A Personal History of Negligence – Is It Relevant?

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We all know individuals who are chronically clumsy or careless. These generally are not bad people; rather, they simply seem to routinely forget to take the precautions and protections necessary to keep themselves and those around them safe. While this can cause these individuals to develop a negative social reputation – individuals know to be on their guard whenever they are around such people – can this reputation be used in a personal injury lawsuit to help an injury victim prevail?

How Prior History Could Be Helpful to a Personal Injury Plaintiff

Plaintiffs who are injured by individuals known to be clumsy or negligent may wish to have this information presented to a judge or jury to help bolster their claim. The plaintiff could argue, for example, that because the defendant has a history of engaging in careless conduct that injures others, it is more likely than not true that the person engaged in careless behavior in the present case. In other words, the plaintiff could argue that while any defendant is capable of engaging in negligent conduct, a defendant with a reputation for clumsiness is more likely than others to have been careless in a personal injury incident.

The California Rules of Evidence and Evidence of Carelessness

Knowing the persuasive power of such evidence, the California Rules of Evidence prohibit a plaintiff from introducing evidence of a defendant’s character or reputation or of specific incidents of negligent behavior for the express purpose of creating an inference that the defendant is more likely to have committed a negligent act in the present case. To illustrate, the Rules of Evidence in California would not permit a plaintiff to introduce the fact that the defendant has been found at-fault in five previous car accidents to suggest to the judge or jury that the defendant is at fault in the present case.

There are exceptions to this general prohibition, however. First, evidence of prior acts or reputation can be admitted as evidence of the defendant’s motive or the lack of mistake. Also (and more significant), evidence of prior acts or reputation is admissible when used to rebut the defendant’s characterization of his or her habits or reputation. If the defendant in a car accident case testifies that he has a spotless driving record and is a careful driver, the plaintiff could then introduce evidence of prior car accidents in which the defendant has been involved to rebut the defendant’s testimony.  

Contact Case Barnett Law for Help with Your California Car Wreck Lawsuit

The experienced Orange County car accident lawyers at Case Barnett Law are thoroughly familiar with the rules of evidence applicable in California personal injury lawsuits. We know how to help you build a convincing case for compensation, and we will devote our firm’s resources to collecting the evidence you will need to prevail in your case. Call Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to the firm online for help today.

Is It a Good Idea to Speak with Witnesses Following My Car Wreck?

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Even though car crashes are (arguably) a common occurrence in Orange County, a car wreck can still draw a considerable amount of attention from onlookers and bystanders. Some of these individuals will leave the scene of the crash before you or anyone else can speak with them, but others will remain around and be eager to talk with you, the other driver(s) or passenger(s) involved, and law enforcement officers who respond to the scene.

Choosing whether to engage these witnesses in conversation following your wreck is a decision that can have both positive and negative consequences.

Positive Results in Speaking with Witnesses at the Scene of a Crash

One of the greatest benefits to speaking with witnesses who remain around the scene of your crash is that you may be able to identify those witnesses who can provide an objective and unbiased account of what led to the crash and who may have been at fault. Being able to identify these individuals and securing their presence at any future trial can often determine whether your case for compensation will succeed or fail.

Even if a witness did not see the crash occur, he or she may still have observed other behaviors or overheard important conversations that can impact the outcome of your case. For example, a witness may have overheard the other driver involved in the crash say in a telephone conversation that he or she “screwed up” or observed the driver furtively attempt to hide his or her cellular phone. In either case, such information may suggest the driver was at fault in causing the crash (at least partially).

Potential Disadvantages to Speaking with Witnesses

Conversely, you may accidentally disclose damaging information to witnesses at the scene of your crash if you are not careful. A witness may ask if you require medical attention, for example: saying that you do not need an ambulance or that you are uninjured may impact your ability to recover compensation for medical bills if it becomes necessary later to obtain such treatment. In such an event, the other driver whom you allege is responsible for your injuries may call the witness with whom you spoke at the scene of the crash and that witness may recount the conversation he or she had with you for the judge or jury.

