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Personal Injury

Truth about Coffee

By | Articles, In the News, Personal Injury, Tort Reform | No Comments

You may have not heard of the term Tort reform before because it’s not very common, but it’s extremely important. Tort Reform is a war against consumers, it’s as simple as that. The best example of tort reform’s campaign against consumers is what happened in our country when a grandmother from New Mexico was severely burned by a cup of coffee. The coffee was not just “hot,” but dangerously hot. McDonald’s corporate policy was to serve the coffee at a temperature that caused serious burns. Ms. Liebeck was wearing sweatpants that kept the coffee against her skin. She suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts. Liebeck’s case was also not far from an isolated event. McDonald’s had received more than 700 previous reports of injury from its coffee. Including reports of third-degree burns, and had paid settlements in some cases. Moreover, the Shriner’s Burn Institute published warnings to the food industry that its members were causing serious burns by serving beverages above 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stella Liebeck, was 79 years old, sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car with a cup of coffee. After the car stopped, she tried to hold the cup between her knees while removing the lid. However, the cup tipped over, pouring scalding coffee onto her. She received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body, requiring hospitalization for eight days. She also received skin grafting, scarring, and disability for more than two years. The areas which had full thickness injury had to have skin grafts for coverage. Ms. Liebeck brought a suit against McDonalds and was apparently willing to settle for $20,000 but McDonalds made a strategic decision to fight the claim. This turned out to be a bad business decision for McDonalds but a good decision for the rest of the public.

McDonalds kept their coffee temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. They used this temperature based on a consultant’s advice that this was the range needed for the best taste. McDonalds later admitted that they had not studied the dangers associated with these high temperatures. It is also important to note that other fast food restaurants sold their coffee at significantly lower temperatures. Most coffee served by people in their homes is in the 135-140 degree range.

The Plaintiff’s expert testified that liquids at 180 degrees would cause a full-thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Having the temperature of the liquid below 155 degrees causes the likelihood of a burn injury to fall exponentially. Essentially, if the coffee served to Ms. Liebeck was 155 degrees, she would have avoided significant injury when she spilled it.

The case is considered by some to be an example of frivolous litigationABC News called the case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits”.  McDonald’s asserts that the outcome of the case was a fluke but we know better. Mcdonald’s attributed the loss to poor strategy, but we know it was because McDonald’s simply didn’t care about its customers. Detractors also highlighted the fact that Liebeck spilled the coffee on herself rather than any wrongdoing on the company’s part. Liebeck’s opponents argued that the vast majority of judges who consider similar cases dismiss them and this should have been too.  The jury disagreed due to McDonald’s complete misunderstanding of Liebeck’s injuries. The jury ended up awarding $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages. The compensatory damages were reduced by 20 percent for Liebeck’s contribution. Even though the punitive damages award seemed high, it only amounted to about two days’ worth of coffee sales.

One of the main benefits emanating from the trial was revealed when a post-verdict investigation showed that that temperature of the coffee at the local Albuquerque McDonalds had been reduced to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, a level still dangerous but less likely to cause injury if spilled. Perhaps the system worked after all. A products liability case with a high monetary award resulted in a much safer product. The case was not so “frivolous” after all.

Waiving your Right to the Court System

By | Class Action, Personal Injury, Tort Reform | No Comments

Arbitration Agreements

We’ve all seen arbitration agreements and I bet all of us have agreed to arbitration instead of exercising our rights to the court system but the question is why? Why as a society are we willing to give up our right to the court system? Why are we willing to give up the right to have juries/our peers judge our grievances and why are corporations so insistent on these arbitration clauses?

The most recent example of corporations asserting an arbitration clause in a massive way was Pokemon Go. Ever since Pokemon Go’s introduction to the public, people have started wandering around getting hurt, exposing themselves to crime, and finding dead bodies.

The law has had to evolve as society changes, and a host of legal issues have arisen that courts are just beginning to hash out. Look no further than the Match.com murder lawsuit and the Google Maps pedestrian accident case. If a Pokemon Go user is injured, or attacked, or lulled into trespassing, could there be liability? I don’t know. Nobody does. We can speculate generally about the companies liability, but the actual answers have to wait for our judicial system to catch up.

