Putting Our Knowledge to the Test by Addressing Your Personal Injury Concerns
An injury in its own right can produce a lot of questions. Will you be okay? How long will it take to heal? How much will your recovery cost? No doubt as you pursue an injury claim, you’ll have even more concerns and questions. However, that’s where we come in. Come see how our extensive knowledge and dedication to helping our clients can help answer all of your legal questions…and then some.
- Page 1
How do I appeal a workers’ compensation decision that I do not agree with?
In Delaware, employees who are injured on the job are often entitled to workers' compensation benefits for medical expenses and wages lost by being unable to work during their recovery. However, in some cases, the injured worker's claim may be denied, or the employer and employee may be unable to reach an agreement on what benefits are owed.
For someone injured in the workplace, a workers' compensation claim denial can be confusing, frustrating, and maybe even a little frightening. Fortunately, a denied claim or inability to come to an agreement with an employer is not the end of the line. Injured employees can appeal a denied workers' compensation claim through the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation if necessary.
If you are considering appealing a workers' compensation claim denial for a workplace, here's what you need to know.
Common Reasons for Workers' Comp Claim Denials
There are a number of reasons why an injured or ill employee's workers' compensation claim is denied. Some of the most common reasons for workers' compensation claim denials include:
- The injury occurred while the employee was off duty or not performing work-related tasks.
- The employee was under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs when he was injured.
- The employer believes that the injury or illness was preexisting, or was caused by factors unrelated to the claimant's employment.
- The injury happened while the employee was roughhousing or engaged in a personal, non-work-related dispute with another worker.
- The employee failed to immediately report his injury to an employer.
While some of these factors may result in a legitimate denial of a workers' compensation claim, sometimes a claim is denied simply in the hope that the injured employee will not pursue it. Before accepting a workers' compensation claim denial, it is best to consult an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Appealing a Decision Through the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation
After receiving notification that a claim has been denied—or after being unable to reach an agreement with an employer regarding workers' compensation benefits—the injured worker can file a Petition to Determine Compensation Due with the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation to begin the appeals process. This petition must be filed within two years of the on-the-job injury.
Next, both parties file a pre-trial memorandum with the Office of Workers' Compensation and attend a pre-trial scheduling conference. Finally, the parties present their cases during a hearing before the Industrial Affairs Board (IAB) in which both sides introduce evidence and question witnesses. The IAB will issue its final written decision, approving or denying the claim.
Appealing a Decision Through the Court System
Sometimes, the decision the IAB issues is not the one the injured worker was hoping to receive. Fortunately, the claimant's options are not yet exhausted. The employee, in certain circumstances, can still appeal the decision through the court system.
After receiving notice that the claim was denied by the IAB, the injured worker has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Superior Court located in the county where the injury occurred. If the Superior Court also denies the claim, the claimant has 30 days to file an appeal with the State Supreme Court. The injured worker must take into account that the court system reviews IAB decisions to determine if substantial evidence exists in the record to support the IAB’s findings of fact and to determine if the Board erred in its application of the law. Because of this heightened legal standard, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be particularly beneficial in analyzing the facts in an injured worker’s case and determine the likelihood of success of an appeal before incurring costly court fees.
Do You Need a Workers' Compensation Attorney?
If you were injured on the job, the experienced attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you fight for the workers' compensation benefits you deserve. Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.
What might prevent me from being able to recover workers’ compensation benefits for a workplace injury?
People who were injured on the job often count on workers' compensation benefits to cover related medical bills and provide temporary total disability payments until they are well enough to return to work. Workers' compensation is a system, created by the Delaware legislature, which has become by law automatically part of your employment contract and provides benefits to workers who are injured while working. Employers with one or more employees are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. The workers' compensation statute prohibits an employer from firing or, in any other manner, discriminating against an employee for filing a claim for benefits.
The Delaware Workers’ Compensation Law provides substantial protections and benefits to the injured worker. However, as with any law, it can be a very complicated process to muddle through. It is also an adversarial process, putting the injured worker in need of benefits against the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, which is interested in limiting benefits.