Be Sure to Speak with an Orange County Car Crash Lawyer as Soon as Possible

Whether you speak with any witnesses at the scene of the crash or not, be certain to speak with your experienced California car crash lawyers at Case Barnett Law as soon as possible. By retaining our services quickly, we can take action to identify witnesses to your crash (both helpful and those who can jeopardize your claim for compensation) and build as strong of a case as possible. Call us at (949) 861-2990, or contact us online for help today.

Am I Responsible for Another Driver’s Crash if He or She Used My Car?

One of the central tenets of American society is individualism – the belief that one is responsible for one’s own decisions and actions. Thus, when someone gets into a car wreck, it is only natural to assume that the driver who is responsible for causing the wreck should bear the burden of paying for any harm or damages he or she caused. In most cases, this is what happens: the driver whose careless or reckless behavior is primarily responsible for causing the wreck will be obligated to pay compensation to the other injured motorists (either through is or her insurance or out of his or her own pocket and resources).

Despite this, there may be several situations in which the owner of a car may be held partly to account for the damage done by another driver who uses the owner’s car.

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Situations Where the Owner – and the Driver – Can Both be Held Responsible

Where a car owner acts in a careless or reckless manner, he or she may be able to be held responsible for a driver or passenger’s injuries and losses. This can include situations like:

  •      Failing to hide the keys from unauthorized drivers: If the car owner knows or ought to know that an unauthorized person – an elderly parent or young child – is taking the car out for joyrides, the car owner may need to take certain measures to help prevent the person or child from obtaining the car’s keys and control of the car.
  •      Failing to stop an intoxicated driver: Similarly, a car owner who knows or should know that an individual is intoxicated may be held partly responsible for the injuries the intoxicated driver causes if the owner knowingly allows the driver to take the car. This liability may also exist if the car owner is the one who serves alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated driver.
  •      Failing to keep the car in good operating condition: Finally, a car owner may be held partly responsible for the injuries resulting from a crash if the crash is due to the car’s condition (such as underinflated or worn tires or defective brakes) and the dangerous condition of the car was known – or should have been known – to the car owner.

What Does This Mean for Car Crash Victims in California?

California car crash victims ought to take steps to learn the identity of the owner of the car that is primarily responsible in the car crash, especially if the facts and circumstances of the crash suggest that the car’s owner (if different from the driver) somehow contributed to the crash. This is the best method for an injury victim to pursue full and fair compensation and hold all responsible parties accountable for their negligence and recklessness when such behavior leads to injuries and losses.

Case Barnett Law is an experienced and dedicated California personal injury law firm. Contact them at (949) 861-2990 or online through their website if you or a loved one have been injured in a car wreck.

No Cell Phones While Driving in California

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In response to the dangers of distracted driving, several states have banned drivers from using cellphones or smartphones to read or send text messages or e-mails while driving. This year, California goes one step further than the rest of the nation: a statewide ban on using a cellphone or smartphone for any purpose while driving – whether to watch online videos, talk to a friend or loved one, or look at a map. This new law (California Vehicle Code 23123.5) requires drivers to put down the cellphone while driving and not use it for any reason unless they are able to do so without touching the phone.

Eliminating Distracted Driving Through Legislation

When one describes “distracted driving,” references are made to activities that take the driver’s eyes and/or attention off of the road. However, distracted driving can also include actions that prevent the driver from using his or her body to safely control the car – such as holding a cellphone with one hand while attempting to drive the cellphone with the other hand. For this reason, the new ban in California prevents any use of a cellphone that requires the driver to physically hold the cellphone. The driver may use a cellphone that is securely mounted to the dash of the car and are able to be used hands-free. Fines begin at $20 for a first offense and then increase for subsequent violations.