Maybe you’re thinking, only an idiot would get hurt playing Pokemon Go or these frivolous lawsuits are destroying America.I firmly believe you’re wrong but we can discuss that later. Right now reading this, are you so sure that you want to waive your right to use the court system forever?

Maybe you are. That’s fine. But bear in mind you’re not just waiving the right to sue over injuries, you’re also waiving the right to participate in class actions brought by others. If a service you’re using has all of your personal information stolen by hackers, and there’s a class action, you’re out of luck. If an app systematically cheats you on in-app purchases, and there’s a class action, you’re out of luck. Your only remedy is arbitration. Companies use arbitration clauses because there’s a risk of them being sued and being held responsible for something. They are afraid of a jury rightfully compensating the injured.

The moral of the story, is that you don’t want to cut off options open to you before you have to, it’s best to opt out of arbitration clauses whenever possible. Your future self might not care but it’s a risk that simply has no upside for those being asked to take it.

 

Frequently Asked Questions Part 3

By | FAQ, Personal Injury | No Comments

Why am I not being compensated when I have full insurance coverage?

 

Many drivers believe they have full coverage, but are not insured under certain circumstances. There are several different types of insurance coverage, and failing to have a particular one may limit recovery.

 

In many cases, our clients often find that even though they believe they have “full coverage,” they do not have underinsured or uninsured coverage, which will cover you in the event of an accident where the other party cannot pay.

 

Contact your insurance company and discuss what coverage you have, when the coverage is applicable, and, if necessary, call us if you believe your insurance company is trying to avoid paying a valid claim.

 

If this is not the case, and you do have full insurance coverage, you may not be satisfactorily compensated because your insurance company wants to minimize payouts.

 

There are often disagreements about specific language in your insurance contract, how much a claim is worth, and whether any other parties are involved who may be responsible.

 

If other insurance or health insurance companies are involved, there may be disagreements over who is responsible for payment. These issues can cause serious delays in compensation.

How soon should I file a lawsuit?

 

You should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. The timeframe that you have to file a lawsuit is referred to as the statute of limitations.

 

If you fail to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, your case will be forever barred. However, with respect to claims against government entities or for medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is much shorter. Therefore, due to the time-sensitive nature of personal injury claims, you should immediately contact an attorney regarding your injury.

What does it mean to “file suit,” and why do we do it?

The act of filing legal papers at the courthouse is called filing suit. The client gives the authorization to file suit after all other options have been exhausted during pre-suit.

 

It is becoming more and more common for the insurance industry to step up and employ aggressive tactics in defense injury claims. This shift in insurance industry practice is why it is more important than ever to hire an attorney that is not afraid to go to trial and has the experience to win.

 

When a case is filed with the court, it does not necessarily mean you will be accompanying your lawyer to the courthouse but it becomes a more distinct possibility. Most cases are able to be resolved before trials begin, but some still reach the courtroom.

What is a deposition?

A deposition is where the attorney representing the other side can ask you questions to better understand your claims and injuries. Our attorneys can prepare you for a deposition by reviewing documents, such as police reports or medical records, which are related to your personal injury claim.

 

We will also prepare you for questions that may be asked during the deposition and we will be there during the questioning to assist you.

What Are Some Typical Questions That Might be Asked During Deposition?

  • What types of illnesses and injuries have you suffered from during the course of your life?
  • Have you previously been involved in any other lawsuits or legal claims (i.e. workers compensation)?
  • Were there any witnesses to the accident?
  • Did you file an insurance claim?
  • What is the nature of your injury?
  • What is your job history?
  • How has your injury affected your life?
  • When was your last treatment?

I was injured when I fell down a slippery step, can you help?

Whenever you are injured because of a dangerous condition on someone’s property, you may have a claim to recover compensation for those injuries.