Workers' compensation benefits are paid by the employer or the employer's workers’ compensation insurance carrier. The benefits are outlined in Title 19 of the Delaware Code and are administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation (part of the Delaware Department of Labor). These benefits include lost wages, medical care, permanency, disfigurement, mileage reimbursement, and death benefits. The insurance company for your employer is not required to advocate for you or to even inform you of some of the various categories of benefits that you may be entitled to. In addition, some of the benefit categories may be best pursued on a timetable unique to your case that needs to be chosen with your maximum recovery and long-term interests in mind. Disputes between you and your employer regarding benefits are handled by the Industrial Accident Board or “IAB.” The IAB is basically the court of first resort for workers’ compensation disputes.
However, despite the workers' compensation statute, there are still things that could jeopardize an injured worker's ability to recover benefits. Here are some of the most common reasons insurance companies give for denying workers' compensation claims.
The Injured Employee Waited Too Long to Notify Their Employer
After an on-the-job injury, workers must notify their employer in accordance with deadlines known as statutes of limitations.
It is critically important to appreciate that action needs to be taken quickly after a work-related accident or injury in order to preserve and secure benefits available under the statute. Indeed there are several time limits that may apply to the facts of each individual case. It is important to remember these issues are applied and decided in an adversarial process. The various and sometimes complex time limitations can and will be used by the employer’s representative or carrier as a weapon to deny the injured worker benefits that otherwise would have been available.
Generally, the time period in which an employee has to file a case with the IAB is two years from the date of the original incident, or five years from the payment of any benefit under the statute by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. However, the limitations period is shortened to one year for occupational exposure cases. Occupational exposure cases include cases where the statutory definition of an “occupational disease” is met as a material component in the injury.
The best way to avoid having problems with deadlines is to make sure the claim is opened properly following your work incident. There are two documents which should be completed and filed with the IAB right away: (1) Agreement as to Compensation; and (2) First Report of Injury. While it is the responsibility of the employer and its carrier to see that these documents are filed with the Board, the insured worker should make sure this has been done. One of the advantages of being represented by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is that your attorney acts as your watchdog to make sure that the employer and its carrier do what they are supposed to do.
Workers who fail to notify their employer before the statutes of limitations have expired forfeit their right to receive workers' compensation benefits for their injuries.
The Injuries Were Caused by Misconduct
Workers' compensation programs generally do not provide benefits to employees who were injured while engaging in willful misconduct. As a result, employees may be disqualified from receiving workers' compensation benefits for injuries that were:
- Purposely self-inflicted
- Unrelated to work duties
- Sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Suffered during a physical altercation with a co-worker that stemmed from a non-work-related dispute
If intentional misconduct is determined to have played a role in a workers' compensation case, the employer's insurance company will decide if it was significant enough to warrant a denial of benefits.
The Injuries Happened Off-Site or Were Preexisting
Insurance companies try to reduce their financial obligation to injured workers whenever possible. One way they do this is by disputing the worker's claims about how and where the injuries occurred. For example, an insurance adjuster may claim that the injuries happened while the employee was away from the workplace and not engaged in work-related duties.
Another common insurance company tactic is to try to attribute the worker's injuries to a previous accident. For example, if a worker injured his shoulder in a previous bicycle accident and went on to injure that same shoulder at work, the insurance adjuster may claim that the majority of the discomfort is due to the original injury in an attempt to minimize his benefits.
Do You Need a Workers' Compensation Attorney?
It is always a good idea to consult an attorney about your workers’ compensation claim. The elements of your claim which the attorney will evaluate in considering whether you need an attorney include:
- Did the incident occur while you were within the course and scope of your employment?
- Did the work incident result in injury?
- Was the injury verified by a Board Certified Physician?
- Is this an accepted or contested claim?
- If it is a contested claim, are there reliable witnesses to the work incident, and certified expert medical witnesses willing to testify in support of the claim?
- If it is an accepted claim, has the claimant been paid all applicable benefits outlined above pursuant to the Delaware Workers’ Compensation Statute?
- Is the claim within the applicable statute of limitations?
If you were injured at work or diagnosed with an illness caused by your job, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can help address any potential barriers to recovery and fight to ensure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled. Do you have questions or concerns about your workers' compensation claim? Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule a free initial consultation.
How much time do I have to file for workers' compensation?