Distracted Driving Requires Aggressive Action

Despite educational efforts and public awareness campaigns designed to shed light on the dangers of distracting driving, many Californians and other Americans continue to use cellphones without regard for the danger they present themselves and to others on the roadway. According to DistractedDrivingAccidents.com:

  •      About 25 percent of all traffic crashes in the United States involve a driver using a cellphone at the time of the crash;
  •      Seventy-eight percent of all distracted-driving crashes result in at least one person involved suffering severe injuries;
  •      Seventy-seven percent of adults and 55 percent of teenagers claim that they can safely text while driving (but it was also determined that teens veer out of their lane of travel for approximately ten percent of their total drive time when they text and drive);
  •      Ten percent of adults and 20 percent of teenage drivers have had actual text conversations (involving multiple text messages sent and received) while driving. One quarter of all teenage drivers will respond to at least one text every single time they drive.

Legal Dangers of Texting While Driving

Aside from the physical danger a distracted driver presents to him- or herself and others, violating California’s new law can also lead to you being held civilly liable for the injuries, losses, and related expenses suffered by an individual with whom you collide.

For those who have been injured by a distracted driver, your Orange County car crash lawyers at Case Barnett Law stand ready to assist you in seeking compensation for your injuries. Call our office at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us through our website, and we will get to work helping you obtain the monetary damages you need for your distracted driving accident-related injuries.

California Court of Appeals Affirms “Going and Coming Rule”

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 6.57.05 PM.pngThe California Court of Appeals recently affirmed the longstanding “going and coming rule” in announcing that an employer was not responsible for the injuries suffered by employees who were injured in a wreck while carpooling to a jobsite. In Pierson v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co., the plaintiff Pierson was struck by a vehicle being driven by an employee of Helmerich & Payne (H&P). The employee was also transporting two coworkers from their worksite to a nearby hotel. The hotel was being paid for by H&P, and though a supervisor had requested the employees carpool, H&P made it clear that each individual employee was responsible for securing his or her own transportation to and from the jobsite.

Plaintiff Seeks to Join the At-Fault Driver’s Employer

After filing suit against the at-fault driver personally, the plaintiff Pierson moved to join H&P as a defendant, alleging that the at-fault driver was an employee of the H&P at the time the crash occurred and that H&P received an incidental benefit from having the employees carpool together back to the hotel. (Naming the at-fault party’s employer as a defendant in a personal injury case is a common strategy, as the employer is likely to have the resources a personal injury plaintiff needs in order to fully recover his or her losses.)

Generally speaking, an employer is responsible for the tortious conduct of its employees when the employees are engaged in their work duties or engaged in some activity that provides an incidental benefit to the employer (such as an employer who allows an employee to take a company vehicle home where the employee has a sales call to go to while on the way home). Noting, however, the well-established “going and coming rule” – which holds that an employer is not responsible for an employee’s action when that employee is going to work or coming from work – the court sustained a motion to dismiss Pierson’s claim against H&P.

What This Means for California Personal Injury Victims

This decision means that California courts are likely to remain true to established legal principles concerning employers’ liability for the acts of their employees: that is, unless the employee is engaged in his or her job duties when the personal injury accident occurs, the employer will not be held responsible for the employee’s actions.

It is important to have the facts of your personal injury case carefully evaluated by the California personal injury law firm of Case Barnett Law. Determining whether a person’s employer can also be held responsible for your injuries and losses is a fact-intensive inquiry, and Case Barnett Law has the knowledge and resources to carry this important investigative task efficiently so you have the greatest chance of recovering full and fair compensation. Contact Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or contact us online, if you or a loved one have been injured by the careless acts of another.

NHTSA Moves to Prevent Distracted Driving

It is no secret that distracted driving is on the rise, along with the numbers of injuries and deaths attributable to distracted driving. According to the  (NHTSA), approximately ten percent of all traffic fatalities are due to distracted driving. While distracted driving occurs any time the driver’s attention and/or eyes are diverted from the act of driving, texting and driving (or using one’s cell phone while driving) is the most common type of distracted driving. To combat this, NHTSA has just promulgated a new voluntary guideline applicable to smartphone and auto manufacturers.

