Personal Injury Lawyer
You never planned to get hurt. But when someone causes you harm, you have to handle it as best you can. This means getting the right people on your side. By working with experienced personal injury attorney in Central Pennsylvania, you get the legal knowledge and skills you need to hold the other person responsible and win the compensation you need.
To schedule a free consultation with Czekaj Law, LLC, call (717) 275-9770 or submit your information through our online form. We will schedule a time to talk with you over the phone or video conference to learn more about your situation.
Why You Should Choose Czekaj Law, LLC
Finding the right Perry County lawyer for you is hard. We recommend you look for an attorney with whom you have a good connection, and feel like the lawyer is genuinely interested in you and your case. At Czekaj Law, LLC, we have a decade of experience helping individuals and families in New Bloomfield and throughout Pennsylvania.
What Is a Personal Injury?
A personal injury claim is physical and emotional harm caused by someone else’s behavior. A majority of personal injury cases are based on negligence, though you also can file a personal injury lawsuit based on someone intentionally or maliciously hurting you.
Tort law governs personal injury claims. A tort is a wrongful act, other than a breach of contract, that gives you the right to sue. Torts are a civil matter, not criminal. Examples of other types of torts are damage to your property or damage to reputation through libel or slander.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is failing to act like a reasonable person would under the circumstances and causing someone else harm. You can think of negligence as someone not being as careful as they should, whether they’re a driver, employer, or property owner.
What is Liability?
Liability is legal responsibility for causing someone else physical, emotional, or financial harm. Negligence and liability aren’t the same thing. The person or business that’s liable for your injuries might not be the negligent party that caused your injuries—though sometimes the negligent and liable party is the same.
What Caused Your Injury?
When you bring a negligence claim, you have to prove the other person acted carelessly and that their behavior caused you harm. You have to establish a direct link between how they acted and why you got hurt. This is known as proving direct and proximate cause. If you can’t prove that the defendant’s conduct is the main reason why you got hurt, then an insurer or court might deny you compensation.
Parties in a Personal Injury Case
If you’ve been hurt and choose to file a personal injury lawsuit, you’re the plaintiff. The plaintiff is always the person who brings a case to court against someone else. The person or business you allege caused your injuries is the defendant.
In some personal injury cases, there are one plaintiff and one defendant. But civil cases can have multiple plaintiffs and defendants. For example, if a multi-car pileup on the highway caused your injuries, you might blame more than one negligent driver for your injuries. You’d name both motorists as defendants in your suit.
What Should I Expect in My Personal Injury Case?
There are many reasons to partner with an experienced personal injury attorney after you’ve been hurt. Your lawyer will explain all of the relevant tort law that applies to your case, including laws governing negligence, damages, and time limits.
Your Perry County lawyer also will outline the personal injury case process. Many personal injury claims settle out of court. But that doesn’t mean you won’t file a lawsuit. After your lawyer investigates your claims and initiates conversation with your insurer, they may recommend filing a personal injury suit. Going to court gives you the chance to go through discovery and gather more evidence. It also shows the insurance company you’re serious about maximizing your recovery.
The Personal Injury Case Process
- Consult with an Attorney: When another person hurts you, it’s best to hire a New Bloomfield personal injury lawyer who can fight for you to receive the maximum compensation possible.
- Gather Evidence: Your attorney will independently investigate the accident and gather evidence, including a police report, photos, video from a dash, surveillance, or traffic camera, eyewitness reports, an accident reconstructionist’s expert opinion, and your medical records.
- Send a Demand Letter: Once your lawyer has a full understanding of what happened and your injuries, they’ll mail a letter to the person responsible for your injuries or their insurance company demanding full compensation.
- File a Personal Injury Lawsuit: In some cases, insurers and negligent parties are ready to settle. But in many circumstances, we file a personal injury lawsuit before we can reach a fair settlement.
- Go through Discovery: The longest phase of litigation is discovery. During this process, each side demands information from the other. We use deposition, interrogatories (questions), and demands for documents to learn more about your case.