After being injured on the job or diagnosed with a work-related illness, workers may also face financial challenges such as unexpected medical bills or wages lost by missing work while they recover. Fortunately, Delaware law requires most businesses with employees to carry workers' compensation insurance that offers a wide range of benefits to those injured in the workplace.
However, very strict laws—known as statutes of limitations—govern just how long an injured employee has to initiate the workers' compensation claims process or petition the Industrial Accident Board regarding a denied claim or disputed benefits.
Waiting too long to notify an employer of a workplace injury or occupational illness can put a worker's ability to collect workers' compensation benefits in jeopardy. If you suffered an on-the-job injury, here's what you need to know to protect your right to benefits.
Notifying an Employer
How long injured or ill employees have to notify their employers depends on whether they are seeking workers' compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury or occupational illness. Employees who sustain an injury in the workplace must notify their employer immediately and request medical services.
Employers are not required to begin providing workers' compensation benefits until they have received this notice.
Delaware Workers' Compensation Process Overview
The Delaware workers' compensation claims process can be both complex and confusing. This overview can help injured workers better understand what to expect:
- An employee is injured at work
- The employee reports the injury right away to the employer and requests medical treatment
- The employer files a First Report of Injury form with the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation
- The insurance provider contacts the claimant or their attorney to let them know whether the claim was acknowledged or denied
- After the claim is acknowledged, the employer and employee sign an Agreement to benefits, and the employer files a copy of the agreement with the Delaware Industrial Accident Board.
When an Employer Denies a Claim or Won't Agree to Benefits
Unfortunately, not all workers' compensation claims resolve in an amicable agreement between employer and employee. When a claim is denied or an employer refuses to agree to benefits, the employee has two years from the date of a workplace injury to file a petition with the Delaware Industrial Accident Board.
The petition results in a hearing before the Industrial Affairs Board (IAB), which issues a final decision accepting or denying the claim. If the claim is denied, the worker has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Superior Court.
Seeking Additional Compensation for a Previously Approved Claim
When an on-the-job injury changes or worsens, the affected worker may require further workers' compensation benefits. Delaware's workers' compensation system allows employees whose cases were previously approved by the IAB to file claims for renewed or increased benefits within five years of the date the last compensation was paid.
Available Workers' Compensation Benefits
Injured workers can seek a variety of scheduled statutory benefits through their employer's workers' compensation insurance, including compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including treatments*, prescription medications, and mileage reimbursement
- Physical therapy *
- Chiropractic appointments*
- Temporary total or partial disability (lost wage) payments
- Permanent partial impairment benefits
- Death benefits in the event that a worker is killed in an on-the-job accident
- *The injured worker must treat with medical providers who are Certified by the Industrial Accident Board.
Do You Need Help Handling a Workers' Compensation Claim?
If you were injured in a workplace-related accident, the knowledgeable workers' compensation attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you ensure you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us today to schedule a free initial review of your workers' compensation case.
Can I handle a no-doubt liability claim on my own?
There are many personal injury cases where the plaintiff may have a difficult time proving the other party's negligence or fault, but there are some cases where the defendant is responsible for the accident without question. Known as "no-doubt" liability cases, these cases may seem simple and straightforward. However, accident victims shouldn't let the seeming simplicity of no-doubt liability cases lull them into a false sense of security and trick them into thinking they can handle the case themselves. While these cases may not have the dramatic twists and turns seen in courtroom dramas, they can require a fair amount of legal maneuvering. Additionally, there are clear benefits to having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side for these cases, and going it alone can have unintended consequences.
Determining liability can be one of the more difficult aspects of car accident personal injury claims. No-doubt liability cases differ from regular car accident claims in that the nature of the accident itself provides almost definitive proof as to who was at fault. Examples of no-doubt liability car accidents include:
- DUI accidents. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal, as these substances can impair the driver's ability to think clearly and react appropriately. If a driver causes an accident while under the influence, they will, in most cases, be considered the liable party.
- Rear-end accidents. Drivers are required to leave sufficient room between themselves and the vehicle in front of them. When a driver fails to do this and slams into the car in front of him, he will most likely be found at fault. However, there may be an exception if the driver in the first vehicle had brake or tail lights that weren't functional.
