What Is the Statute of Limitations, and What Does It Mean to Me?
The statute of limitations sets forth the period of time limitation for bringing certain types of legal actions, meaning the length of time you have to bring your lawsuit to recover monetary damages for your case.
In Pennsylvania, Personal Injury Law, the Statute of Limitations in civil cases, for example, personal injury cases, is two (2) years. This means that personal injury victims have two (2) years from the date of their injury to file a civil lawsuit for their injuries.
How Do I Know if I Really Have a Personal Injury Case?
If you have been injured in an accident, the question of whether or not you have a personal injury case boils down to two related sub-questions: 1) who is at fault for your accident? and 2) how badly have you been hurt?
The first sub-question, i.e. who is at fault for your accident, is the question of liability. Another way to think about this is to determine who was the negligent party that caused the accident. If the accident was not your fault or was more the fault of the other person involved than your fault, then you probably have a case.
The second sub-question, i.e. how badly have you been hurt, as a result, is the question of damages. Your damages often determine the size of your case, meaning if you have not been hurt badly then your case is not worth as much as if you have suffered significant injuries.
Do I Really Need an Attorney to Handle My Personal Injury Case?
In a word, yes - I am a firm believer in the fact that accident victims need an attorney to handle their personal injury case. Getting compensated for your injuries in cases like this is not as simple as calling the insurance company of the other guy, i.e. the at-fault party, and having them mail you a check. Instead, personal injury cases involve legally significant questions related to liability and damages. These cases require the gathering and timely and appropriate use of evidence to demonstrate: who is at fault; what the victim's injuries are; and, what the victim's damages are. There are numerous procedural issues that are involved along with substantive legal and evidentiary issues that arise. Issues involving insurance coverage can also arise, and personal injury attorneys can help to make sure that their clients are getting paid by any and all available insurance policies depending on the circumstances of each case. Lawyers who practice personal injury law can guide their clients through this process from start to finish and can help to maximize their client's financial recovery to assure fair and complete compensation.
What Is a Contingent Fee? (Or, Do I Have to Pay a Lawyer in Advance for My Personal Injury Case?)
A contingent fee is a form of payment to a lawyer for legal services in which the lawyer is paid a percentage of the monetary amount received by the lawyer's client if and when the client settles or wins their case. In such an arrangement, the client does not owe the lawyer any fees if the client does not settle or win their case.
A variation on this is a contingent fee/contingent cost agreement. In a contingent fee/contingent cost agreement, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the monetary amount received by the lawyer's client AND the lawyer is also reimbursed the costs expended on the client's case if and when the client settles or wins their case. In such an arrangement, the client does not owe the lawyer any fees OR costs if the client does not settle or win their case.
Everybody Uses the Term Negligence. What Is It, Really?
Negligence is best defined by its elements. The elements of negligence are duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Duty is an obligation to follow a standard of conduct recognized by the law, (e.g. the defendant must stop his car before he hits the woman's car in front of him that is stopped at the stop sign).
Breach of that duty involves a failure to follow the standard recognized by the law, (e.g. the defendant did not stop his car before he ran into the woman in front of him that was stopped at the stop sign).
Causation means that there is a causal connection between the failure to follow the standard recognized by the law and the injuries suffered by the victim, (e.g. because the defendant did not stop before running into the woman in front of him that was stopped at the stop sign, the woman who was stopped at the stop hit her head on her steering wheel and got a concussion).
Damages mean the victim suffered injuries (e.g. her concussion from hitting her head on the steering wheel), and actual losses (e.g. medical bills because she needed medical treatment for her concussion, lost wages because her concussion kept her from going to work for a period of time, and property damage because the back end of her vehicle was smashed in) or other damages (e.g. for her pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.) as a result of the accident.
Do I Need an Expert Witness for My Case?
The short answer is that if the trier of fact (i.e. an arbitration panel, a Jury, or a Judge deciding a case without a Jury) that is responsible for deciding a case is unfamiliar with the subject matter of the case sufficient enough to decide the case, then an expert witness is necessary to provide the information necessary for the trier of fact to be able to make their decision.
The slightly longer answer relies on the Rules of Evidence. An expert witness must have the knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine the fact in issue. So again, if the fact in the issue cannot be understood or determined by the trier of fact, then an expert witness is required to help the trier of fact to reach its conclusion. There are examples where expert witnesses can be required. Some motor vehicle accidents are not as clear as others, and an accident reconstruction expert is required. Some slip and fall cases require an expert witness to demonstrate how the particular surface that the victim fell on was defective. Most (if not all) personal injury cases require an expert medical witness to detail the victim's injuries and show that those injuries were caused by the accident in question. And, all medical malpractice cases will require an expert witness to render an opinion that the defendant deviated from the standard of care and that the deviation caused the victim's injuries and damages.