and that you will hear later if he or she will take your case. This is a common practice in injury cases, so don’t read anything into it.
  • The lawyer may decline to take your case. He or she may do this for many reasons, such as his or her current case load, knowledge of his or her capabilities, economic reasons, or family responsibilities. You also may learn that in the lawyer’s opinion, you might not have much of a case. This is valuable information, and it is better to know early. By all means seek a second opinion.
  • The lawyer may refer you to another lawyer. This happens when the lawyer cannot take your case or thinks the other lawyer can do a better job for you.
  • The lawyer may ask you to sign a retainer agreement or employment contract. Read the contract carefully and ask questions before you sign it. You should be able to take the contract home to study it before you sign.
  • The lawyer will tell you what the next steps are. There may be a factual investigation before a lawsuit is filed. The lawyer may be able to give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to litigate the case.
  • The lawyer will tell you not to talk about the case with others, and to refer questions to the lawyer. This is very important advice. Insurance companies are known to send investigators out to talk to your neighbors, and who knows what they’ll say? Don’t let that make you paranoid, but let it be a persuasive reason not to talk to people about the case. Just as loose lips sink ships, stray comments can ruin your case in the courtroom.
  • The lawyer will probably give you an idea of how he or she intends to keep you informed of progress on your case. There is no single approach to this. Some lawyers provide periodic report letters; others call you on a periodic basis or when something happens; some ask you to call when you have questions.

Understanding Automobile Insurance

Trying to understand all the terms used in relation to automobiles, particularly automobile insurance, can be a daunting task. In many cases, terms relating to your automobile insurance may be defined within the policy itself. In other cases, words may come up in conversation with your insurance agent, or after you have been involved in a car accident, which are not defined in the policy. The following glossary of common terms related to automobile insurance may give you a better idea of what is being said. Be warned, however, your particular insurance policy may define these terms in a different manner, which may make a difference if you have to submit a claim.

Additional Insured. An individual or entity who is not specifically named as an insured within the policy itself, but for whom attachments, known as endorsements, to the policy provide a degree of protection. In some states, an additional insured can be treated differently from an additional named insured, who is an additional insured who is actually named within the policy itself and to whom all of the rights and responsibilities of the policy apply.

Bodily Injury Liability. Insurance coverage that applies when you are legally liable for injuring other people in an auto accident. Bodily injury liability provides payments to those injured individuals and pays your legal defense costs as well. Such coverage can be combined with property damage liability, as it often is, and be called “liability insurance.”

Claim. The request that a policyholder makes to an insurance company to recover losses covered by an insurance policy.

Collision Insurance. Coverage under a policy that pays for damage to, or loss of, your own automobile from upset or collision with another object or vehicle. Collision insurance does not cover bodily or personal injury, and it may not cover other property damage liability arising out of the collision.

Comprehensive Insurance. Insurance coverage that reimburses you for damage to your own car from causes other than a collision, upset, or general wear and tear. Comprehensive insurance may provide coverage for hail, flood, theft, mischief, damage from animals, falling objects, explosions, earthquakes, and many other events.

Deductible. The amount of the loss that you must pay before the insurance company begins to pay under the policy. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and have been in an accident in which $3,500 in damage to your car occurred, you must pay the first $500 before the insurance company pays the remaining $3,000.

Drive-Other-Car Endorsement (DOC). Sometimes referred to only as an “other-car endorsement,” this addition to the policy allows coverage to be added that will protect individuals named in the endorsement when they are driving cars not owned by those individuals and not named within the policy.

First-Party Coverage. Compensation you receive under your own insurance policy as opposed to receiving payment from someone else’s insurance policy, such as the person who caused an accident. Examples of first-party coverage include collision insurance and comprehensive insurance, in which your own insurance company pays you for losses to your own car.

Liability Insurance. Insurance coverage that pays others who sustain bodily injury or experience property damage caused by you or someone else covered under your policy.

Loss. The root of an insurance claim. In order to have a claim, there must first be a loss, such as damage to a vehicle. Insurers may also refer to a loss as a payment made on behalf of an insured to cover such damage.

Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). The written record of a particular driver’s accidents and traffic violations. An MVR may be reviewed when an insurance agent is giving a quote for automobile insurance rates: the more accidents and violations you have in your MVR, the higher your premiums are likely to be.