- Left-turn accidents: Also known as “T-bone” accidents, left-turn crashes occur when a motorist makes a left-hand turn before the road is clear. When this happens, it is almost always the driver who was making the left-hand turn who is at fault. However, there may be rare exceptions where the “T-boned” driver is found to be at fault if they were committing a traffic violation at the time of the accident.
Benefits of Legal Representation
Even if you have a true no-doubt liability claim, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney is crucial to the success of your case. Personal injury plaintiffs who have legal representation often receive settlements far larger than plaintiffs who chose to handle their own cases. In addition to fighting to help you win a more lucrative financial award, personal injury attorneys also help by:
- Providing valuable legal counsel
- Accurately filling out required paperwork
- Submitting completed paperwork in a timely fashion
- Handling any problems that come up during the case
Having quality legal representation also provides plaintiffs with peace of mind. After the case is tried, the court's judgment is binding. Losing plaintiffs aren't entitled to a do-over—even if they chose to represent themselves and were dissatisfied with the results.
Comparative Negligence in Delaware
Are you sure you have a true no-doubt liability case? If it turns out that you were somewhat responsible for the accident, Delaware's comparative negligence laws may come into play. Comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to file personal injury lawsuits, even if they were partially at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. It may also be used by the defense in an effort to reduce their financial obligation to the victim. If you were partially at fault for the accident, you'll need the representation of a seasoned legal professional.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in an accident—no-doubt liability or otherwise—the skilled legal team with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Don't let your chance to take legal action slip through your fingers! Complete our online contact form today and we'll be in touch to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.
What is negligence?
If another person's negligent actions led to an accident that resulted in you being injured, you may be eager to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to pursue compensation for your injuries. However, before you start daydreaming about how you'll spend your settlement, you should determine whether your case—and the defendant's conduct—meets the legal definition of negligence. In order for a judge or jury to agree with your assessment that the defendant was negligent, you must be able to prove the following elements of negligence: that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached that duty in a way that resulted in you being seriously injured.
Duty of Care
Before a defendant's actions can be considered negligent, you must be able to show that the defendant owed you a “duty of care.” First, the court must recognize that a relationship exists between the two parties and that, because of that relationship, the defendant had a duty to behave a certain way toward the plaintiff. In a personal injury case, this might mean that the defendant had a duty to ensure that conditions were reasonably safe for the plaintiff. For example, all motorists owe each other a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely. Other examples of duty of care include manufacturers who have a duty of care to ensure that their products are safe for their customers, and retail stores owners who have a duty of care to maintain their property for their customers' safety.
Breach of Duty
Once you've established that a duty of care exists between yourself and the defendant, the next step is proving that said duty of care was breached by the defendant. Duty of care is breached when a defendant fails to behave reasonably, endangering the plaintiff. Examples of breached duty of care include manufacturers who sell dangerously defective products, reckless drivers who cause motor vehicle accidents, and property owners who fail to maintain their flooring or clean up spills in a reasonably timely manner—causing tenants, visitors, or customers to slip and fall.
When trying to prove negligence in personal injury cases, it's not enough to show that a duty of care existed and that said duty of care was breached. In order to be eligible to pursue compensation for your injuries, you and your legal counsel must also show that the breach of duty of care is what caused your injuries. There are two types of causation that can apply here: proximate cause and actual cause. Proximate cause means that your injuries are reasonably related to the defendant's breached duty of care, while actual cause means that, were it not for the breach of duty of care, you would not have been injured.
This particular element of negligence is extremely important in personal injury cases. Even if a defendant was negligent, the plaintiff will not receive compensation unless that negligence caused real and verifiable injuries. It's up to the plaintiff and attorney to prove the type and extent of their injuries, usually with well-documented evidence, such as medical records and bills, repair estimates for property damage, and receipts for other out-of-pocket costs. A lack of documented evidence will make negotiating a settlement extremely difficult, if not impossible. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise clients on what types of documents and evidence will be most effective in their case.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in an accident that you believe was caused by another person's careless or negligent actions, you may be able to pursue compensation for damages if you can legally prove that the defendant's negligent behavior caused your injuries. Financial awards can help personal injury victims begin rebuilding their lives after an accident. Victims can seek a financial award to compensate them for past, current, and future medical treatment for their accident-related injuries, as well as any related property damages, lost wages and more. The Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Call us today to schedule a free initial case consultation.
