Here at our law firm, we prioritize personal injury cases and have a wealth of knowledge across a range of areas. Our team of skilled attorneys has a comprehensive understanding of the nuances involved in personal injury law and can guide you through the legal process. Our goal is to provide you with the support you need to make informed decisions and achieve the best possible outcome. Specifically, we specialize in the following areas:
Every year millions of people are injured in motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury in the United States for people ages 1-34.
Many vehicle manufacturers have made safety improvements to their vehicles including air bags, rollover bars, reinforced frames, better tires, etc. Additionally, many states have passed tougher drunk driving laws. As a result, many lives may have been spared. However, with an ever increasing number of vehicles on the road, motor vehicle accidents still occur with alarming frequency. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every 10 seconds someone in the United States is involved in a car accident.
Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental injury in this country. Each year, thousands of people are killed in motor vehicle crashes and millions are injured. These crashes are frequently caused by the negligence of other drivers, leading to their own death or injury as well as those of innocent victims. Motor vehicle accidents can have many causes, but they can usually be divided into negligence, intentional misconduct, or product liability. While it is true that accidents can be caused by a so-called “act of nature” such as earthquakes, these are rare.
Negligence is one of the primary causes of automobile accidents. Negligent acts occur when a driver causing an accident does not exercise reasonable care. For example, he was driving too fast or to slowly for the conditions. Perhaps he allowed himself to be distracted. Perhaps he carelessly ignored traffic signals or conditions. There are many areas in which negligence can occur but negligence is a failure to be careful rather than an act intended to cause harm. A person who is distracted and rear-ends another vehicle at a red light is negligent.
Intentional misconduct, on the other hand, is an action committed when the person knew that his actions could cause harm and did not care, or actively desired to harm others. A driver who drives at a high rate of speed, cutting in and out of traffic, may be intentionally putting himself and others at risk.
The law of strict liability could apply in some circumstances and neither negligence nor intent would need to be shown. Another cause of auto accidents is product failure. The Firestone tire litigation is a prime example of product failure. In that case, a defect in the tire caused accidents beyond the control of drivers. The defects were not intentional but in law the manufacturer was responsible. A similar situation could exist if a repair to the car was done improperly and resulted in a crash. In some states, in the case of auto accidents caused by drunk drivers, the business or host who supplied the alcohol and allowed the driver to drive in an intoxicated condition could be found to have a liability in addition to the drunk driver.
A high percentage of traffic crashes and deaths involve large trucks. A large truck is any truck whose vehicle weight is over 10,000 pounds. Because of their size, crashes involving large trucks are more likely to result in serious injury and death than are car crashes. Approximately 10% of all those injured in a large truck crash will die. Large trucks are more likely to be involved in multiple-vehicle crashes than are passenger cars. Both Federal and state regulations govern trucking and cover areas such as safety of equipment and hours of the drivers. Trucking companies are required to keep records of such information and it will be necessary to find and research such records. Poor equipment and driver fatigue can be causes of such crashes, and a careful study of the trucking company records may be needed to determine if negligence has occurred.
Motorcycle accidents cause a much higher incidence of death and injury per accident than do car accidents. In other words, if you are involved in a vehicular accident and you are on a motorcycle, you are 3 times more likely to be injured and 14 times more likely to be killed. Helmet laws, enacted in many states, are helping to reduce these numbers, but motorcyclists still are at greater risk of death or injury than those in passenger vehicles.
It is always wise to take precautions when riding a motorcycle, including:
Wrongful death is the term used when someone causes the death of another person. The death may be caused by the actions of someone or by their failure to act (neglect). Wrongful death is a civil action rather than a criminal action. Since the person killed (decedent) cannot file suit or collect damages, it is the family or representatives of the estate that do so. The intent is to recompense family members who have suffered monetarily and emotionally from the death. Damages can be assessed for lost wages and benefits, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering caused by the trauma.
A defendant can only be held responsible for a wrongful death if it can be proved that the defendant’s conduct was the cause of the death. It must be proved that the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s act. The time between the defendant’s action and the death of the decedent is not a factor as long as it can be proved that the defendant’s action was the cause of death.
If it can be shown that the decedent was partially responsible for his death, then he may be found to have comparative or contributory negligence and dependent upon the state in which the incident occurred, damages may be awarded based on the percentage of negligence imputed to the decedent. Also, if the decedent failed to seek appropriate medical care and that failure led to his death, there may be no grounds for a wrongful death claim or a reduction to an award.