 

Landowners have a duty to warn of dangerous conditions on their property and to make their property safe. As with any personal injury claim, the most important thing you can do is find an experienced attorney to help you preserve your evidence and protect your rights.

 

Often a delay in retaining an attorney can adversely affect your claim.

I was injured by taking a prescription drug, what should I do?

If you have taken a prescription drug (or over-the-counter medication) and believe the product has caused you to experience serious adverse side effects or serious injury, you may be entitled to compensation for the injury.

 

The first thing you should do is preserve all evidence. This means keep all medical records, receipts, prescriptions, packaging and anything else related to the drug, including whatever is left of the drug itself.

 

Do not give the remaining drug or packaging to your doctor, pharmacist, drug manufacturer or insurance company.

 

Can you help if my baby was born with a serious injury?

You may have a case. The most tragic injuries can happen during a birth. Sometimes the injury is caused by negligence or malpractice. When this is the case, the pain and suffering it causes can be eased by an award that compensates you for the full consequences of the injury and its long-term effects.

 

If a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit what should we do?

This is referred to as a wrongful death. Spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, and grandparents can have a claim for wrongful death against a responsible party.

 

The possible types of damages that can be sought for wrongful death are: Financial support that the survivor(s) would have received, Value of household services that would have been provided by the decedent, Loss of companionship, affection, love, care, comfort, society, Loss of consortium for the surviving spouse, Funeral, and burial expenses.

 

These cases are complicated because the loss of a loved one can completely alter the life of the surviving family.  It is important to retain an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled wrongful death cases, and we have had great success and compensation for our clients.

The person that hit me does not have insurance, what can I do?

Insurance companies offer what is call uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. What this coverage provides is protection for personal injuries that are caused by the negligence of a person with insufficient insurance to cover the costs.

 

In order to be protected by this type of insurance, you have to carry it on your own policy. In the very small number of situations where a negligent driver is uninsured, your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy holder will be liable for the damages you incur.

 

These claims often operate in exactly the same way as a normal personal injury case, with the difference being that you are recovering from your own insurance carrier.

 

It is very important to remember in these situations that the representatives from your carrier are not out for your best interests. Just like every insurance adjuster, they will be looking to minimize the insurance company’s loss.

 

Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in these situations is the best way to ensure that you are protected.

Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Train Accident | No Comments

What Happened: Mrs. Palsgraf was standing on a railroad platform after she bought a ticket
from Long Island Rail Road. Two men ran to catch a train that was pulling out from the
platform. The first man jumped aboard easily but the second man, who was carrying a package,
failed to jump aboard the railroad car the first time. A train employee, who had held the door
open for the second man reached forward to help him in, and a guard on the platform pushed him
from behind at the same time. In this act, the package the man was carrying was dislodged and
fell upon the rails. The package contained fireworks, but there was nothing from its appearance
to give Long Island Rail Road notice of its contents. The fireworks exploded when they fell and
the shock of the explosion caused some scales at the other end of the platform to fall.
Unfortunately, the scales struck Mrs. Palsgraf, causing her to be injured. Ms. Palsgraf initiated a
lawsuit against Long Island Rail Road company to receive compensation for her injuries. Ms.
Palsgraf was awarded damages in the trial court and the Defendant appealed.

Question Before the Court: Does a Defendant owe a duty of care to Plaintiff who is outside the
reasonably foreseeable zone of danger?

Court Ruling: The majority held that negligence is based on the foreseeability of the harm
between the parties and overturned Ms. Palsgraf’s victory in the lower court.

Personal Injury

By | Articles, Personal Injury | No Comments

Every month, millions of us pay our car insurance premiums. We also pay our homeowner’s insurance premiums, and we pay premiums out of our paychecks for health insurance, life insurance, and more. We pay for insurance to protect us and our loved ones from the unthinkable: an accident, severe injuries, a fire that burns our house down, a tornado, and even death. More than that, we pay so that our families and neighbors won’t be left with the bill from these events.