What is a settlement and what are some of the pros and cons of accepting one?
A settlement is an official agreement that resolves a personal injury claim or lawsuit before it goes to trial, allowing both parties to avoid the potentially lengthy and somewhat risky litigation process. In the United States, the vast majority of personal injury civil lawsuits never see the inside of a courtroom and are, instead, resolved via a negotiated settlement.
During the pre-trial negotiation process, the attorneys for both parties investigate the claim and then take turns making offers, with the goal of eventually reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Settlements award financial compensation for damages, but the settlement agreement may have further stipulations, such as forbidding the plaintiff from pursuing further legal action or disclosing the conditions of the settlement, or requiring the defendant to start or discontinue a specific action or policy.
Settlements are awarded to compensate personal injury victims for a variety of damages, including past, current and future medical bills, property damage, lost wages, loss of earning ability, and pain and suffering. When deciding whether accepting an out-of-court settlement is right for you and your personal injury case, there are several pros and cons worth considering.
Settlement Pros and Cons
There's no doubt that accepting a settlement can be beneficial for personal injury victims. Accepting a settlement not only spares the plaintiff a lengthy and costly trial, it also guarantees financial compensation for accident-related damages—something that can't be guaranteed if the case is taken all the way to trial. In a courtroom setting, the judge or jury determines whether a financial award is warranted and, if so, how much money is appropriate compensation. Depending on the case, the judge or jury may offer a significant financial award, or nothing at all. Accepting a settlement eliminates the risks associated with a civil trial and ensures that the victim receives compensation for his or her accident-related damages.
However, for all its benefits, accepting a settlement can have some downsides. For example, although settlements provide a sure promise of compensation, the amount of money received in a settlement is frequently less than what might have been awarded had the case gone all the way to trial.
Additionally, if your situation is desperate and you appear so during the negotiation process, the opposing side may offer you less than what you deserve, in the hopes that you'll take it and just go away. If you can hold out for a better offer, it's almost always in a victim's best interest to do so.
Before deciding whether you should accept a settlement in your personal injury cases, there are a few important points you need to consider and discuss—preferably with a knowledgeable attorney. For example:
- If the case goes to trial, what are your chances of winning?
- What do the verdict and settlement outcomes look like in similar cases?
- How strong is your case?
- Does your case have any weaknesses?
- How much does your attorney think you could get in settlement versus at trial?
- What is the minimum amount you'll accept to resolve the case?
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you or someone you love was injured due to another person's negligence, your life may have been turned upside-down in an instant, leaving you wondering if things will ever be the same again. A financial award from the at-fault party can go a long way in helping accident victims get their lives back on track. Call the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case, including whether accepting a settlement is right for you.
Is a trucker or a trucking company responsible for my injuries?
A truck accident can be a truly harrowing experience that can leave victims seriously injured and unsure of their legal rights. Considering that most passenger vehicles weigh around 4,000 lbs., while big-rig vehicles can weigh in at 80,000 lbs. or more, it's easy to understand why so many of these accidents have such a serious and negative impact on the lives of those involved.
After a truck accident, many victims want to know if they can pursue compensation for their injuries and, if so, from whom—the truck driver or the trucking company? While Delaware law allows accident victims to seek a financial award to compensate them for injuries, the issue of fault isn't always as clear cut and can be difficult to determine on your own. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the commercial truck driver, the trucking company, or even the truck's manufacturer could be liable. Read on to learn more about liability in truck accident cases.
Commercial Driver Fault
Professional truck drivers and regular motorists alike owe each other a duty of care, and are tasked with sharing the road and operating their vehicles safely. However, research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that commercial driver error continues to be a leading contributing factor in large-truck crashes.
Not only are truck drivers susceptible to the same dangerous driving behaviors as other motorists, but they also have to avoid unsafe driving actions that are more industry specific, such as using dispatching and navigation devices—also known as mobile or portable data terminals—while on the road.