- Use Mediation: After finishing discovery, we re-enter settlement negotiations. We may use mediation. This is an out-of-court process where you and the other party negotiate a settlement under the supervision of a neutral third party, the mediator.
- Reach a Settlement or Go to Trial: Mediation often results in a settlement. If we reach a fair sum, we’ll finalize the agreement and drop the lawsuit. But if we can’t agree on a fair amount, then we’ll prepare for a jury trial. It’ll be up to a jury to decide if the defendant is liable, and if so, how much compensation you should receive.
- Appeal: If the jury decides in the defendant’s favor, we’ll review your case for a strong reason to appeal.
Proving Your Personal Injury Claim
When you’re fighting for a settlement or jury award, you’re responsible for proving the defendant is liable for your injuries. As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof.
In some cases, you’ll want to prove the defendant was negligent, and that’s why they’re liable. If a person was speeding, ran a red light, and crashed into you, then you’d pursue damages from them and their insurer.
In other cases, you’ll prove one person was negligent, and that’s why a second party is liable. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, also called vicarious liability, one party might be liable for another’s actions. The most common example is when an employer is responsible for what their employees do while on the job.
Your case may also be more complicated if the person you claim was negligent is a minor or a person with an intellectual disability. Courts hold minors and incompetent individuals to different standards than typical adults. Older adolescents can generally be held liable for negligent behavior. They probably don’t have money of their own to compensate you. But you might win compensation through their insurance coverage. Or, to a certain extent, you may hold their parents liable for your damages.
A mental or intellectual disability is not a defense to civil liability in Pennsylvania. A person with a severe disability can be held responsible for careless behavior that causes you harm.
The Standard of Proof
In personal injury cases, the standard of proof—the bar you have to reach to win—is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a lower standard of proof than criminal cases use. It means the evidence shows it’s more likely than not the defendant is liable.
You’ll use direct and circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s responsibility. Direct evidence establishes a fact. For example, an accident reconstructionist can calculate another driver’s speed, proving the driver was going faster than the speed limit. Circumstantial (or indirect) evidence asks the judge and jury to infer something. For example, a pedestrian nearby the crash heard squealing tires, as if someone slammed on their brakes, and there were marks on the pavement. Your lawyer in Perry County might use this testimony and photos of the tire treads to ask the jury to conclude the other driver was going too fast.
If you don’t have any or much direct evidence, then you have to base your case on circumstantial evidence. This is when the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor becomes important. Under this doctrine, you can offer enough indirect evidence to strongly imply the defendant was negligent. You can create a presumption that your injuries wouldn’t usually happen unless someone acted carelessly.
Compensation in Personal Injury Claims
When someone else causes you harm, you can demand compensation for your physical, emotional, and economic injuries.
- Medical Expenses: You can ask for compensation for your past and future medical bills.
- Loss of Earnings: You can demand the defendant reimburses you for the past and future wages you’ve lost because of the accident.
- Property Damage: You can ask for compensation to repair or replace any property damaged in the incident.
- Intangible Damages: Not all of your injuries are visible after an accident. You can demand compensation for your pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of Consortium: If your injuries negatively impacted your marriage, you and your spouse can demand compensation.
- Punitive Damages: If you can prove the defendant acted willfully, maliciously, or recklessly, then you can demand punitive damages. These don’t reimburse you for any type of harm. Instead, these damages punish the defendant for their wrongful actions.
Methods of Proving Damages
To win a settlement or jury award, you have to prove your injuries. We’ll use your medical records, photos, your own testimony, and if necessary, expert medical testimony to establish your physical and emotional injuries. We’ll use your medical bills, receipts, and a statement from your employer regarding your lost wages to prove your economic damages.
Establishing your financial damages is relatively easy because the amount is based on tangible figures. But winning compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic harm is harder. There is no perfect amount of money for your injuries. We might use a multiplier to decide how much to ask for pain and suffering. A multiplier is a low, single-digit number we multiply against your economic damages.
What is My Claim Worth?
