Introduction to Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law refers to the legal remedies and defenses involved in civil lawsuits brought as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, government agency, or other entity. Some of the most common types of personal injury cases are car accidents, truck accidents and slip-and-fall accidents.
At The Durst Law Firm, we ensure that our clients receive as much compensation as possible. We go the extra mile to identify all possible defendants (for instance, if our client was injured by a drunk driver, we investigate to see if the driver was over-served at a bar that can also be sued in what is called a “dram shop” lawsuit) and locate all applicable insurance coverage (sometimes you can go after your own insurance company for additional compensation, for example). We do not advertise on billboards and we do not work on volume - we take serious injury cases only and devote the time and resources to them that they require (and, of course, we promptly return phone calls and keep our clients apprised at every stage). If it is in our client’s interest, we will go to trial. We help our clients through every stage of the case, striving to be incredibly thorough and leave them with no doubt that we have done everything possible for them.
We represent people in the following types of personal injury cases:
Automobile Accident Injuries
Distracted Driving Accidents
Drunk Driving Accidents
Texting While Driving
Uninsured Motorist Accidents
Wrongful Death Cases
Parking Gate Arm Injuries
Slip and fall
Amusement Park Injuries
How Personal Injury Law Works
The vast majority of personal injury cases are based on the concept of “negligence.” In order to win a personal injury case, the person injured (the “plaintiff”) must prove four “elements” to establish that the person allegedly at fault (the “defendant”) acted negligently:
(1) Duty - The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances;
(2) Breach of Duty - The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way;
(3) Causation - The defendant's actions (or inaction) caused the plaintiff's injury; and
(4) Damages - The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant's actions.
Once these elements are proven, the defendant (or its insurance company) must compensate the plaintiff for his or her damages. In personal injury cases such as rear-end car accidents, the first three elements are usually not seriously at issue, since it obvious who was at fault for the accident. Usually, the dispute in these cases has to do with how much money the injured party should be awarded.
Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases
Under Ohio law, compensation can be awarded for economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages in personal injury lawsuits.
Economic damages include payment of medical bills and expenses, as well as any wages lost as a result of the victim’s injuries. Often, a person who suffers a serious injury is unable to work for a time and may be even be left with permanent issues that prevent or reduce their ability to earn wages for years to come. In such situations, the victim can seek compensation both for actual lost wages and estimated future lost wages. In the tragic event of a victim’s death, a “wrongful death” claim can be brought to help the surviving family members recover the financial support they would have received had their loved one not been killed.
Pursuant to Section 2315.18 of the Ohio Revised Code, non-economic damages can be awarded for “pain and suffering, loss of society, consortium, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, or education, disfigurement, mental anguish, and any other intangible loss.” There are a lot of challenges when it comes to proving non-economic damages, which are obviously less straightforward than economic damages, but a good Cincinnati personal injury attorney knows how to maximize your recovery.
Punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant's behavior is found to be especially harmful or malicious - for instance, a drunk driver who runs a red light and seriously injures a passenger in another car. The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish the defendant for his actions and to deter others from committing a similar offense.
Call The Durst Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation
Alex Durst has twice been named a “SuperLawyer.” We have extensive personal injury experience in serious and challenging cases, along with a track record of success. Read about some of the recent results we have achieved for clients here. If you have been seriously injured, we will guide you through every stage of the case until justice is done. Call us today at (513) 621-4999 for a free case evaluation, or feel free to call Alex’s direct line at (513) 621-2500.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ohio Personal Injury Law
If you are considering hiring a personal injury attorney, you may find the following Q&A helpful.
Do I need a lawyer?
If you were seriously hurt (broken bones, torn ligaments, severe burns, or anything which may be long-lasting or permanent), or if you required significant medical care, such as a hospital stay or extensive evaluation, then it is important to speak with a personal injury lawyer. If your injuries were relatively minor and resolved quickly, then a personal injury lawyer may be unnecessary.
Who will pay my medical bills?
If you have health insurance it is important that you provide that information to the hospital or doctor. It is preferable that the bills be paid by the health insurer as the health insurer will likely receive a discount on the amount to be paid on your behalf. Some doctors and hospitals will not submit the bills to a health insurer if there may be a claim against some other party. Your auto insurance may also cover some of your medical bills if you have medical payments coverage on that policy. Sometimes, the medical payments coverage must be exhausted before health insurance will cover the bills. This is an issue a personal injury attorney can address on your behalf.
