At some point in time, all of us are likely to experience an accident where somebody else’s negligence was to blame. Most of the time, these will be minor occurrences, like somebody knocking over a glass of water and spilling it on your dress. Sometimes, however, severe accidents can occur because of the negligence of another person or a corporation. In these cases, you may end up getting seriously injured in some way, leaving you with gigantic costs like medical bills, physical therapy, as well as lost income from potentially being unable to work. In these cases, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party to force them to pay for the damage they caused you.
At the Reiff Law Firm, our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers have years of experience filing these types of lawsuits on behalf of our clients and successfully getting large amounts of damages paid out to them for their injuries (or illnesses, in some cases). We will be here to answer all of your questions and guide you through every step of this often-confusing and frustrating process. For a free consultation, contact our office today at (215) 709-6940.
How a Personal Injury Lawsuit Works in Pennsylvania
As noted above, personal injury lawsuits are filed in situations where the negligence of another person or a corporation caused an accident that resulted in you being injured in some way. At the heart of these cases is proving negligence on the part of the individual or company that you are suing. Negligence is typically proven by a lawyer showing four things: that there was a duty, that there was a breach of that duty, that this breached caused the accident, and that damages resulted from that accident.
The first component of a negligence case is showing that the defendant had a duty of some sort to protect you from the accident that occurred. This duty can be laid out in a particular statute or set of standards, or it can simply be based on what a reasonable person in the defendant’s place should have done in the situation. For example, a factory owner generally has a duty to inspect the equipment used by their employees to ensure safe working conditions. This duty is enshrined in federal laws and guidelines by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). On the other hand, the reasonable person standard would apply to two people lifting a piano into an apartment window above a busy city street. They have the duty to prevent injuries by securing the piano as a reasonable person in their position would, despite the lack of a specific statute regarding this situation.
Next, the defendant will need to prove that the individual or corporation breached whatever duty they had to the defendant. So, in the example above about the piano movers, say they fail to secure the piano as a reasonable piano mover would. If it falls and injures a pedestrian below, they may be in breach of their duty to prevent such injuries by taking reasonable precautions. Another example would be the case of a doctor who performs a surgery on you and makes an error that a reasonable doctor in their position would not have made. The doctor may be in breach of the duty of care they have regarding their patients.
The next part of proving a negligence case is showing that the breach of the duty was what caused your injuries. This can often be the trickiest part of the case, and where an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer like those at the Reiff Law Firm can make the biggest difference for you. Returning to the example of the piano movers, it would probably be fairly obvious to a judge or jury in that situation that their negligence was what caused the piano to fall on the person below. However, in other cases, it can be much more complicated. For example, it can be difficult to show that a mistake during a surgery was the cause of an injury or death and that the injury or death would not have occurred anyway because of the person’s underlying condition. Your lawyer will need to conduct an extensive investigation, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence such as medical records and the reports of doctors in similar surgeries, in order to prove causation.
The final thing that must be shown for a negligence case to be successful is that there are damages that can be paid out for the injury to make a person whole. So, for example, if someone spills water on your dress and you sue them, the court is likely to find that there are no damages to be paid, considering that the water will dry fairly quickly. Even if they believe you breached a duty of reasonable care and caused the spill, the case will not be able to succeed because there are no damages, such as hospital bills, lost work time, or compensation for pain and suffering, to be paid out.
Types of Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania
As you may be able to tell from the examples above, personal injury cases widely vary in regard to the underlying facts of the situation that leads to them. Below are some of the more common types of personal injury cases filed in Pennsylvania. Keep in mind, however, that this list is far from exhaustive. The best thing you can do if you believe you have been injured in some way because of the negligence of another is to contact an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney like those at the Reiff Law Firm to examine the specifics of your situation and advise you on the best course of action to get you made whole.