In a case of wrongful death, damages are assessed to compensate family members for their loss. There are many ways in which damages can be calculated. Since damages can be awarded in a number of areas, it is important to examine each one carefully.
The most obvious loss in a case of wrongful death is the actual expense occasioned by medical and death expenses. These are usually easy to determine.
Less obvious but equally important is the loss of future earnings and benefits, as well as the loss of companionship. These damages are more difficult to calculate and include anticipating the lifespan and earnings of the decedent, as well as the relationship to remaining family members.
Loss of companionship is very difficult to calculate since it is totally subjective and does not lend itself to empirical measurements. It is a measure of the emotional pain and suffering experienced by the survivors.
A final area of damages is punitive damages. This is an amount awarded to punish the person who caused the death, rather than to compensate for a specific loss. It can typically only be awarded when the action of the defendant was intentional or grossly negligent.
Traumatic brain injury, also called TBI, occurs when the brain is injured by a sudden force, or trauma. The brain can be driven into the side of the skull by a sudden blow, or by the force of shaking or “whiplash”. In either case, the brain can suffer bruising and swelling, and in some cases the impact will be sufficient to tear blood vessels in the brain, causing intracranial bleeding.
If the trauma results in damage to the skull itself, such as a crack or break, the trauma is considered a penetrating head injury. More difficult to diagnose are closed head injuries, in which the brain is injured but the skull remains undamaged. This can occur from a blow or impact, or from severe back-and-forth shaking, such as whiplash. Babies and small children can suffer such injuries from being shaken, the so-called “shaken baby syndrome”.
In any case of closed head TBI it is necessary to study the symptoms that follow the accident in order to diagnose the condition. Anyone who has sustained a blow to the head or whiplash-like injuries should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine if TBI has taken place. In many cases the symptoms may be so slight as to escape the victim’s notice, but if treatment is not available, further injury can develop. Often the symptoms may be delayed for many hours, until swelling in the brain reaches a point that if affects the victim.
TBI can cause serious, life-threatening events and can result in permanent irreversible damage to the brain. It can lead to paralysis, seizures, blindness, memory loss, impaired communication skills, and many other disabilities. Symptoms may be as obvious as coma or as subtle as a change in emotional behavior. TBI can have a profound effect on quality of life, including inability to work, inability to interact socially and within the family, loss of normal body skills, etc.
Over 10,000 people in the US suffer a spinal cord injury, also called SCI, each year. SCI is defined as any damage to the spinal cord that results in loss of function or mobility. Such injuries can be caused by trauma or disease and can result in temporary or permanent loss of sensation, loss of movement (paralysis), or loss of bowel or bladder control. Auto accidents are the primary cause but violence related accidents have been increasing steadily as a cause of SCI’s. Falls and sports accidents also cause many SCI’s each year.
There are two types of injury, complete and incomplete. A complete injury is one in which the victim has no sensation or voluntary motor movement on either side of the body below the level of the injury. If the victim has some feeling or partial movement, it is called an incomplete injury.
Injuries are usually defined with reference to the area of the spine affected. Nerves in the spine are defined by the area of the vertebrae – an injury to the spine in the neck area will affect the cervical vertebrae – injury to the nerves at the fifth cervical vertebra is called a C-5 injury, for instance. Below the neck are the thoracic vertebrae, so injuries there are defined as T-1, etc. Then there are lumbar and sacral vertebrae.
Generally speaking, neck injuries will lead to paralysis of all limbs (quadriplegia) while thoracic injuries cause paralysis to the lower limbs only (paraplegia). Both areas have variations in the amount of dysfunction, depending on the severity of the injury. An incomplete cervical injury can leave the patient with some hand use, while a complete injury at C-4 can require the patient to be on a ventilator. Thoracic injuries can leave the arms functional but interfere with walking, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function. Other functions that can be affected are blood pressure, body temperature, and pain levels.
A spinal cord injury usually involves swelling of the spinal cord which affects the whole body. When the swelling goes down, the patient may regain function months or years after the injury but it is rare for all functioning to be recovered. Treatment presently consists of stabilizing any broken vertebrae, maintaining the patient, preventing movement to the injured area, and reducing swelling. There is no cure for SCI but stem cell research has shown some signs of being useful in the future.