Driver error is a broad category that can include:
- Driving too fast for the current road conditions
- Driving while texting or talking on a cell phone
- Following too closely
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving aggressively
- Improperly loading cargo
- Driving while distracted
- Failure to check blind spots, also known as “no zones”
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving under the influence of sedating over-the-counter or prescription medications
If driver error was the cause of the accident that led to your injuries, then the truck driver may be at fault.
Trucking Company Liabilities
Other times, even though the driver was behind the wheel at the time of the accident, it's the trucking company who is held liable. Trucking companies might be held responsible for an accident and the related injuries if they hired a driver with an unsafe driving record or a history of substance abuse problems, trained the driver improperly, or failed to inspect or maintain the truck appropriately. Trucking companies may also be at fault if it can be shown that they encouraged drivers to skirt federal safety regulations, such as hours-of-service rules, which limits the amount of time drivers can spend on the road in a specific period, as well as mandates a certain amount of rest.
Sometimes the responsibility for the accident doesn't lie with the driver or trucking company, but rather the truck's manufacturer. For example, if a big-rig vehicle is manufactured with a faulty component that fails and results in an accident, the manufacturer may be held liable for damages.
Were You Injured in a Truck Accident?
If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a truck accident, you may need a financial award to help you pay for medical treatment, repair or replace your damaged vehicle, or reimburse you for the time you missed from work. The knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you pursue compensation for these and other damages stemming from the crash. Reach out to us at one of our five Delaware law offices or complete our online contact form to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case, including who might be at fault for the accident.
How long do I have to file a claim in a personal injury lawsuit?
Most states have statute of limitation laws that place limits on how long an accident victim has to file a civil claim, such as a personal injury lawsuit. In Delaware, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years, meaning that the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date the accident—and the related injuries—occurred. Accident victims who fail to file a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations risk having their case dismissed.
There can be exceptions—the statute of limitations may pause, or “toll,” if the victim was mentally incompetent at the time of the injury. In this case, the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit extends to three years after the disability ends.
Don’t Wait Until You Are Up Against a Deadline
However, don't let the fact that you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit relax you into complacency. Waiting to file your lawsuit can have a number of unwanted consequences. Witnesses may move, change their phone number, or forget the details of what they saw. Additionally, evidence may deteriorate or be lost as time goes by.
Building a strong personal injury case can take time. Initiating a lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident ensures that you and your attorney are able to talk with witnesses and document and preserve other relevant evidence while it's still fresh. Well-documented evidence and witness statements, collected immediately following an accident, can strengthen your case as you head into negotiations or prepare for trial.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
While exceptions to the statute of limitations can and do occur, when so much is at stake—it's better to be safe than sorry. If you were involved in an accident, waiting too long to act may jeopardize your right to pursue compensation for your injuries. Don't forfeit your right to take legal action. Contact the skilled attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule a free initial consultation.
For what might I be able to seek financial compensation?
Personal injury cases are often as unique as the parties involved, which makes it difficult for us to say exactly which damages a potential client could be entitled to pursue without first discussing the particulars of their situation. However, learning about common types of personal injury cases and the damages sought can provide valuable insight to accident and injury victims who are considering exploring their legal options.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases
Delaware law allows individuals who were injured by another person or entity's negligence to file a civil lawsuit, also known as a tort action, to pursue compensation for a variety of damages. Unlike a criminal case in which the government is prosecuting and a guilty verdict could mean jail or prison time, civil lawsuits are brought by individuals who seek a financial award to compensate them for harm caused by a defendant's wrongful actions. Common types of personal injury cases include:
- Auto accidents. Both common and potentially devastating, auto accidents can leave victims with a number of serious physical, mental, and emotional injuries. According to a 2014 Vital Signs Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), auto accidents sent more than 2.5 million Americans to the emergency room in 2012. Negligent actions in car accident cases may include speeding and reckless, drunk, drugged, drowsy, or distracted driving.