Defective Product Cases
Imagine a situation where you go to the local furniture store and buy a new toaster. When you get home and plug it in, it explodes and injures your eye with a piece of metal. This situation could present a potential defective product case. These cases can be complicated because it is not always clear who was at fault. It could have been that the manufacturer of a part of the toaster made an error, that the factory that assembled it made an error, or the store made an error, such as storing it in excess heat. All three of these companies have certain duties that could have been breached in the course of the product being built and sold to you. Your lawyer will work to find the source of the issue and prove a negligence case against them.
Medical malpractice cases involve injuries caused due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional. As noted above, this can sometimes occur in the context of a surgery or other procedure gone wrong, where a lawyer will work to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury or death. However, there are many other ways that medical malpractice can occur. For example, there is a type of medical negligence known as “loss of chance” that occurs when a doctor or other medical professional misdiagnoses you and this causes you to lose a chance at being saved or healed more quickly. Negligence can also occur if hospital staff give you the wrong medication or improperly use some sort of medical device that causes damage to you.
Filing a negligence lawsuit after a car accident can be necessary when insurance denies a claim or does not pay out enough to make you whole. When operating an automobile, Pennsylvania drivers have a duty to follow all state and federal traffic laws and other rules of the road, such as posted warnings. If, for example, someone runs a red light, rams into your car, and the accident results in you breaking your neck, your lawyer will work to prove that the other driver’s breach of their duty to follow traffic signals caused your injuries, and that they are therefore responsible for damages.
Injuries can occur in any workplace, but are most common in industrial settings like factories and power plants and on job sites for construction or repairs. As noted earlier, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issues mandatory guidelines that must be followed by all employers. For example, employers in factories or plants where dangerous chemicals are used must provide their employees with personal protective equipment. If an employee was not provided with proper personal protective equipment and ends up getting burned, they can file a negligence lawsuit claiming that the company breached their duty to protect their workers.
Claims regarding workplace injuries can be complicated by the fact that Pennsylvania also has a worker’s compensation program where you can file claims if you are injured on the job. You should speak to an experienced workplace injury lawyer like those at the Reiff Law Firm to discuss what the best options are in light of the particulars of your case. If you do choose to file for worker’s compensation, we can assist you through this complicated process.
If a person dies from their injuries, they obviously cannot file a lawsuit themselves to recover damages. However, certain closely-related relatives, like spouses, parents, or children, are permitted to file these suits on their behalf, claiming damages for hospital bills left to them to pay and loss of future wages of their loved one, among other things. Negligence will have to be proved like in any other case.
Damages for Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania
Damages in personal injury cases can take many forms, as they will depend on the type of injury caused and the specific context of the accident. Damages can include hospital bills, costs for physical therapy, costs for long-term medical expenses resulting from the injury, such as the necessary use of a wheelchair or medication, the cost of damage to your property, and funeral costs in a wrongful death case. It can also include less easily calculated expenses such as loss or future earnings due to the your inability to work after the injury, damages for the pain and suffering, both emotional and physical, caused by the injury, and loss of consortium, meaning loss of a life partner, child, or parent, in wrongful death cases. In certain cases, punitive damages may be possible as well.
The amount of damages will also vary greatly depending on the context of the situation and the type of damages claimed. Many personal injury cases result in high payouts, especially if the injury was serious. However, it is important to note that Pennsylvania follows a system known as “comparative fault.” This means that, if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident, the damages you receive will be reduced.
For example, say you are injured in a car accident where the driver ran a red light. However, you were also speeding 20 miles over the limit when the accident occurred. If the jury determines that you are 30% at fault due to your speeding, you will only receive 70% of the damages you claimed. A skilled trial lawyer like those at the Reiff Law Offices can work to convince a jury that the injury was wholly the fault of the other individual or corporation.
Call Our Skilled Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers Today
At the Reiff Law Firm our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers have successfully fought to get large settlements for many of our personal injury clients. Throughout the entirety of your case, our staff will be here to answer your questions and give you the best advice on what you can do hep your case succeed. We will leave no stone unturned in investigating the accident and gathering evidence of negligence. We will use the discovery process to obtain necessary documents and will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the defendant. If no settlement can be reached, we are ready and able to fight for your damages at trial. Call us today at (215) 709-6940 for a free consultation.