No-Fault Protection. Coverage available in many states that pays you, or those people covered under your policy, for medical expenses or injuries that occur as the result of an accident, regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP). That part of an insurance policy, in many cases a no-fault policy, which provides protection against personal injury and related losses, as opposed to damage to your vehicle, up to a specific per-person dollar amount. PIP may include benefits for medical expenses, loss of work income, and accidental death and funeral expenses.

Premium. The amount of money you pay, either monthly, quarterly, or yearly, to maintain your automobile insurance. If you fail to pay your premiums, your insurance policy can be cancelled.

Property Damage Liability. Insurance that protects you, and pays on your behalf, for automobile-related damage that you cause to another persons’ property. If offered jointly with bodily injury liability, as it often is, it may be called “liability insurance.”

UIM. Shorthand for “underinsured motorist,” or those fellow motorists whose automobile insurance maximum is insufficient to cover a specific loss. UIM pays you, or those people covered under your policy, for bodily injury losses if the other driver is liable and has coverage that does not fully compensate you for your losses. The maximum of a UIM recovery is your policy limit.

UM. Shorthand for “uninsured motorist,” or those motorists who do not have any automobile insurance. UM coverage protects insureds, up to the limit of their policies, against bodily injury losses caused by a negligent motorist who has not obtained insurance coverage.

Threshold. A term commonly used in conjunction with a modified no-fault plan. Most no-fault plans set a point at which the insured may bring a legal action to recover for losses such as pain and suffering. Before the threshold is reached, tort actions are not allowed. Typically the threshold will be reached if medical bills reach a certain expense level, or if disfigurement or death occurs.

VIN. Shorthand for “vehicle identification number.” Your VIN is also relevant to areas other than insurance, but may come up in the insurance field if there is a question as to the ownership of your car. A car’s VIN is a unique number assigned to the car. The VIN can be found, usually, engraved on a metal plate affixed to the dashboard that is visible through the windshield.


I’ve been hurt in an accident and I want to file a claim for my injuries. What’s the first thing I should do?

There are a number of things you can do in the first few days and weeks after an accident to protect your right to compensation should you want to file an injury claim. Except for filing a formal claim against a government entity, there’s no single step that you absolutely must take to obtain a fair settlement, and no set order in which you must proceed. However, the more of the following suggestions you can follow, the more smoothly your claim process is likely to flow.

  • Write down as much as you can about the accident itself, your injuries and any other losses (such as wages) you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.
  • Make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim.
  • Preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical evidence and taking photographs.
  • Locate people who witnessed the accident and who might be able to help you prove your case, and
  • Notify anyone you think might be responsible for the accident of your intention to file a claim for your injuries.

How soon do I need to notify people about my intention to file a claim for my accident injuries?

Unless you’re filing a claim against a government agency or employee, you need not notify the people you think are responsible for your injuries within a set number of days after an accident. But that doesn’t mean you should drag your feet. On the contrary, acting right away — within a few days, if possible — will increase your chances of receiving a quick and fair resolution to your claim.

Giving notice doesn’t obligate you to file a claim; it simply preserves your rights and prevents others from later saying that your claim is unfair because you waited too long to tell them about your injuries. If you promptly notify others that you intend to file a claim for your injuries, you can then move at your own pace in processing and negotiating the claim with the insurance company or government agency that winds up taking responsibility.

What is the deadline for filing an accident injury claim against a government entity?

If your accident might have been even partially caused by a government entity or employee — the city, county, state or federal government, or any public agency or division (a city bus or a school district, for example) — you must file a formal claim within a short time after your accident. This period of time usually ranges between 30 days and one year, depending on your state. If you fail to file a claim within the time limit, or fail to include required information in your claim, you may forever lose your right to collect compensation.