No two personal injury cases are worth the same amount. The value of your case will depend on the type and severity of your injuries, the amount of medical care you need, whether you can return to work or are disabled, and whether the other person’s actions were worse than careless. It’s always best to talk with an experienced Perry County personal injury attorney about the factors that increase or lower how much your case is worth.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
One of the most common types of personal injury cases is motor vehicle accidents. If you were hurt in a crash, don’t hesitate to contact a New Bloomfield car accident lawyer at Czekaj Law, LLC. Although you’ll deal with your own insurance company to deal with property damage and medical bills, you might have trouble getting the settlement you deserve. You also might need to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver to recover compensation for your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Not all motor vehicle accidents involve personal vehicles. Our truck accident lawyer handles many personal injury claims involving semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles. These cases tend to be complicated. The party liable for the truck wreck might be a business and not the trucker. Commercial vehicles are heavily regulated by Pennsylvania and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You need a lawyer who will thoroughly investigate the truck crash for FMCSA regulatory violations. However, a favorable aspect of truck accident cases is that commercial vehicles carry insurance policies with much higher limits, which makes it easier for you to get a fair settlement.
When a business or person owns property, whether it’s a parking lot, store, home, or apartment complex, they’re responsible for keeping the premises safe for customers and guests. If you were hurt because of a hazard, talk with a premises liability attorney in New Bloomfield about filing a claim for compensation.
When you buy, or someone gives you a product, that product should be safe for you to use or consume as intended. Food from the grocery store or restaurant shouldn’t be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Your children’s clothing shouldn’t be flammable. Your hand soap shouldn’t cause skin irritations. If you or your children are hurt because a product wasn’t as safe as it should be, talk with a product liability lawyer about filing a claim based on negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, or misrepresentation.
Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals have high standards to uphold. When they fail to maintain their professional standards during your care and cause you harm, whether your condition got worse or you suffered a new injury, talk with a medical malpractice lawyer. You can hold negligent medical providers responsible for hurting you.
If you were hurt at work, talk with a lawyer right away. Depending on the circumstances, you might be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. When you’re covered by workers’ comp, you can’t sue your employer. But if you don’t have workers’ comp insurance or someone from outside of your work caused you harm, then you can file a third-party liability claim too.
Bad Faith Insurance Claims
Is your insurance company not treating you fairly? Is it refusing to uphold the policy you’ve been paying for? When you believe your insurance company is doing something wrong, talk with a lawyer right away about bad faith insurance claims in Pennsylvania. If your insurance company broke the law or breached their contract with you, then you’re entitled to damages.
When another person’s negligence causes your loved one’s death, talk with a wrongful death attorney about your options. As a surviving spouse, child, or parent, the law might entitle you to file a lawsuit and demand wrongful death and survival damages.
Common Defenses Used in Personal Injury Cases
A defendant doesn’t want to be liable for your injuries. More importantly, their insurer doesn’t want to have to pay out a settlement. Their insurance company will provide defense lawyers. There are many arguments these lawyers can make to limit the defendant’s liability.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: The defendant might claim you were also negligent. When this comes up, the insurer or court will assign each party a percentage of fault. You can win compensation as long as you were less than half responsible. If you were 51% or more at fault, then the law bars you from getting compensation.
- Assumption of Risk: The defendant might claim you knew the circumstances were risky, and you decided to participate anyway. They’ll claim you assumed the risk, and they shouldn’t be responsible.
- Liability Waiver: The defendant might claim you signed a waiver stating you wouldn’t hold them liable if you got hurt doing a certain activity or while at a particular place.
- Judicial Estoppel: This defense means you can’t take a position that is contrary to a position you took in a previous legal proceeding. The defendant will have to prove you took two irreconcilably inconsistent positions, you changed your position in bad faith, and that the court’s dismissal of the case is the most appropriate remedy.
- Statute of Limitation: In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait too long, and more two years has passed, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss your claim immediately.
Call Czekaj Law, LLC for Help Today
If you were injured in Pennsylvania, and you believe someone else is responsible, call Czekaj Law, LLC today. We represent individuals in Perry, Juniata, Cumberland, Mifflin, Dauphin, Franklin, Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Huntington, and York Counties. You can reach us at (717) 275-9770, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out our online form. We’ll schedule your free initial consultation as soon as possible.