It’s part of being a responsible, decent human being. Every single one of us has made a mistake in the past, and when that mistake results in a car wreck that injures someone else, we have an obligation to that person to make sure they’re taken care of when the medical bills come. We also have an obligation to our families and those who depend on us, because if we don’t have insurance, we could be facing lawsuits that could threaten everything we’ve worked hard for: our homes, our savings, and even our future earnings.

There are at multiple parties in any accident, such as the responsible party, the victim, and the insurance companies. The responsible party and the victim met their responsibility to each other by purchasing insurance coverage, but what happens when the insurance company doesn’t want to meet its responsibility? What happens when a victim has $15,000 in medical bills, but the insurance company only wants to pay out $5,000, even though the insurance policy insures up to $25,000 in damages?

Every day across this country, that scenario plays out. Millions of victims face off with an insurer who looks at them as an individual without the power or the resources to force the insurer to meet its obligations. You’re injured, you’re out of work, and you’re in a hurry to pay for your bills. Insurance companies know this, and they’ll use that to their advantage.

Even though you paid your premiums, and even though the person responsible for your injuries paid his premiums, his insurance company wants to step over a dollar to pick up a dime at your expense. The insurance company wants to get something for nothing. They want to take our hard earned money that we spend on insurance premiums and deny us the coverage we’ve paid for when we’re sick or injured.

Insurance companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year portraying accident victims as greedy, opportunistic individuals looking to get rich quick. The insurance companies say that lawsuits aren’t about recovering money for medical bills; instead, lawsuits are about making a profit on an accident. If that was the case, we’d have an epidemic of people in this country deliberately getting hurt. We don’t.

We have plenty of people who commit insurance fraud by pretending to be injured, but what we don’t have are people deliberately getting into accidents in order to suffer actual catastrophic injuries. It’s common sense: you can’t pay anyone to get severely burned, suffer paralysis, or risk a lifelong complication from a catastrophic injury.

The history of personal injury and the facts underlying the rise of personal injury as a distinct area of law completely contradict what insurance companies portray as reality.

The History of Personal Injury

Personal injury hasn’t always been a distinct area of the law. For the vast majority of human history, injuries were covered under the principle of retribution, or what you know as “an eye for an eye.” If you injured another person, you were to be repaid in the same manner. Over time, this evolved into more civilized forms of legal redress, with the rise of both statutes or written laws and common law or judge made law.

There were two major events that led to the rise of legal remedies for injuries to individuals: one was the Industrial Revolution, and the other was the rise of the automobile. With the Industrial Revolution, workplace injuries were becoming more common, which led governments to pass laws that allowed for workers to sue their employers for their injuries.

Over time, the government began to view injury lawsuits as a potential threat or hindrance to commerce, and Worker’s Compensation was worked out as a solution. In order to limit lawsuits by workers, a system of insurance coverage was worked out to compensate workers for on the job injuries. This kept such cases out of the courts, and limited the potential for large verdicts that could financially cripple an employer and result in the loss of jobs.

By the 20th century, two landmark cases, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company and Donoghue v. Stevenson, established proximate cause and negligence. Proximate cause established certain injuries as a natural consequence of certain acts. Negligence established the idea that a duty of reasonable care was present between a producer and a consumer, as well as any neighbor to the consumer.

What does it mean to be a “neighbor” to a consumer? Before Donoghue, only the tortfeasor-the person who commits a tort that injures someone-and the immediate party could be part of a negligence claim. That is, if you purchased a beer that was poisoned due to the negligence of its manufacturer, and you gave your neighbor that beer at a party and they were poisoned, your neighbor could not sue because they were not a party to the original transaction. They didn’t buy the beer, you did. The tortfeasor didn’t owe them a duty of care, he only owed the purchaser of his product a duty of care.

Donoghue extended the concept of negligence beyond immediate parties who purchased a product to end users who consumed the product. It established that the duty of reasonable care to ensure the safety of a product extended beyond the producer and the purchaser to anyone who consumed the product.

These two cases revolutionized what would later become a distinct field of law: personal injury. By the 1960s, with the rise of the automobile as a mode of personal transportation and the corresponding increase in car accidents, many attorneys and firms were suing to recover damages for injuries suffered in car accidents. However, the damage awards were small.