To find the time limit for your state, call your city or county attorney’s office and ask. Although they may be the ones defending against your claim if you file it, they are under a legal obligation to give you correct filing information. Copyright © 2002 Nolo


Preventing Childhood Injuries

  1. Accidental falls are a leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits. To reduce the chances of your child falling at home, make sure that you supervise your children’s play, do not keep furniture near windows, bar or securely latch all windows and screens, block all stairways from younger children, keep stairs and halls free of toys and other items, and don’t use baby walkers.
  2. Not all falls occur at home, however. In order to minimize the risk of injury from falls away from home, visit only playgrounds with safe surfaces like wood chips, pebbles, or rubberized pathways and closely monitor your child’s play; use safety restraints in shopping carts and stay close to the cart at all times; hold your child’s hand on stairways and escalators; make wearing helmets, pads, guards, and other protective gear mandatory when biking, in-line skating, and engaging in other activities likely to result in falls; and select age-appropriate activities for your children.
  3. For children under age fifteen, automobile accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death. To minimize the risk of death and injury from motor vehicle crashes, infants should always ride in rear-facing car seats, older babies and toddlers should be restrained in a forward-facing car seat, older preschoolers and younger school-age children should be in booster seats with adequate restraint systems, and older children should be restrained by the vehicle’s safety belts. In addition, children should never ride in the front seat, especially in cars with air bags.
  4. Although most parents are attentive when their children are swimming in lakes and pools, accidentaldrownings can occur in even a few inches of water in seemingly harmless containers, like cleaning buckets. To avoid the risk of drowning, supervise your children whenever they are in or near the water, don’t leave your children alone in the bathtub, keep gates around back-yard pools locked, empty containers like buckets and wading pools when not in use, keep bathroom doors closed and use child-proof door knobs (a toddler can even drown in the toilet), and make sure your children (as well as you) wear life jackets when boating and engaging in other water sports.
  5. Poisoning is another common cause of childhood injury. To avoid the risk of injury from poisoning, keep all medicines, cleaning supplies, and chemicals out of children’s reach; use child-proof door knobs and cabinet latches as necessary; avoid transferring potentially harmful substances to different receptacles, like soda bottles or food-storage containers, which could confuse a child and encourage ingestion; make sure that none of the plants in your home or garden are poisonous; don’t call medicine “candy,” which could encourage overdosing; post the telephone number for the local poison control center and other emergency numbers by every phone in the house; and keep syrup of ipecac handy to induce vomiting in case of accidental poisoning, but don’t administer it without first checking with your local poison control center.
  6. Children have much more sensitive skin than adults and can easily get burned. Just three seconds’ contact with tap water of 140*F can cause third-degree burns to a young child. In order to avoid burn injuries, set the thermostat on your home water heater to less than 120* Fahrenheit, and test the temperature of bath water on your wrist or elbow before placing your child in the bath. Don’t attempt to carry a child and a hot liquid like a cup of coffee at the same time; use the back burners on your stove and keep all pot handles pointed away from the front edge of the stove; keep all lighters and matches out of children’s reach; install smoke detectors in your home and change the batteries regularly; and don’t allow children to play with dangerous objects like Fourth of July sparklers.
  7. Children under three years old are especially vulnerable to choking on small objects. One way to determine whether an object is capable of causing a child to choke is to see if it fits through an empty toilet paper tube. If it does, keep it out of a young child’s reach. In addition, you can minimize the risk of childhood choking accidents. Do not feed toddlers round foods like grapes, nuts, hotdogs, and popcorn; store small items like coins, pins, jewelry, buttons, and beads out of the reach of small children; verify that toys have no removable small parts, like teddy bear eyes; don’t allow children to wear clothing with drawstrings, which can cause strangulation; keep all window-treatment cords out of children’s reach; and, in case your child does choke despite your best efforts, keep your CPR and Heimlich maneuver skills up to date.
  8. Guns can be found in about half of all American homes. Whether you own a gun or not, it is imperative that you teach your kids about gun safety. If you do own a firearm, in order to prevent accidental shootings you must store all guns, unloaded, in a locked compartment; employ trigger locks and other safety devices; store ammunition in a separate, locked compartment; and keep the keys in a place that only adults know about and that cannot be discovered by children.
  9. Even when all of these safety precautions are followed, accidents can still happen. If your child is injured, your first step must be to seek medical attention or call 911.
  10. If your child was injured as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act, you may be entitled to recover money damages. A personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case to determine whether another individual or company should be held accountable and made to pay for your and your child’s losses. If, for example, another driver’s carelessness resulted in an accident that injured your child, or a defective toy caused your child to choke, you may be able to sue the responsible party. Seek the advice and counsel of an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that you and your child get the legal representation you deserve.

Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Truck Accident Damages Award

The complexity of truck accident liability is based on many factors. Federal truck driver regulations, multiple potentially liable parties and serious medical issues can all come into play, all of which make working closely with an experienced personal injury lawyer an important consideration.

While many personal injury and wrongful death claims settle before trial, sometimes the case becomes challenging because of the nature of trial practice and the necessity of multiple appeals. A recent Connecticut Supreme Court opinion reveals the extent to which a truck accident injury victim had to go to obtain the compensation he deserved after first being injured in 2003.

The injury victim was driving on I-91 in Hartford when his car was rear-ended by a van that had in turn been struck from behind by a tractor trailer. The 64-year-old driver of the car was taken by ambulance to Hartford Hospital after complaining of neck, shoulder and back pain. He soon followed up with multiple visits to his own physician, consultations with orthopedic specialists and physical therapy, and was assessed with permanent injuries and loss of function in his spine and shoulders.

Seeking compensation for personal injury damages in Connecticut

The truck accident lawsuit finally went to trial five years later, and the plaintiff testified that the chronic pain caused by the injuries continued. The trucking company admitted that its driver had caused the accident, and the parties stipulated to a figure for the plaintiff’s life expectancy.

The jury awarded the truck accident victim $700,000 for the harm he had suffered, including both economic and non-economic damages. Disputing the amount of non-economic damages, the trucking company moved for a new trial, an order setting aside the verdict and a “remittitur” order requesting the court to reduce the value of non-economic damages.

The trial court judge decided that the non-economic damages (based on the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and his permanent injuries) were excessive, and reduced them by over half a million dollars. Based on the plaintiff’s failure to remit that amount, the judge also set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial on the issue of damages.

Helping a client overturn an unfavorable decision on appeal

The plaintiff appealed in 2009 from the trial court judgment, claiming that the judge’s order of remittitur was improper absent a determination that the verdict was not supported by the evidence, shocked the sense of justice or was based on prejudice, partiality, mistake or corruption. The Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed, reversing the trial court’s judgment and remanding the case for reinstatement of the jury’s verdict on the amount of damages.

The defendant trucking company appealed from the Appellate Court’s decision, arguing that it did not acknowledge the lower court’s determination that exceptional circumstances justified the reduction of damages. The Supreme Court’s review had to balance two competing factors: the high standard that must be met for trial judges to set aside jury verdicts, and the deference accorded by appellate courts to lower court judges’ authority to conduct trials.

Ultimately, this required the Supreme Court to do something that is somewhat rare on appeal: a comprehensive reassessment of the evidence presented at trial. Based on a detailed review of the plaintiff’s treatment history and medical records that documented range of motion, MRI results, pain thresholds and other evidence of the degree of harm, the unanimous court found that the jury’s decision was “within the range of reasonable compensation, however generous that award may be.”

Having concluded that the evidence supported the jury’s award, the Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering remittitur, and affirmed the Appellate Court decision remanding the case for reinstatement of the full $700,000 damages award.

Diligent protection of an injured clients interests

No injury victim or wrongful death survivor wants to wait almost a decade for the wheels of justice to finally grind to a halt. In the aftermath of motor vehicle accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicyclists or pedestrians, a prompt resolution of liability and damages issues is every plaintiff’s wish.

At the same time, those who are injured by the negligence or recklessness of other parties need to fully consider their definition of a positive legal outcome. Honest counsel and aggressive representation from a personal injury attorney can help plaintiffs pursue compensation that meets their expectation of justice.


Glossary: Personal-Injury Damages

Diminished earning capacity. See “lost earning capacity.”

Disfigurement. When the injury has left the plaintiff deformed or disfigured, e.g., by horrible scars or other insults on one’s personal appearance, the plaintiff may be able to collect damages for his or her mental suffering caused by being conscious of the disfigurement. These damages are sometimes included as an element of other types of damages, such as mental anguish.

Emotional distress. See “mental anguish.”

Future medical expenses. Recovery is permitted if the plaintiff proves that he or she will need continued medical care as a result of the defendant’s wrongful act. The proof must be sufficient for the jury to make an approximate estimate of the cost.

Future profits. Recovery for projected profits that, because of the injury, will not be earned. Proof requires a showing that there is a reasonable basis for determining the amount; speculation is not proof.