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What the Voluntary Guidelines Attempt to Accomplish

According to the guidelines promulgated by NHTSA, smartphone manufacturers and automakers are to develop technology that is able to “sense” when a smartphone user is driving a vehicle and automatically disable many of the smartphone’s functions, including the ability to send and receive text messages and browse the internet. Although some auto manufacturers have already created technology that allows cellphone users to use a touchscreen inside the car to access many of a phone’s features, the technology contemplated by the guideline does not yet exist.

Voluntary Guidelines Do Not Absolve Drivers of Responsibility

Even when enacted, the voluntary guidelines are voluntary. This means that there are no legal ramifications for automakers or smartphone manufacturers who choose not to develop and/or implement the technology contemplated by the guidelines. This means that drivers who choose to text and drive – and who cause an accident as a result – cannot bring a claim for compensation against the automaker or smartphone manufacturer for failing to follow NHTSA’s recommendation.

The NHTSA guideline is also unlikely to have any mitigating effect on a car accident defendant’s culpability. In other words, suppose a defendant-driver in a car crash case is found to be 75 percent responsible for causing a crash because he or she was texting while driving. The defendant’s percentage of fault is not likely to be reduced by any amount if the defendant attempts to argue that the car manufacturer or smartphone maker failed to comply with NHTSA’s regulation.

What if New Technology Malfunctions and Causes a Car Crash?

If the technology that is the subject of NHTSA’s voluntary guideline is developed, and this technology malfunctions, however, the entity responsible for developing and/or integrating the technology may be held responsible if the malfunction causes a crash (i.e., by causing the phone to startle the driver). In such a case, it would be the defendant-driver’s responsibility to prove the manufacturer acted with negligence and that such negligence contributed to the crash. The judge or jury would then be responsible for determining the role the manufacturer’s negligence played in causing the crash.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact the Costa Mesa car crash law firm of Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990. You or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, and our experienced legal team can assist you in obtaining the monetary damages you need to recover from your accident.

Common Injury Accidents that Lead to Traumatic Brain Injuries

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 10.20.51 AM.pngIn the personal injury world, few injuries that a person can suffer are as life-changing and debilitating as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). While victims who suffer a mild TBI may be fortunate enough to make a full recovery, moderate or severe TBI victims are often left with some impairment or loss of functioning that remains long after the victim leaves the hospital. It is not unheard of for some young individuals who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries to recover millions of dollars in compensation through a personal injury lawsuit because of the past and future medical expenses, lost wages and earning potential, and pain and suffering such an injury can cause.

Top Injury Accidents Resulting in Traumatic Brain Injuries

Thankfully, traumatic brain injuries that result in some temporary or permanent loss of functioning and/or disability are not extremely common. Nonetheless, some injury accidents have a greater likelihood of resulting in a traumatic brain injury than others. These accident types include:

  •      Slips and falls: A slippery floor or a defective staircase can catch a person by surprise, sending them tumbling to the ground. In a slip and fall case, the victim may not have the time and/or coordination to brace him- or herself or take measures to protect his or her head. In a slip and fall, the victim may strike his or her head with a considerable amount of force, thereby resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
  •      Car accidents: The forces involved in any motor vehicle accident are sufficient to cause the head of a person to quickly go in one direction and then the other (this is not abated by the victim’s use of a seatbelt). This rapid acceleration and deceleration is sometimes referred to as “whiplash,” and it can result in a traumatic brain injury as the brain is “jostled” inside the skull. The greater the forces present in the crash, the more severe the traumatic brain injury can be.
  •      Pedestrian / bicyclist / motorcyclist accident: A pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist who is struck by a car is at an elevated risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury – especially if the bicyclist or motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet. These accidents can literally send the victim flying, causing the victim to strike his or her head on the ground or another object.

Traumatic brain injuries can also result from falls from heights (even “small” heights like a stepladder) and sports injuries. In both of these cases, wearing appropriate safety equipment and exercising caution can reduce the chance of a traumatic brain injury.

Take Action After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Unless you are absolutely certain you did not suffer anything other than a “bump on the head,” seek out medical care if you suffer a head injury. This is especially important if you lose consciousness for any length of time and/or experience amnesia. Then, call the Costa Mesa brain injury law firm of Case Barnett Law to review your legal rights and options. If your TBI was brought about because of another person’s careless or reckless actions, you may be entitled to compensation. You can reach Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or you can contact the firm online.

