Month: December 2016

Drunk Driving: When a Bar or Restaurant Becomes Liable

All states have initiated some sort of liability laws that may be applied when customers of establishments that serve alcohol are involved in accidents resulting in injuries or cause injury directly to another individual. Known as “dram shop” laws, they extend liability for the injuries to the restaurant or bar in certain instances when case facts allow the establishment to be included as a co-defendant. Very often, illegal activity is a component of the claim, whether it is over-intoxication of the customer causing the injury, or the bar serving alcohol to a patron who is already intoxicated or under the legal age limit to consume alcohol. This can be a very important part of a personal injury lawsuit, because restaurants and bars often have considerably more liability insurance coverage than the typical patron. Your personal injury attorney can use this third-party relationship to greatly enhance the value of your injury claim. However, there are very specific legal rules that apply when a restaurant or bar is also being pursued for damages.

Conditions Establishing Restaurant or Bar Liability

Liability in a lawsuit always revolves around potential negligence by any respondent party. However, for restaurants and bars to be liable for injuries caused by their customers, some level of recklessness is required as evidence that proves such behavior. It is the responsibility of the personal injury legal counselor for the injured party to prove that the establishment acted recklessly, resulting in the indirect causation of the injury. One condition is when the establishment continues to serve alcohol to a patron who is obviously already drunk. The business must also show a significant disregard for the potential actions of the customer, such as knowledge that they will drive away from the business intoxicated. Mere assumption that a patron may drive drunk is not enough recklessness, which narrows the application of most dram shop liability laws. In addition, when the bar serves a customer who is known to be underage, they may also be held liable for first party injuries, as this is actually illegal behavior. In some states, only a minor may file suit against an establishment when they serve them alcohol and are subsequently injured.

Potential Damages

Compensatory damages are normally the initial damages that are pursued in dram shop cases, which include medical bills associated with the injury, lost wages as a result of the injury, and non-economic pain and suffering stemming from the accident. When an auto accident is involved and caused by an intoxicated patron who drove away drunk, both parties may be sued to the extent of the law. This includes taking the case to a full jury trial in hopes of winning a punitive damage award against all negligent respondent parties. Punitive damages are limited in some states, and judges have the authority to reduce damage awards from juries, but many times, whatever the jury finds is exactly what results from the trial. This can enhance the value of personal injury claim exponentially, as many restaurants and bars are owned by multi-million dollar corporations.

It is important to understand that dram shop lawsuits are commonly defended vigorously, especially by large establishments that can afford a strong defense team. It may be vital to have an experienced car accident attorney Des Moines IA trusts who understands how to successfully build a case for potential damages. These cases can be won, but they can also be very difficult and frustrating. The attorney you choose can matter greatly.

JMThanks to our friends and contributors from Johnston Martineau, PLLP for their insight into personal injury practice.

The hazy target of lost earning capacity

A personal injury lawyer Little Rock, AR trusts will tell you that determining lost earning capacity as part of damages in a personal injury case is a difficult yet necessary task.  Steve Harrelson of the Harrelson law firm states that it’s necessary to determine the anticipated loss of future income through the assistance of a physician and vocational expert.

“One of the most important things to do when developing your case for economic damages,” says Harrelson,” is to make sure that you properly calculate for the loss of future income and show the jury hard numbers of how the injury has affected your life.”  Doing so will require some knowledge of salary actions, employer paid benefits for lost earnings, inflation, consideration of future raises, potential diminished earnings, and loss of household services.

Diminished Earnings

The most important number to obtain from your experts is the percentage of anticipated diminished earnings.  Whether that figure is 10%, 20%, or 50%, it gives you a baseline from which to begin determining lost income.  From that point, subtract your age from your expected retirement age of 65 to determine the number of years of work anticipated.  Normally, you would then simply multiply the number of years by the amount of lost revenue each year (an example might by 19 years x 20% of $50,000).

However, this value does not account for inflation and the requirement for the final, future value to be a present value.  It will require some forensic economics to adjust that calculation, along with an explanation for the jury.  At that point, it is essential in a claim for lost earning capacity to add all other factors to your claim: (1) anticipated raises over the course of your career, (2) the amount of any lost benefits, (3) shortened life and shortened work life, (4) diminished earning capacity due to the injury, and (5) non-work related activities such as loss of household services.

Conducting a full investigation like this is the only way to maximize your compensation.  As a personal injury lawyer might attest, compiling a full report regarding lost earning capacity to submit to the insurance adjuster (or potentially a jury) is important in order to be fully compensated for the injuries you sustained.  Simply taking your medical bills and lost wages and asking for the jury for “pain and suffering” will not be sufficient to compensate you for your losses.  Pain and suffering is a financial consideration, but it is subjective in nature and can be difficult to justify and defend.  That’s why it’s important to perform a complete review of your actual losses and anticipated losses in order to be fully compensated.

