Your Poughkeepsie Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Your husband slipped and fell on a wet floor at Banana's Comedy Club, hurting his back. Your mother got food poisoning after eating at the Food Court at the Poughkeepsie Galleria and had to be hospitalized. Or maybe your daughter injured her arm when one of the exhibits at the Mid Hudson Children's Museum malfunctioned and she is now in a cast. Or worse yet, maybe you were misdiagnosed at St. Francis Hospital and took unnecessary medication that has caused new symptoms and problems.
Personal injuries can happen in a variety of ways and pursuing legal action while recovering physically can be daunting. To help you navigate, here is some basic information about what you can expect in a personal injury case in Poughkeepsie. Check out FindLaw's section on Accident and Injury Law for a general overview.
The very first thing to do, of course, is to take care of yourself. If you need immediate medical attention, be sure to call 911 and tend to your health. Afterwards, or assuming nothing immediate is needed, you may wish to focus your attention on gathering information and evidence. This can include taking photographs, getting contact information from any witnesses, and jotting down detailed notes regarding the accident itself. Getting all this recorded while memories are fresh and clear will help you later if you decide you want to take legal action. The FindLaw article First Steps After an Injury has additional information on how to preserve such evidence.
Dealing With Insurance
In most situations involving personal injuries, there's a good chance insurers will be involved. In some cases, the matter can be settled to everyone's satisfaction with insurance adjusters. However, if you end up having a problem with an insurer and want to file a complaint, you can do so through the New York Department of Financial Services.
Time Frame For Bringing a Lawsuit
Depending on the extent of your injuries, you might consider filing a lawsuit. While you don't necessarily want to rush into any decisions after an accident, you don't want to delay too long either. There are timeframes within which you must bring suit or be barred forever from doing so. These are called statutes of limitations and vary by state and by cause of action. In Poughkeepsie and the rest of New York you generally have three years to file a personal injury claim.
Note, though, that if you are bringing a medical malpractice action, a different timeframe applies. In those types of cases, you generally have 2 years and 6 months, although there are important exceptions. Make sure to carefully consult the appropriate timelines (or an attorney) so you don't miss your opportunity to file.
Many people find it easier to hire a lawyer to help keep track of all the deadlines and rules, as well as to possibly maximize any potential recovery in the case. In many cases, you can have a free initial consultation and then arrange for payment of legal fees on a "contingency" basis, which essentially means that the lawyer will receive a percentage of any damages you recover. Check out the FindLaw article Using a Personal Injury Lawyer for more information, as well as links to sample forms and agreements.
Most personal injury cases are based on one party claiming that the other was negligent. To act negligently is basically to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident.
Oftentimes, though, both parties are negligent -- what happens then? In a few states, if you were even 1% negligent you are barred from bringing your action against the other party. In Poughkeepsie and the rest of the state, however, under the pure comparative negligence theory, you can still pursue your claim, although your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of your fault.
So, for example, if you were 30% at fault and your damages were $10,000, you would still be able to pursue your claim for $7,000 or 70%.
What Can You Recover?
In most personal injury actions, the party bringing suit (the "plaintiff") requests money from the at-fault party (the "defendant") to compensate for the injuries. This compensation (referred to as "damages") includes specific costs like loss of wages and medical expenses, as well as intangibles like "pain and suffering." Check out this FindLaw article on Economic Recovery for Accidents and Injury for more information on what you can recover for after an injury.