Whether you’re a lifelong Middletown resident, a student in Storrs, New London, or New Haven, or just in Greenwich for a nice weekend, we hope you stay safe. But accidents do happen, and sometimes those accidents result in injuries.
And while many accidents are no one’s fault, some accidents and injuries happen because of the negligence of another person, employer, or corporation based in Connecticut.
If you’re injured in the Constitution State, you may be wondering if it was someone else’s fault and whether you can hold them accountable. Here’s what you need to know about personal injury lawsuits and legal claims.
Obviously, you need to make sure everyone is fine, including yourself. Seek medical attention for you any injuries, even if they don’t seem too serious, and call for help for anyone else who might be hurt as well.
Once everyone is safe and sound, you should begin documenting the accident itself as best you can. For example, if you slipped and fell in a store, you may want to take pictures of where you fell and note any dangerous conditions. Make sure you request a copy of any record of the accident from the store and keep track of your injuries, the results of any medical tests, as well as any recommended treatment.
Liability for personal injuries will vary depending on how and where your injuries occurred. As a general matter, everyone must act with reasonable care, and if they don’t, they could be responsible for compensating injured parties. Most personal injury claims are based upon negligence. In order to demonstrate negligence legally, you must prove each of four main elements:
How does this work in real life? Think about drivers who have a duty to operate motor vehicles with reasonable care. If they fail to do so and cause a car accident, they are liable damages caused by the crash, including personal injuries and property damage. In a personal injury claim, you would need to prove that the other driver was negligent or reckless in causing an accident and that accident directly caused your injuries.
Likewise, companies are liable for injuries caused by defective products. These could be defects in design, manufacture, or warning defect. Known as product liability, companies are strictly liable for their products, meaning you only need to prove that a product was defective, that the company either designed a defective product, manufactured it improperly, or failed to warn you about a known defect, and you were injured as a result. In product liability cases you can hold, the designer, manufacturer, or retail store or all three liable for your injuries.
Finally, property owners, managers, or occupiers can be liable for injuries that occur on residential or commercial property. If you’re injured at someone else’s house or public store, you will need to prove that there was an unsafe condition on the property, that the owner should’ve known of the danger and could’ve done more to correct it, and that the condition caused your injury. As noted above, municipalities may be responsible for injuries suffered on public property, but special filing rules can apply to injury claims against the government.
In some cases, an accident isn’t all one party’s fault, and the injured person might have contributed to the accident. Connecticut is what’s known as a “modified comparative negligence state,” which means that courts take into account each party’s negligence when determining liability and damages. So, if a judge or jury finds that you were 25 percent at fault for a car accident, you might only receive 75 percent of your claimed costs and expenses. However, if you are 51 percent at fault or more, you can recover nothing.
What comes next will often depend on the type of accident and your injuries. For car accidents, you’ll want to contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible. For workplace accidents, report the incident to your manager and complete any state-mandated paperwork. Or, if you’re injured in a public park, you might need to contact the city, county, or state and complete what’s called a “notice of claim.”
In any case, you should receive some response from the other party, and you can likely settle your claim without the need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
As noted above, most personal injury claims settle quickly and without litigation. But you may not get a response to your initial injury claim. Or a proposed settlement or award would not fully compensate you for your losses. If that happens, you may consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to assess your claim.
A lawyer can advise you on potential next steps, including whether to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is especially true if the accident caused injuries to multiple people or if someone is claiming you’re the one who caused their injuries. And while insurance companies may offer you legal services, remember that those attorneys work for the insurance company, and may not always have your best interests in mind.
If, after filing a personal injury claim, you prove that someone else caused your injuries, you can receive compensation or “damages.” Many states split the kinds of damages to which an injured party is entitled into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include medical bills and expenses, property damage, and lost wages, those that can be easily quantified and compensated for through monetary payment. Non-economic damages, under Connecticut law, include things like pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, permanent disfigurement, impairment, or loss of function, and loss of consortium.
Like most states, Connecticut bars pain and suffering damages in workers’ compensation claims. However, Connecticut is one of few states that doesn’t put a cap on damages, including non-economic damages.
Statutes of limitations are laws that limit the amount of time you have to file a claim or lawsuit. In Connecticut, you normally have three years to file a personal injury claim, but it could depend on the type of injury and claim you’re filing. In product liability actions, you have three years from the time you were injured or 10 years from the sale of the defective product to file your lawsuit. But you have just two years to file a wrongful death claim.
For most injuries, you have two years from the time you discovered your injuries to file a personal injury claim, except in cases of hate crimes, acts of reckless or wanton misconduct, or medical malpractice in which you have three years from the incident to file.
You know what they say: “You get what you pay for.” But when it comes to injury attorneys, you may get much more. Most lawyers are happy to offer free initial consultations, and personal injury lawyers specifically may agree to take your case on a “contingency fee” basis. Under this arrangement, the lawyers receive a percentage of the final judgment or settlement; if that number is zero, you may not need to pay anything.
Contact a local Connecticut personal injury attorney today if you’ve been injured or have further questions about a potential personal injury claim.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.