For these reasons, it is always best to contact a lawyer to help you through a situation like this to (1) help you through the process while you’re recovering and (2) to maximize your benefits to ensure all of your injuries are appropriately compensated.

Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into the calculation of lost earning capacity in personal injury cases.

Delayed medical treatment: does it hurt my case?

Steve Harrelson, a car accident lawyer Little Rock AR trusts, has lots of experience with victims of negligence coming in and relaying the following scenario: “I was involved in a car accident, and I did not immediately seek medical treatment.  Now, three days later, I cannot move and haven’t been able to get out of bed for two days.”  The next question inevitably asks whether failure to seek medical treatment will hurt their claim for bodily injury.

Here’s the unfortunate answer: Yes, it will.  We live in an age where most claims representatives and many jurors already perceive Plaintiffs with an eye of caution, wondering how hurt they really are, if they are even hurt at all.  The insurance companies have won the 10-second soundbite battle, and many times, Plaintiffs are associated with wanting something for nothing (or wanting to hit the lottery).  So naturally, yes, if a claims representative finds out that you were involved in a car accident and didn’t seek medical treatment until days or weeks later, they very well may naturally assume that someone – a friend, family member, lawyer, etc. – told you to go frivolously run up a bunch of medical bills to try and make some money.  Many times, clients have finally gone to the hospital after a week only to learn that they do indeed have a broken bone.

Seeking Medical Treatment

The lawyers at the Harrelson Law Firm understand that many times, people don’t go to the emergency room for a variety of rational reasons: (1) people get shots of adrenaline during car accidents and don’t realize the pain they are in until they get home, (2) people do not like to seek medical treatment because of coverage or financial problems, (3) people are inherently too busy and try to maintain burdensome schedules even if they are in a car accident, and (4) sometimes, the pain from a whiplash or similar injury simply does not set in immediately.  All of these are valid reasons to avoid medical treatment, and all are backed up with decades of medical support.

As a car accident lawyer Little Rock AR respects might attest, seeking medical treatment after avoiding doing so will require some explanation for the reasons.  Generally, regardless of the explanation, it may give an insurance adjuster the reason to deny a claim to an unrepresented client (the same applies to extended gaps in treatment).  This will require taking the case to the next step and filing a lawsuit against the negligent driver, but an experienced lawyer will still be necessary in order to explain the reasons for delayed treatment to a jury and to navigate the legal dispositive motions that are sure to be filed by the defense.  

For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in investigating car crashes for years.  

Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into claims negotiations in motor vehicle accidents.

8 Common Causes of Car Accidents

A car accident can leave everyone involved with both physical and emotional scars that may take a long time to heal. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of getting in an accident, understanding some of the more common causes of accidents may help you stay safe.
Speeding/Aggressive Driving
Those who drive faster than the posted speed limit are generally at a higher risk for getting into an accident. This is because stopping time is increased while reaction time is decreased. Driving too fast may also increase a driver’s risk for a rollover accident.
Driving While Distracted
Drivers who are distracted by their phones, other occupants, or who simply take their mind off the task at hand are at an increased risk of an accident. Drivers are urged to constantly scan the road ahead of them and look in their rear mirrors every few seconds to stay alert to others around them.
Reduced/Low Visibility
Rainy or snowy conditions can make it harder to see because you can’t use your high beams. Driving at night may be more dangerous because visibility is reduced even when using headlights. Lack of visibility can also hinder your depth perception, which may make it harder to judge when or if you need to slow down or stop.
Slick/Compromised Roadways
Wet roads increase your accident risk because a car’s tires cannot make good contact with the road. When moisture freezes, it is almost impossible for a tire to grip the road, which may cause the vehicle to spin out.
Tire Blowout/Flat Tire
A popped or blown out tire could cause a vehicle to skid suddenly into other lanes of traffic. It could also cause the car to come to a sudden stop, which may increase the odds of a rear end collision.
Drunk driving generally impairs a driver’s reflexes and ability to perceive hazards, which may make it harder to avoid other cars or pedestrians in his or her path. An impaired driver may also swerve into other lanes or drive faster than advised for current road conditions.
Unexpected Obstacles or Hazards
Common unexpected hazards include animals, pedestrians, or debris crossing or blocking the roadway. Even if a driver is able to avoid the hazard itself, the act of swerving or immediate breaking my cause an accident.
Hazardous Roadways
Back roads or even main thoroughfares can curve or bend unexpectedly. If a driver can’t anticipate this curve or bend, he or she may not be able to slow down in time, which may result in a rollover crash or a collision with another object or vehicle.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact a Coeur d’Alene car accident lawyer today to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at Bendell Law Firm for their insight into common car accident causes.