You have seen wrecks along the shoulder of Route 1 before, but you never thought it could happen to you. Now you are burdened with medical bills, an inability to work, plus that splitting headache that won't go away. The world is a dangerous place, and Bridgeport is no different.
Luckily, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits exist to compensate people who are hurt by others, whether intentionally or accidentally. You can start by following a few simple steps to preserve evidence of the injury. However, filing a lawsuit is a daunting proposition, and the Connecticut legal system offers little to guide you. So, to help you navigate these murky waters, we have created a guide to prepare you for what to expect from your Bridgeport personal injury case.
How do I file a lawsuit?
The first step to filing a lawsuit is drafting a complaint. A complaint is a brief explanation of the basis of your lawsuit. It should be brief and plainly worded, but it has to be specific enough to show that you could win the case. Alternatively, you may want to speak with an experience personal injury attorney, who can draft the papers, gather evidence, and negotiate a settlement.
There are two possible courts in which you can file your complaint. If you are asking for $10,000 or less you can file in small claims court with the Bridgeport Justice of the Peace. Small claims court is not mandatory, but you will enjoy a less formal setting. If your claim is worth more than $10,000, you should file at the Fairfield County Superior Courthouse instead. The Bridgeport Municipal Court has no jurisdiction over civil lawsuits.
How long do I have to file?
It is unfair to force a defendant to defend himself from a lawsuit for a very old injury, after memories have faded and evidence has disappeared. The Connecticut statute of limitations prevents anyone from initiating a lawsuit more than two years after sustaining an obvious injury. However, some injuries are not immediately apparent. For example, medical malpractice symptoms could take months to manifest. In those cases, you have two years from the day you discover (or should have discovered) the injury, up to a maximum of three years after the injury was actually suffered.
What type of lawsuit is appropriate?
The tried-and-true route for recovery in many types of personal injury cases is a negligence claim. Negligence is when someone fails to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and this failure causes an injury.
In cases involving death, the surviving family members may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death suit. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivors, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.
A medical malpractice lawsuit addresses injuries caused by inadequate treatment by healthcare professionals. For example, a doctor could misdiagnose an injury, fail to provide appropriate treatment, or unreasonably delay treatment. However, it is important to note that there are a variety of other types of personal injury claims that may apply in different situations.
What if I was injured at my workplace?
The Workers' Compensation Act provides medical treatment and wage replacement benefits to employees who have been injured or became ill at work. Almost all employers in Connecticut are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, which pays benefits to injured employees. Significantly, Connecticut has a "no-fault" system, which means that you will receive benefits even if the injury was completely your own fault.
The first step is to file an Employer's First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness with your employer. You should do this as quickly as possible, as any delay increases the chance that the claim will be disputed. Next, you should file an official written claim with the Workers' Compensation Commission using Form 30C.
How much will I get?
Damages are traditionally divided into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are designed to compensate you for monetary losses, such as:
In personal injury cases the most obvious economic damage will be medical bills, but print out our damages worksheet to make sure nothing is overlooked.
The most common types of non-economic damages in personal injury cases are "pain and suffering" and punitive damages. Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the mental and physical distress you suffer as a result of the injury. Connecticut is one of 15 states that have no upper limit for the amount of pain and suffering damages that may be awarded.
If the defendant's actions were excessively dangerous or if they intended to injure you, you may be eligible to receive punitive damages, which are designed to punish defendants for reprehensible behavior and deter others from engaging in similar acts. Like pain and suffering, Connecticut places no upper limit on punitive damages.
What if I contributed to my own injury?
Historically, if you were partly to blame for the accident you would be barred from receiving any compensation. However, Connecticut has softened this harsh rule by adopting a modified comparative negligence rule for distributing damages in negligence cases. Under Connecticut's comparative negligence law, fault is divided among each party and damages are reduced in proportion to your relative fault. For example, if you racked up $1,000 in medical bills as a result of an injury which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900, from the other party.
Additionally, Connecticut's modified comparative negligence system has a "51% rule," which means you can recover only if you were equal to or less than 50% responsible for your injury. If you were 51% or more at fault for your injury you will not receive any compensation at all.
Personal injury is a complicated field of law, so you may wish to find more reasources at FindLaw's Injury Law Basics section.
Contact a qualified attorney.