Your husband slipped and fell at the Dayton Art Institute, injuring his wrist and arm. Your mother got food poisoning after getting lunch from one of the vendors at the 2nd Street Market and ended up in the Emergency Room. Your daughter was kicked by a horse at the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm and had to get stitches. Personal injuries happen in all sorts of ways and dealing with them can be upsetting and confusing. To help make some sense of it all, we've compiled some basic information to help you deal with a personal injury case in Dayton.
More than Slips and Falls
Although we commonly think of personal injury actions as involving hot cups of coffee or slip and fall type accidents, the truth is they can arise in a variety of circumstances, including defective products, car/bike/motorcycle collisions, animal bites, nursing home abuse, and more.
Regardless of how an injury happens, the first thing to do is to make sure that any emergency medical needs are taken care of. Assuming that they are, you can start to focus your attention on gathering evidence and information. Specifically, it is a good idea to jot down notes about what happened and how you were injured. Continue to keep notes as your claim progresses so you have a record of how the injury impacted you (for example, keep track of lost time from work, effects on your family, medical visits, etc.). Photographs of the scene can also be useful, as are any police reports that were made regarding an incident. Check out FindLaw's section on First Steps after an Injury for additional details.
After an injury, there's a solid chance you will be dealing with insurance companies (yours, the other party's, or both). In some cases, a matter can be resolved directly with insurers without attorney involvement. That process will typically include an investigation, perhaps a medical evaluation, and a settlement offer by an insurance company (or a denial of your claim).
If you have a complaint about an insurance agent or company, you may contact the Ohio Department of Insurance (PDF).
Bringing Legal Action
You may decide to bring legal action, in which case, you would likely file suit in either the Municipal Court (claims up to $15,000 or Small Claims division for claims up to $3,000), or the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Here's a guide to the Dayton courthouses.
Keep in mind that there are timeframes within which you must file a lawsuit or have it barred forever. These deadlines are called "statutes of limitations" and they vary by state and cause of action. In Dayton and the rest of Ohio, you will typically have 2 years to bring a claim of bodily injury. Note, however, that in general, a medical malpractice action must be brought within 1 year after the cause of action accrued. Be sure to check with an attorney or research the law for the appropriate timeframe for your situation.
In your lawsuit you (the plaintiff) would likely claim that the other party (the defendant) acted negligently. To act negligently is essentially to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the injury.
But what if you acted negligently, as well? In some states, under the theory of contributory negligence, if you are even 1% at fault, you are prohibited from recovery from the other party. Luckily, Ohio follows a comparative negligence approach, which means that so as long as your negligence was not greater than the combined negligence of all other parties, you may still pursue recovery, although it will be reduced in proportion to your fault.
So, for example, if you were seeking $100,000 and you were 30% at fault, you could still pursue the remaining $70,000 (70%) in court.
What Types of Damages Can You Recover?
Typically, in a personal injury case, you will seek damages (economic compensation) for the losses you suffered as a result of the accident. These will vary according to the specifics of your case, but will usually include items like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Note that in Dayton and the rest of the state, there are maximum caps on damages in medical malpractice cases.
Getting Legal Help
You may be considering enlisting the services of a legal professional to help you sort through your personal injury case. If so, check out this FindLaw section on Using A Personal Injury Lawyer which has articles on how an attorney can help and includes forms and questionnaires that can help you prepare.
Contact a qualified attorney.