Then came Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader, a book that detailed the American auto industry’s deliberate decisions to design their cars without regard for passenger safety. The most famous chapter of the book dealt with the Chevrolet Corvair, which was a rear-engine vehicle with a swing-axle suspension design. General Motors knew that the car was unstable; one of their suspension mechanics, George Caramagna, fought internally to include an anti-sway bar on the Corvair. He was overruled because General Motors wanted to save money.

As a result, General Motors manufactured the Corvair for four years between 1960 and 1964 without the anti-roll bar, and Corvairs were prone to roll over with two or more passengers.

If you’ve ever wondered why your car has an automatic transmission organized by P R N D L, it’s because of Ralph Nader’s book. Early automatic transmissions were organized by a P N D L R, which led to drivers moving the shift lever down to reverse rather than low gear by accident. In addition, your car door has a “Nader bolt” which prevents the car door from flying open in a crash. From 1966 onward, every car sold in the United States has been equipped with a Nader bolt.

This is because manufacturers, like insurance companies, often decide to step over dollars to pick up dimes at the risk of your safety and well-being. After all, what can you do? You’re just an individual. Big corporations have a massive advantage in terms of resources to fight off lawsuits.

They also have huge resources to control the narrative in the media when it comes to lawsuits. That’s why you hear all about the ridiculously high punitive damages corporations face in personal injury or class action lawsuits. What you don’t hear about is the deliberate decisions corporations make to cut corners by risking the lives of consumers.

The most infamous example of this is the 1971 Ford Pinto. Ford knew that the Pinto’s design was flawed: in a rear-end collision, the fuel tank would rupture and cause fires, but Ford’s accountants wrote a memo detailing that it would be cheaper to settle wrongful death lawsuits resulting from the defect than it would be to fix the design flaw. How much would it have cost Ford to make the Pinto safe? $11 per car.

Ford chose to put a car on the road that would burn people alive in an accident, as opposed to spending a mere $11 per car to fix the design flaw that would kill 900 people. Ford wound up paying out millions of dollars in wrongful death settlements for its decision to save $11 per car. 900 families lost their loved ones as a result of Ford’s willful decision to manufacture a car that would burn its occupants alive in a crash.

After the Corvair and the Pinto, it was no wonder that the first television advertisement for a personal injury law firm premiered in 1979.

As time went by, the efforts of insurance companies and big corporations to re-victimize people who suffered horrible injuries grew over time. In addition to dealing with their injuries, victims had to contend with insurers and businesses portraying them as greedy for simply wanting their medical bills paid. At no point did the insurance companies and big businesses ever acknowledge that one of the reasons personal injury awards and settlements were so expensive was a deliberate decision on the part of insurance companies and businesses to avoid responsibility and limit risk.

Lying About the Victim: How McDonald’s and State Farm Added Insult to Injury

February 27, 1992 began for Stella Liebeck like a normal day begins for many of us: waiting in a drive through lane for our coffee. Liebeck’s car didn’t have cup holders, so her grandson parked the car in order for her to add cream and sugar. When Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and and pulled the lid off of the cup, the coffee spilled into her lap. It scalded her thighs, buttocks, and groins, resulting in third degree burns. Liebeck was in the hospital for eight days, and she went from 103 lbs to 83 lbs, and she was partially disabled.

Originally, Liebeck tried to get $20,000 to cover her $10,500 in past medical expenses, her $2,500 in anticipated future medical expenses, and the $5,000 in lost income her daughter suffered by missing eight weeks of work to take care of her mother. McDonald’s offered just $800, even though it was undisputed that Liebeck had at least $10,500 in medical expenses.

Liebeck got a lawyer, who filed suit and offered to settle with McDonald’s for $90,000. Morgan then offered a settlement of $300,000 after a mediator recommended a $225,000 settlement. McDonald’s refused all of these attempts to settle. At trial, Liebeck’s attorney showed internal documents from McDonald’s that proved McDonald’s knew of 700 other incidents where its coffee had burned people. McDonald’s had settled claims for over $500,000 in the past.