- Truck accidents. Presenting different challenges than other auto accidents, truck accidents are in a category of its own. The sheer size and weight of a big-rig vehicle can cause catastrophic injuries and property damage and, instead of an individual and their attorney—the accident victim may be going up against a trucking company with a team of corporate attorneys. Commercial truck drivers are susceptible to the same types of negligent driving behaviors as anyone else. Equipment failure due to improper maintenance, improper loading and distribution of the truck's contents, and trucking companies that hire unsafe drivers or encourage their drivers to skirt Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations are examples of negligence that is more specific to truck accident cases.
- Motorcycle accidents. Injuries in these cases can be devastating, as motorcyclists are largely unprotected. Motorcycle accidents can be caused by many factors, including motorists who turn left into the path of a motorcycle, fail to see the motorcycle in their blind spot, or follow the motorcyclist too closely.
- Wrongful death. When someone dies because of an accident or negligence, Delaware law allows certain surviving family members to sue for compensation that can help them cope with financial worries associated with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one.
- Workers' compensation. Employees who are injured on the job may face a long road to recovery. A workers' compensation claim can help ensure employees are appropriately compensated for their injuries and establish a wage replacement system for the time that their injuries keep them out of work.
- Product liability. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure that the products they sell to consumers are safe. If a product can be shown to have caused injury, the manufacturer may be liable for damages.
- Slip-and-fall accidents. Property owners are required to maintain their properties so that they're reasonably safe for shoppers, tenants, or lawful guests. If this duty is breached, property owners may be liable for injuries.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Damages sought in personal injury cases can be divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those that represent a specific dollar amount and can be largely calculated by assessing documented bills or records, such as:
- Past or future medical bills and expenses related to the accident
- Property damage to your vehicle
- Lost wages if your injuries caused you to miss a significant amount of work
- Loss of future earning potential if your injuries force you to take a lower-paying position
Non-economic damages are those that aren't associated with a clear dollar amount and are, thus, more difficult to calculate, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
- Emotional pain or anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced enjoyment of life
Do You Need Help Seeking Compensation for Injuries?
If you were injured in an accident, the skilled legal team with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you explore your legal options and the types of damages to which you may be entitled. Complete our online contact form today and we'll contact you to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
How is an award or settlement determined in a personal injury case?
If you were injured in an accident, you may be facing unforeseen medical bills, and a long and painful physical, mental, and emotional recovery. Under the circumstances, it is understandable that you have questions about whether you can be compensated for your injuries and, if so, how much of a settlement offer can you expect. However, in all the years the members of our firm have worked in injury law, we've learned that personal injury cases can be as different as the parties involved, which makes it difficult to say how much you could stand to be compensated without first meeting with you to discuss your case. Fortunately, learning more about settlements and the types of damages you can seek can provide valuable insight to accident victims who seek a legal remedy.
How Is a Settlement Determined?
In personal injury cases, settlements can be determined through negotiations or, if the case goes all the way to trial, a judge or jury. The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled without either party having to set foot in a courtroom. At the beginning of the negotiation process, your attorney will work closely with you to calculate the damages to which you feel you're entitled, and will then send a demand letter to the individual or insurance company's attorney, asking for a high amount. The attorneys will go back and forth, discussing a variety of factors that can include:
- Insurance coverage
- Liability for the accident
- The severity of your injuries
- Medical prognosis and treatment
The severity of your injuries and the circumstances of the accident may play a significant role in determining the size of your settlement offer—this is true of personal injury cases settled both in and out of court. Ideally, after some back and forth, the attorney for the at-fault individual or insurance company will make a reasonable offer. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement amount, the case may continue to court, where both sides will present their arguments and a judge or jury determines how much—if any—financial compensation they should award.
Attorneys, juries, and judges usually come up with settlement amounts by calculating economic and non-economic damages.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Economic damages, also known as special damages or out-of-pocket losses, are past and future financial losses that can be calculated by reviewing a victim's accident-related bills. Examples of economic damages include past and future medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, loss of earning potential, and funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages, also called general damages, are more subjective and, thus, more difficult to calculate. Examples of non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, and embarrassment, or loss of reputation, consortium, or companionship.
Do You Need Help Pursing a Personal Injury Settlement?
If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else, you may be entitled to seek a financial award to compensate you for your injuries. Don't let another minute pass without learning about your legal rights. The knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group are at your service. Complete our online contact form today and we'll be in touch to schedule an appointment for your free initial consultation.