How much is my case worth?
The value of a personal injury claim depends on multiple factors, including the extent of the injury, the type and amount of medical care required, and whether or not the condition is long-lasting and/or permanent. Whether the other party was clearly responsible for the accident can also impact the value of a case. Other important factors include whether wages were lost, and what additional impact or impacts the injury had or will have on the person’s life in the future.
My insurance company is calling. What do I do?
If your own insurance company is involved in handling your property damage claim or requires your assistance, it is important to cooperate. Most insurance policies require that you cooperate with your insurer as requested and needed. Failure to cooperate with your own insurer can impact your insurance coverage.
The other insurance company is calling and wants to talk, what do I do?
You are NOT obligated to provide a statement to the other party’s insurance company or to actively participate in their claim evaluation. In cases when you will need a personal injury lawyer it is preferable not to give a statement without a lawyer’s help. A sworn statement given to the other party’s insurer can be used against you. There is no advantage to providing information and being cooperative if ultimately litigation is likely and you will have to give a deposition in the future. Click HERE for a more detailed explanation.
What about time missed from work?
Lost wages are an important element of damage that can be pursued as part of your claim. Unfortunately, compensation for lost wages is available only at the conclusion of the claim and not as the claim is pending. This can cause severe financial hardship. Some employers provide short and long-term disability benefits for their employees. Some people have their own personal disability policies as well. If the injury suffered is severe, disability benefits may be available through the Social Security Administration. Whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits depends on the type of injury and permanency of the condition. A lawyer can explore all of the potential disability benefits with you. (We do not handle social security disability cases, but we make referrals where appropriate.)
I received a questionnaire about the accident…
Most health insurance policies provide that if benefits are paid on your behalf because of an accident caused by someone else, the health insurer is entitled to get their money back if you recover money from the other party. There are companies that health insurers hire to review claims and investigate. Many of them look at billing codes for ER care or other bills associated with trauma and then send questionnaires to follow-up. It is important to cooperate with your health insurer as your policy likely requires it. Some policies require cooperation with the investigation before benefits will be paid which may include completing a questionnaire or speaking with a representative.
Although the policy may require that the health insurer be reimbursed, the insurer is not typically repaid for every dollar paid on your behalf. A skilled lawyer can typically negotiate a reduction of the amount to be repaid, depending on the type of plan and plan language. A lawyer can review the plan language and negotiate a reduction on your behalf.
How is The Durst Law Firm paid for representing me?
Like most firms, we operate under a “contingent fee” arrangement in personal injury cases. The fee is “contingent” because no attorney fee of any kind is charged until and unless we recover money for you. Instead, we are paid a percentage of the recovery earned for the personal injury claim. In other words, if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid, as the saying goes. The Durst Law Firm will front costs such as court filing fees, obtaining medical records, and court reporting fees in serious personal injury cases. You pay nothing up front.
What information and documents do I need to provide to a lawyer to get the case started?
The attorney will want to discuss the injuries suffered and the treatment received to date. The attorney may also have questions regarding your medical history and whether you had suffered any similar type of injury before. The lawyer will want to learn more about your work history, whether you are able to work, as well as the amount of medical bills incurred to date. The lawyer will want to know what the doctor has suggested you will need in the future and whether you are continuing to receive medical care. Finally, the amount of insurance coverage at issue and whether you have as yet given a statement or otherwise taken any action with the other insurance company will be important. It is crucial in personal injury claims - as in all types of law - to retain as much documentation as possible. Bills, receipts, letters, photos, and other relevant materials should be gathered and provided to the attorney. If you were seriously hurt and required significant medical care it is important to speak with an attorney.
The other driver received a ticket and there is a court date. Do I need to go?
Whether it makes sense to go to court depends on the circumstances of the case, and should be discussed with an attorney. The answer typically is ‘no,’ but it can sometimes be helpful. If the defendant pleads guilty to a traffic citation, that can be helpful to the civil case. If the defendant pleads not guilty or is found guilty, that has little or no bearing to the case for money damages. Under some circumstances, a trial may be conducted in the traffic proceeding which could impact your civil case such as when sworn testimony is given. If you are subpoenaed by the prosecutor, then your attendance is required. If you are unable to attend the court session due to your injury, but still wish to go, an accommodation can be made and the court date can usually be changed. It is wise to address these issues with an attorney.