Despite the fact that McDonald’s knew its required coffee temperature of 180-190 degrees was unsafe, and that it had resulted in 700 other burn incidents, McDonald’s continued its unsafe practices. Inn fact, McDonald’s quality control manager Christopher Appleton said that 700 injuries weren’t enough of a reason to change the practice.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, but reduced this by 20% because Liebeck was found to be 20% at fault. The jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, which the judge reduced to $480,000. Eventually, the case settled out of court.

McDonald’s could have settled the entire case for $20,000. Instead, they gambled that they’d be able to push Liebeck around and give her a mere $800 or nothing at all for her $10,500 in past medical expenses and her $2,500 in future medical expenses. McDonald’s stepped over a dollar to pick up a dime, and lost big.

After the case, McDonald’s and advocates of tort reform blamed the victim. Even though McDonald’s knew keeping its coffee at scalding temperatures was dangerous, and had burned 700 other people, McDonald’s kept risking injuries to its own customers. Those who defended McDonald’s called Liebeck greedy, and held her up as a pariah. They misrepresented the facts by acting as if Liebeck had put the cup between her legs while she was driving the car.

Stella Liebeck wasn’t greedy: she only asked for $20,000 to cover her medical bills and the time her daughter missed from work. McDonald’s got greedy, and in their greed they lost a lot more than $20,000.

Sadly, this kind of behavior isn’t limited to businesses. Insurers get greedy, too. Everyone reading this article has seen the State Farm commercials, and you know the jingle: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” What happens when an insurance company isn’t a good neighbor?

In 1981, Curtis Campbell and his wife Inez Preece Campbell were driving along a highway in Cache County, Utah, when he decided to pass six vehicles. When he moved into the other lane, he drove directly into the path of Todd Ospital, who swerved to avoid Campbell and hit Robert G. Slusher. Ospital was killed, and Slusher was permanently disabled.

Witnesses and investigators pinned the fault on Campbell, and his insurance company State Farm decided not to settle with the Slusher and Ospital, who were willing to settle for the policy limit of just $50,000. State Farm told Campbell that he had no liability for the accident, and that there was no need for Campbell to get his own attorney.

The case went to trial, and the jury found Campbell 100% at fault. They awarded damages of $185,849. State Farm then refused to pay the verdict in excess of the $50,000 policy limit, and it refused to post a bond for Campbell to appeal the verdict.

In 1984, the Campbells settled with Slusher and Ospital’s estate, reaching an agreement whereby the Campbells would pursue a bad-faith claim against State Farm for the failure to pay the veredict. Slusher and Ospital’s attorneys agreed to represent the Campbell’s in the bad faith suit; additionally, the parties agreed not to seek to satisfy the original judgment against the Campbells. Slusher and Ospital’s estate would receive 90% of any verdict against State Farm.

Five years later, in 1989, the Utah Supreme Court denied Campbell’s appeal of the original verdict. State Farm paid the entire judgment, but the Campbells filed suit against state farm for bad faith, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

State Farm lost the trial, and the jury awarded $145 million in punitive damages to the Campbells. The Utah Supreme Court upheld the verdict, and State Farm appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the verdict and remanded the case for reconsideration to the Utah Supreme Court. The Utah Supreme court then reinstated the original $145 million punitive verdict on remand, and State Farm wound up paying $145 million to resolve a case that could have been settled for $50,000.

There was no greed on the part of the Campbells, the Ospitals, or Robert Slusher. Curtis Campbell and his wife wanted State Farm to settle the case using the insurance policy they had paid for, and the Ospitals and Robert Slusher only wanted $25,000 apiece. The Campbell’s insurance policy had a limit of $50,000 which would have covered the $50,000 settlement, but State Farm had a different number in mind: zero.