General damages. Compensation for harm that ordinarily results from wrongful conduct, such as physical and mental pain, loss of enjoyment of life. These damages cannot be proved with monetary exactness.

Goodwill. An intangible value of a business based on the business’s ability to provide customers with the services and goods they want, willingness to stand behind products and warranties, and the reputation of the product or the business.

Hedonic damages. See “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Household services. The cost of hiring somebody to do things around the house while the plaintiff is recuperating, provided that the expense would not have been incurred had the plaintiff not been injured. It is sometimes included as a medical expense.

Loss of consortium. Deprivation of the benefits of married life, that is, the affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, help and assistance, and the sexual relations between spouses. Usually the uninjured spouse makes the claim and his or her recovery will depend on whether the injured spouse recovers any damages. Sometimes the injured person will make the claim as well. A value is placed on this loss by considering the couple’s individual life expectancies, whether the marriage was stable, how much care and companionship was bestowed upon the uninjured spouse (or vice versa), and the extent to which the benefits of married life have been lost.

Loss of consortium of a child. Parents may be able to recover damages when their child is injured when the injuries are severe enough that they interfere with the normal relationship between parents and their children.

Loss of enjoyment of life. A diminished ability to enjoy the day-to-day pleasures of life, it is an item of general damages, meaning there is no precise way to place a monetary value on it. Some states treat it as a form of pain and suffering, others treat it as a distinct kind of damage.

Loss of past earnings. See “lost wages.”

Loss of society and companionship. Damages awarded in cases involving wrongful death that represent the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and society the plaintiff family members (as defined in your state’s wrongful-death statute) would have enjoyed had the decedent lived. Jury considers evidence that a harmonious relationship existed between the plaintiff and the decedent, their living arrangements, common interests and activities, and whether the decedent and plaintiff were separated for extended periods. See “loss of consortium” and “loss of consortium of a child.”

Lost earning capacity. May be recovered if the plaintiff proves that his or her ability to earn money in the future has been impaired or diminished by the injuries the defendant caused. Factors that help determine whether an award should be made include the plaintiff’s age, health, life expectancy, occupation, talents, skill, experience, and training. One court described these damages as the “increased probability of unemployment”; past earnings are a factor to determine the amount, but the claim really focuses on what could have been.

Lost profits. Net profits the plaintiff would have earned in his or her business had the plaintiff not been injured by the defendant. The plaintiff usually must show that the business was profitable, that profits decreased since the plaintiff was injured, that the losses are not caused by something else such as a downturn in the economy, and the extent to which the business was the plaintiff’s “baby,” rather than dependent on the labor of others.

Lost wages. The amount of money the plaintiff would have earned from the time he or she was injured to the date of trial. An unemployed person may be permitted to recover lost wages if he or she can prove what he or she could have earned during the same period.

Medical expenses. Bills and expenses for doctors, hospital stays, emergency room treatment, ambulance fees, nursing services, and the like. The plaintiff must show that the expenses are related to medical conditions resulting from his or her injury. The total amount of medical expenses is sometimes used as a rough guide to decide whether the overall award of damages is reasonable. The cost of a medical examination for purposes of litigation is not recoverable as a medical expense.

Medical surveillance.
The cost of monitoring plaintiff’s medical condition after the plaintiff was exposed to a hazardous substance so that disease is detected early.

Mental anguish. Any mental suffering or emotional distress such as fright, terror, apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, worry, humiliation, mortification, feeling of lost dignity, embarrassment, grief, shock, or ordeal.

Pain and suffering. An award for past and future physical pain. To place a monetary value on pain and suffering, the jury considers the nature of the injury, the certainty of future pain, its severity, and how long the plaintiff is likely to be in pain. Some states allow the jury to assume that if a bodily injury has occurred there has been some pain and suffering and some require that the plaintiff be conscious.

Permanent disability. Best proved by medical testimony; a doctor usually must examine the plaintiff. Some courts have concluded that it can include not only disabilities that are objectively determined, but also disabilities that the plaintiff perceives.

Present cash value. The current value of projected future earnings; the amount that, if invested wisely, will over time produce the amount the plaintiff would have earned had he or she not been injured.

Special damages. Monetary losses, such as medical expenses. Recovery requires detailed proof that the losses were sustained and how much money was involved.


Disclaimer

This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.

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