Your Cincinnati Personal Injury Case: The Basics
There's a lot to love about the Queen City - the Reds, Monterey's BBQ ribs, Servati's soft pretzels, La Rosa's pizza, and Graeter's ice cream. But sometimes things go wrong, as they always do, and when they do and someone gets hurt, one of the first questions people ask is, "who is responsible?" The answer (and the law) is not always clear, so FindLaw has put together this information about personal injury cases in Cincinnati.
There is No One Type of Personal Injury Case
Many people don't realize how many different issues are considered personal injury cases. In general, court cases fall into one of just a few kinds: criminal cases, which are acts against the public; contract disputes, which concern sale of goods and services; family cases; real estate disputes; probate and wills; and finally, everything else falls under the heading of personal injury. Personal injury cases include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and falls;
- Product liability, including unsafe food, and defective household products and automobiles;
- Medical malpractice;
- Dog bites and animal attacks;
- Disputes stemming from a physical altercation, like assault and battery;
- Cases where there is no physical injury, like defamation; and
- Some workplace accidents.
The laws for determining fault can vary from category to category so many lawyers choose to specialize in only a few kinds of personal injury law. However, all of the above categories are ultimately resolved through the civil litigation system. Here's how it works in Cincinnatti.
First Steps after an Accident
No matter where you are, the first steps after an injury that might lead to a lawsuit are the same: 1) seek medical attention if necessary; 2) file a claim with the applicable insurance company; and 3) document, document, document.
Seeking medical attention should be an obvious first step. Your health and safety are more important than your legal claim and you do not want to make an injury worse by waiting too long to see a doctor. In addition, those medical records will be the best way to prove you had an injury should you decide to sue the person who hurt you.
Many accidents and injuries are covered by at least one type of insurance. Auto insurance may cover damage to your vehicle and some medical expenses, and if you're the defendant in a lawsuit, may even pay for your legal defense. However, many insurance companies have deadlines on filing a claim, so be sure to file quickly so you don't miss your chance.
Finally, try to record what happened as thoroughly as you can. Take pictures of your injuries, the place where the accident happened, and anything else that seems relevant. Many people find it helpful to write down their perception of what happened as soon as possible after the incident while the memories are fresh. Get the name and contact information of anyone involved in or witness to the accident. Obtain and save copies of any medical records, bills, receipts, police reports, or correspondence related to the accident. Keep a phone journal and write down the date, time, and substance of each phone call as it happens.
If you think you might sue someone because of an accident or injury, try to find a lawyer as soon as possible. There are time limits on when you can bring a suit, and you do not want to miss your opportunity. If you are suing someone else, you are known as the "plaintiff." Be sure to look for plaintiffs' attorneys who specialize in the type of accident that caused your injury in the Cincinnatti area. These kinds of lawyers handle many cases like yours and are familiar specifics of local law, which will allow them to spend less time and money on your case without compromising quality. Many plaintiffs' attorneys operate on contingency fees, which mean that they will get a percentage of whatever settlement or award you receive.
If you are suing about a product liability issue, your lawyer may also be able to connect you with other people in other jurisdictions with the same issue. If there are enough plaintiffs, one of the lawyers will help you join a class action lawsuit.
If you are being sued, you are known in the legal world as the "defendant." Depending on the type of accident, an insurance company may provide a lawyer for you. Auto insurance will cover auto accidents, homeowners' insurance covers injuries to your guests, and a business's general liability insurance may cover some on the job accidents. If an insurance company won't cover the cost of an attorney, you will most likely pay a defense attorney an hourly fee.
Early Stages of a Case: Discovery and Settlement Negotiations
Most of a personal injury case takes place before anyone sets foot in a courtroom. First, both the plaintiff and the defendant will gather information about what happened through a process called "discovery." This will involve a thorough review of all of the documentation, including police reports, bills, and witness statements.
Once your attorney has enough information, she will start to offer settlement deals to the defendant and the insurance company. Meanwhile, she should also be keeping an eye on those deadlines, and may begin to file the complaint and other pleadings or pretrial motions to ensure that you don't lose your chance to be in court.
If no settlement can be reached, the case will go to trial. Civil cases are heard in the Hamilton Court of Common Pleas. Trials can last a little as a day or as long as a week. You and your lawyer can decide whether to have a judge or a jury decide your case - there are number of factors to consider, including time, expense, and how you think the parties will perform in front of a jury.
If the judge or jury rules for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will get a monetary award. However, this does not mean all the money goes straight to the plaintiff. First, the lawyer will take her share. Then, the plaintiff's health, auto, and homeowners' insurance will try to take some of the award as compensation on the claims they have already paid out.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.