That’s what State Farm wanted to pay: zero dollars for the death of Todd Ospital and the disability of Robert Slusher. State Farm wasn’t just willing to burn Todd Ospital’s family and Robert Slusher; they also tried to rip off their own policyholders, Curtis and Inez Campbell. By stepping over $50,000, State Farm suffered a $145 million loss due to its own greed and stubbornness. State Farm was willing to let its own policyholder lose all of his assets to satisfy the original $185,849 verdict, even though he had paid his insurance premiums.

Why They Do It

Today, big business and insurance companies alike insist that personal injury settlements are out of control, that the costs of lawsuits are driving businesses under and causing their employees to do their jobs. What these businesses and insurance companies have in common is simple: they want it all for nothing. They want your insurance premiums, but they don’t want to cover you when you have an accident.

They want your business, but they don’t want to treat you like a valued customer by making sure that their products are safe.

Why do they do it? Because they can, and because it works. If you’re the typical accident victim, you probably feel guilty for going to an attorney. You think lawsuits are for people who are trying to get rich by cashing in on their injuries. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Stella Liebeck would give her settlement back in a second if it meant that she never had to experience 190 degree coffee scalding her vagina. Todd Ospital’s family would trade their share of $145 million if it meant bringing Todd back. Robert Slusher would give up his share of the money if it meant living a normal life, rather than being permanently disabled.

These people suffered once from their injuries and the deaths of their loved one, and the companies that were at fault caused them to suffer again and again by lying and misrepresenting them as greedy, selfish people. Insurance companies and businesses don’t do this just to be cruel to the victims of their negligence and deliberate acts; they do it to intimidate you when you’re injured. They do it to deter you from seeking what you’re entitled to when you’re injured, or when your loved one dies as a result of their wrongdoing.

You’ve likely heard the words tort reform, but you never knew what it was. Tort reform is the principle that a company can offer $800 to a woman who has $10,500 in injuries, and refuse to take responsibility for the deliberate decisions they made that led to those injuries. Tort reform is the idea that an insurance company can take your money as a policyholder and hang you out to dry when you’re in an accident by leaving you on the hook for a $185,000 verdict.

When you’ve been injured or your family member has been killed through the negligence or wrongdoing of a company, and the insurance company refuses to deal with you fairly, they’re stepping over dollars to pick up dimes at your expense. You shouldn’t feel ashamed to stand up for yourself. You shouldn’t be conned into insulting the victims of McDonald’s and State Farm by defaming them as greedy. After all, you could be next.

Most of all, you should understand that by supporting tort reform, you’re just giving a bailout to businesses that routinely make deliberate decisions to choose dollars over safety and human life. You’re doing so at a risk to your own health and safety, because if insurance companies and big corporations can put a price on your life that will enable them to make a profit off of your injury or death, they will.

We know this, because they already have. That’s why personal injury lawyers will never run out of work: the greed of insurance companies and big businesses, and their disregard for the safety and well-being of others.

The Personal Injury Education Center of Utah wishes you a safe and happy life, free from injury or wrongful death, but if you ever do have to face such a horrific outcome, don’t be ashamed to stand up for yourself. It’s not greedy to expect the people responsible for your injury or the death of a loved one to pay for their actions. When they refuse to deal fairly with you, they put themselves at risk of a big court verdict. That’s not your fault; it’s theirs.

PIP – Personal Injury Protection

By | Articles, Car Accidents, Casino Accidents, Personal Injury, Spine and Back Injuries, Train Accident, Trucking Accident | No Comments

The average person lives their life without ever going to court for anything more serious than a traffic ticket. Our lives are filled with ordinary day to day events, such as work, errands like grocery shopping, school, ball games, family cookouts and dinners, and the like. Most of us will never know what it’s like to be in a serious car accident, and we’ll never see a friend or family member go through the aftermath of a catastrophic personal injury.

Most car accidents are minor, and the injuries consist of some bumps, bruises, and muscle soreness. For these minor accidents, Utah law mandates Personal Injury Protection, or PIP. What’s PIP? It’s $3,000 in insurance coverage for the average driver, and it provides a predictable means of resolving most injuries in a car accident.