Dog Bites / Animal Attacks
Few things are more frightening than being attacked by a dog. Such an attack can leave the victim severely injured and traumatized. If the victim is a child, the injuries can be fatal. Many states have statutes which hold the owner of the dog strictly liable for the dog’s behavior if the attack is unprovoked; that is, the victim did nothing to threaten the dog or cause it to attack in self-defense. It makes no difference where the attack took place or if the attack is the first for the animal. In some states, the dog gets “one free bite,” meaning the owner is not presumed to know the dog is dangerous until an attack has occurred once.
As an owner, there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of your dog attacking someone:
Basic safety tips include:
If you are attacked, seek help quickly. Try to find out who the owner is, but seek medical help first.
In general terms, “slip and fall” accidents refer to situations where a person is injured by slipping, or tripping, and falling due to a dangerous condition on the premises. Such falls can happen inside or outside a building, and be caused by such conditions as bad flooring, wet floors, poorly lighted steps, or, in the case of outdoor accidents, weather-related or hidden hazards. An icy patch outside a door or a crack or pothole can be the cause of a slip and fall in a parking lot, for instance.
All slip and fall accidents are covered by negligence law and deal with the concept of premises liability. Property owners have a “duty of care” to see that their property is safe. This includes insuring that the building has no structural defects that could cause an accident, both inside and out. In some states the property owner may also have a duty to reduce problem areas caused by weather. Structural defects can include: loose floor mats, rugs, or tiles; water on the floor; poorly lit stairs or steps; cracks or holes in sidewalks or parking lots. Weather-related hazards may include standing water and icy spots. A plaintiff or claimant also has a duty to exercise reasonable care, so if any action of yours contributed to the accident, you may share in the negligence.
If you experience a slip and fall accident, you should try to determine what made you fall and if it could have been anticipated and prevented. If anyone saw you fall, be sure you get the names and addresses of all witnesses. Try to note the conditions in the area – was the lighting poor, was there some substance that made you slip. If you did slip because of something on the floor, try to obtain a sample. Also, try to get pictures of the area. Report any such accident to the manager or owner and insist that they make a record of it.
It is your responsibility to prove that a hazard existed and that it was the cause of your accident.
Commercial airplanes are governed by the regulations affecting common carriers and are governed by different laws and protocols than are private airplanes or other private vehicles. A common carrier is a business that transports persons or cargo for compensation. Both Federal and state regulations govern the activities of common carriers such as buses, trains, and airplanes. As a general rule, a common carrier is held to a higher standard of care than is a private party. They must have both the skill and the training to transport passengers and cargo, and more than reasonable care must be exercised.
When an airplane crashes, the first area of information must be to discover what caused the crash. This can be difficult, since much evidence can be destroyed, including signs of mechanical failure or pilot error. Some of the causes of crashes include pilot error, which is the most frequent cause; design flaws; mechanical failure; and extreme weather conditions. It is vital that whatever evidence is available be collected and studied so that the cause of the crash can be determined. Once this is done, it will be possible to decide if the basis for a lawsuit exists.
Dangers of Air Travel
Thrombosis is the medical condition in which blood clots form in a blood vessel and prevent normal blood flow, a potentially life-threatening situation and one of the leading causes of death in our society. Air travelers may be particularly susceptible to this condition due to tight seating on long-distance flights which limits leg room particularly for those riding in the “economy class” area of the aircraft. This limited space can actually inhibit sufficient blood flow in the legs of all passengers and flight personnel, and studies have shown that even physically fit individuals are at risk.
There are several known factors that can increase the potential for thrombosis to develop. Some individuals have an underlying predisposition for the development of blood clots, a condition known as “thrombophilia.” Elderly and overweight individuals are also at higher risk. The physical conditions of the plane itself may put any passenger at higher risk if the air is dry or recirculation is inadequate, and if one is seated in the more cramped quarters of economy class.
Air travelers should be aware of a number of methods to safeguard against “economy class syndrome.” Staying sufficiently hydrated is very important and can be best achieved by drinking plenty of water and avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Passengers should also strive to make themselves as comfortable as space allows by storing baggage in overhead compartments instead of underfoot and taking advantage of opportunities to move about the aircraft cabin. High-risk passengers may also consider consulting with their physician prior to flying and wearing special support hose that help increase circulation.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call The Law Office of Novak Law Firm at (310) 921-8712 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.