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ORANGE COUNTY PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Types of Personal Injury Claims
The area of personal injury practice encompasses a wide variety of cases in which the negligent or intentional misconduct of someone causes injury to another. Perhaps the most common example involves an automobile accident or bus crash in which an inattentive driver crashes their vehicle into the one ahead. When the victim sustains a bodily injury (such as neck and back strain) they have a valid personal injury claim against the negligent driver and his or her insurance company. Not only is the victim entitled to reimbursement for their property damage, medical expenses and any lost wages, they are also entitled to compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment.
Personal injury claims like those involving dog bites and the one above involving a rear-end accident are usually straightforward when it comes to determining fault or liability under the law. However, not all such claims are so simple. Injury claims get more complicated when there are multiple responsible parties, such as when a victim is assaulted on property owned by a business. In those cases, the claim against the property owner generally requires proof that the business knew or should have known of the violent propensity of the one committing the assault and failed to take steps to prevent the attack in the first place. Likewise, when the injury is caused by a slip and fall, there must be proof that the business knew or should have known of a slipping hazard on the floor and failed to take steps to either remedy the dangerous situation or warn patrons of its existence.
Among the more complicated injury cases are those arising from medical malpractice claims. In nearly every malpractice case, expert testimony is necessary to establish the negligence, more precisely described as a breach of the standard of care. In addition to establishing that there was neglect, expert testimony is also required to prove to a reasonable medical probability that the malpractice actually caused harm. This is often a hotly contested issue when the claim is one for wrongful death.
Where there are multiple parties who may have some responsibility for a single accident and resulting injuries, such as a construction site accident, experts may be required in order to prove which party or parties were negligent. For example, the general contractor on a particular site may have overall responsibility for the safety of those people coming on to the project. In addition, a subcontractor who creates a dangerous condition (carelessly overlooked by the general contractor) may have the primary liability for causing the accident and injury. The insurance carriers for both the general and subcontractor may have to contribute to any settlement or jury verdict.
Sometimes in a “personal injury” case there is no bodily harm in the traditional sense. Some examples include sexual harassment and false arrest claims. In a sexual harassment case, the injury is typically an emotional one that may or may not take on physical manifestations. To ensure a fair recovery and discourage such misconduct the law provides for the recovery of certain compensation such as statutory and punitive damages in such cases. In false arrest or imprisonment claims, not involving public law enforcement, the claims are typically against private security and the bodily injury in those situations is often limited to being taken into custody and perhaps prosecuted for a crime that was not committed. Like sexual harassment cases, the law allows for punitive and certain statutory damages to be collected by the victim.
The Damages Allowed in Personal Injury Claims
Damages recoverable by the victim in a personal injury claim can include consequential financial losses (such as vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, etc.), compensation for pain and suffering and even punitive damages. Most often, in car accident claims the victim will be entitled to reimbursement for medical expenses incurred (even if incurred by their own health insurer), documented lost wages and compensation for pain, suffering and inconvenience. The economic losses are usually the easiest to calculate as there will be documentation proving how much was paid or was billed for medical expenses and the cost of repairs. However, insurance carriers often argue about the amount of medical expenses incurred if the injured party was treated on a lien basis, which is where the provider (usually a chiropractor or orthopedist) agrees in writing to defer receipt of payment until after the claim is settled.
The most hotly contested issue in personal injury claims involves the calculation of what are referred to as the general damages, more commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”. This is where the expertise of an experienced personal injury attorney is critical. The “value” of pain and suffering is often determined by the nature and extent of the injuries sustained. For example, the general damages awarded by juries for strain and sprain type injuries are normally much lower than those awarded for broken bones or spinal disc injuries. The range within which juries award such damages and what insurance carriers are normally willing to pay is something that experienced injury lawyers understand. This is critical knowledge when negotiating a settlement in a personal injury claim, especially since the vast majority of claims settle prior to trial.
What About Pre-Existing Conditions in Injury Claims
Personal injury claimants often have pre-existing conditions at the time of an accident. Insurance companies know this, and it is something they attempt to exploit in most cases involving older victims. For example, most people over the age of 40 have suffered some injuries in the past or conditions like arthritis that have caused the need for medical care and treatment. What is important to remember is that the at-fault party in an accident is not only liable for any new injuries they cause the victim but also for the aggravation of any pre-existing condition. This is true even if the victim was more susceptible to an injury than the average person.
Under the law, a personal injury claimant is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that they had before an accident occurred. However, if the victim had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by the misconduct of another, the injured party is entitled to all damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate the claimant for the effect on that condition. This is another issue that an experienced personal injury lawyer well understands.
With nearly 30 years of experience handling personal injury claims from his office in Orange County, Mr. Ralph has recovered millions of dollars for his injured clients. Whether the case involves a slip and fall, criminal assault or product liability claim, Mr. Ralph has the expertise to navigate your case from its initial stages, through litigation and to trial. His unique familiarity with the Orange County judicial system and his personal attention to his clients is what sets his office apart. If you want a free consultation regarding your potential claim, simply call or contact Mr. Ralph directly via e-mail.