Driving Drugged: When Legal Prescriptions Cause Legal Headaches

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A recent USA Today report quoted the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as stating there has been a steady uptick in the number of traffic fatalities – including those in which one or more of the drivers involved tested positive for having marijuana or other illicit drugs in their blood at the time of the crash. As disturbing as this trend is, one does not have to use an illegal substance to be guilty of “driving while drugged.” Even over-the-counter and prescription medications can lead to traffic crashes that maim or kill other motorists. When this occurs, victims and surviving family members must be prepared to uncover the identity of the drug consumed by the at-fault motorist and prove that even those drugs meant to help can cause harm if taken before driving.

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What To Do After a Suspected Drugged Driving Case

Drugged drivers often exhibit the same or similar symptoms as a driver who is under the influence of alcohol: drowsy, difficulty in maintaining balance and coordination, impaired judgment, and slow reflexes. They may swerve within their lane of travel, cross over multiple lanes, leave the road, or drive erratically when they are behind the wheel. The difference between an alcohol-impaired driver and a drug-impaired driver will be the absence of the odor of alcohol.

One of the best pieces of evidence that can be used to establish liability for a car accident when it is suspected that the driver used drugs prior to getting behind the wheel is the results of any blood tests performed by the hospital or law enforcement on the suspected drugged driver. These results are easily lost if it is not promptly and appropriately requested that they be saved and preserved. Your California car accident lawyer knows how to take this simple yet vital step.

Few Defenses in Drugged Driving Cases

Some drivers believe that because they were taking a “legal” over-the-counter or prescription medication that they are not liable for any car crash that occurred as the result of their use of the drug. This is patently false – even simply Tylenol or other over-the-counter drugs (not to mention prescription drugs) can result in liability for a car crash if the medication impaired the at-fault driver and that impairment led to the crash. The judge or jury will need to take into account any argument by the at-fault driver that he or she did not know how the medication would have impacted his or her ability to drive when determining the damages attributable to the at-fault driver.

Case Barnett Law, your Costa Mesa personal injury law firm, is available and able to provide professional, dedicated, and compassionate representation to victims who have been injured in a crash caused by a drugged driver. We aggressively build the best possible case for our clients from the moment we are retained so that our clients have the best opportunity of recovering full and fair compensation as quickly as possible. Call our office today at (940) 861-2990, or contact us online, if you or a loved one was injured in a car crash.

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Catastrophic Damage in Car Accident Cases Can Come from Tiny Culprits

 

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Last month an elderly California man was killed in a car accident. This tragic occurrence would not likely have gained must attention by the news but for the manner in which the accident occurred. The man was traveling northbound on the highway at about the time a state-owned Caltrans water truck was traveling that same highway, going southbound. According to investigators, a metal cap used to seal the opening on the top of the truck’s water tank detached and flew across several lanes of traffic, striking the elderly man in his neck. The cap was described as being about the size of a baseball and about two to three inches in width. The man crashed into the center median before his car came to a stop. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

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When a “Simple” Car Accident is Not So Simple

When one hears of an injury or death resulting from a car crash, one might naturally assume that the cause for the crash is simple and straightforward: One or both drivers drove their cars in a careless fashion and the crash ensued as a result. For investigators and others looking at this case, determining the precise cause of the crash is not so simple. While it can be said that the cause of the crash was the metal cap that became detached and hit the man in his neck, this does not necessarily explain who or what entity was actually at fault. There could be any number of culprits responsible in this crash:

  •      The truck driver, if he or she failed to ensure that the cap was properly secured before driving;
  •      The truck’s maintenance department, if the cap was damaged in some manner and a maintenance worker should have or could have discovered the damage through routine inspection;
  •      The agency or office responsible for maintaining the road, if a defect in the road (such as a large pothole) caused the cap to come loose;
  •      The manufacturer of the cap, if a design or manufacturing defect resulted in the cap not being safe for its intended use.

Answering the questions necessary to determine liability in a case such as this (unfortunately) takes time – the sort of time that surviving family members and/or injury victims do not generally have. The sooner such an investigation is completed and responsible parties identified, however, the sooner the victim(s) can obtain compensation and monetary damages for their losses.

The Case for an Attorney

This is why hiring an experienced car crash attorney is crucial: The attorney’s experience and resources can be used to complete the requisite investigation in a timely manner. Injury victims who attempt to “go it alone” (unfortunately) find out quickly that obtaining adequate compensation for their losses is no easy task.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or collision, contact Case Barnett Law right away for assistance. Our years of experience helping numerous car accident clients means that you can trust our firm to identify and pursue compensation against those responsible for your injuries in a prompt manner. Call our firm at (949) 861-2990 to learn how we can help you or your loved one. You can also contact our firm online for assistance.

What To Do If You Are In A Rainy Day Car Accident

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With four El Niño-fueled storms currently bearing down on California we expect to see more accidents on the road. El Niño 2016 will have a profound affect on the climate as well as on driver’s safety while on the wet roads. While there are many steps you can take to avoid a rainy day car accident, not all accidents will be prevented.

Often time accidents can be minor and handled in small claims court.  However, what should you do if you are injured in a car accident?  Case Barnett Law can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

If you have been in an accident that was not your fault, you may be eligible for damages.

If you were injured in a car accident, you can ask the other drivers insurance to pay you a cash settlement. If that driver was not insured, you may request this settlement against your own under-insured motorist coverage on your own insurance, if you have this coverage.

Insurance companies may put pressure on you to rush the process after you have been in an accident.  They may make you feel that you do not have a case and that you will not be awarded any financial compensation for your accident.  There is no rush but you do need to be aware of your state’s Statute of Limitations.  The Statute of Limitations means that you must file a lawsuit or close or settle your case within your state time limits. The time clock starts on the day of the car accident. In California the statute of limitations is 2 years for injury and 3 years for property damage. To learn more about your State’s insurance rules and regulations visit California State Website for Insurance Questions.

After a car accident NEVER sign any documentation with the insurance companies in exchange for cash, until you have finished your medical treatment. By contacting an attorney at Case Barnett Law you will be protected through this process.

After you sign a release to close this case, no matter how serious your injuries in the future, you cannot go back for more treatment, or compensation, even if you made a mistake.

How To Make Sure You Receive Proper Compensation After A Car Accident

  • File a police report.
  • Seek medical attention quickly.
    • Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident if you are injured.
  • Be aware of any pre-existing injuries that you are claiming became worse as a result of the accident.
    • Ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident and post-accident scans can help show that the accident caused additional damage to the area. This will be crucial in court.
  • Avoid emotional statements that you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident.
    • Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or statements of blame.
  • Take witness testimonies.
  • Take photographs of the accident scene.
  • Gather up any records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident.
  • Be aware of any personal injury limits written into your car insurance policy.
  • Take notes on anything you can remember about the accident as soon as you are physically able.
  • Document your injuries.
    • Take photographs and get medical attention to provide evidence of the seriousness of your injuries.
  • Contact witnesses.
    • If you collected witness contact information at the time of the accident, contact them as soon as possible to get their observations down on paper.
  • Return to the scene of the accident to search for and take pictures of evidence.
    • You may notice something, such as a dirty traffic sign, that led you to make a driving mistake and get into a car accident.

Damages In Car Accident Personal Injury Cases

Damages refer to the cost of your injuries. These can be a direct financial cost or an emotional and indirect cost.

  • Direct damages.
    • Cost of medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Loss of earning capacity.
    • Property loss.
  • Indirect damages. 
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Emotional distress.
    • Inability to have children as a result of accident-related injuries.
    • Loss of an extremity.
    • Loss of consortium, if the accident caused a strain on your relationship.

If the defendant was especially careless when causing the accident, you may also receive punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, and are imposed by the court.

If you have questions about damages or your personal injury case in general, speak to an attorney at Case Barnett Law.