No one wants a lawsuit, and PIP is a quick, easy way of covering injury expenses for those involved in an accident. Even if you’re at fault in a wreck, you can still get coverage for your injuries from the PIP on your insurance policy. The reason PIP is the law is to avoid lawsuits by making it easy to pay for medical expenses from minor injuries. In fact, before you can sue for an accident injury in Utah, you have to first exhaust the $3,000 of PIP on your insurance policy.

This covers both the at-fault party and the victim in a car accident, because each party can pay for their minor injuries via their PIP, coverage thereby keeping the courts free of minor lawsuits with under $3,000 in medical expenses. This is good news for you if you’re at fault in an auto accident, because the other party can simply go to their insurer to get their minor injuries covered on their insurance policy. It’s also good news for you, because as the at fault party, you’ve got no grounds to recover for your injuries from the other party. Thanks to PIP, you can to your insurer and get those minor medical issues taken care of, as long as they’re $3,000 or less.

At the very least, you’ll save $3,000 in overall medical expenses, even if you happen to be at fault for the accident.

You won’t have to wait six months to three years, either. That’s how long it can take a personal injury lawsuit to settle or be resolved in a trial. Regardless of whether or not you’re the person to blame, or the victim, PIP covers you no matter what for those bumps and bruises and trips to the chiropractor’s office. It ensures that you won’t be choosing between buying food for those family cookouts and paying for your minor medical expenses after an accident.

The Utah Educational Center for Personal Injury hopes you never have even a minor injury, but if you do, your PIP will be there for you.

ATV Accident

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Utah is an outdoor state. With national landmarks, ample parks, and the sixth largest amount of boatable water per capita, Utah is a state where there are many opportunities to enjoy ATVs, boats, and RVs. In the wintertime, Utah Parks and Wildlife prepares snowmobile trails, and people as young eight years of age can operate a snowmobile. Just as cars and trucks come with risks, ATVs, boats, and other OHVs do as well.

That’s why it’s important to be safe. Utah has strict laws about drinking and boating, and any boat with a 50 horsepower or higher motor requires $25,000 in liability coverage, along with $50,000 for bodily injury and death, and $15,000 in property damage coverage. What’s important to note about this is that there is no Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which means that the only way to recover damages is through a legal claim. This includes motorcycles, so if you’re injured in a motorcycle accident, the rules will be different from those governing a car accident.

Utah does not require insurance coverage for ATVs if they are operated on highways designated for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use; however, if an accident takes place on land owned or leased by the owner of the ATV, their homeowner’s insurance may cover injuries or property damage, depending on the language of the policy.

As with any accident, your first priority should be getting medical attention for any injuries. Even if you don’t have visible injuries, get checked out by a medical professional to be sure. The sooner you identify an injury, the easier it will be to get treatment, and the less dispute there will be later on as to whether or not your injuries are the result of an accident with an ATV.

Your second priority should be documenting any and all information related to the accident. Was the operator of the ATV or the boat drinking? Were they in compliance with boating regulations on right of way, or were they operating an ATV on a street not designated for OHV use? Who were the witnesses to the accident?

Contacting the appropriate law enforcement agencies can be critical to documenting the facts surrounding an accident, not to mention making recovering compensation for any medical expenses or property damage.

If you are injured, you’ve got four years to file a claim from the date of the accident. As with any other accident, Utah is a comparative fault state. This means that the jury will subtract the percentage of your own fault or negligence from your overall award. That’s all the more reason to exercise safe driving habits and follow the laws of the trail or the water in operating a boat or an OHV.

The Personal Injury Education Center of Utah hopes you enjoy everything Utah has to offer, on and off road, but remember to be safe.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell

By | Car Accidents, Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Spine and Back Injuries, Wrongful Death | No Comments

What Happened: In 1981, Campbell caused an accident in which Todd Ospital was killed and Robert G. Slusher was left permanently disabled, a fact confirmed by both witnesses to the accident and investigators. Notwithstanding the evidence against Campbell, Campbell’s insurance State Farm decided to contest liability and decline the settlement offers from both Slusher and Ospital’s estate. Both parties were offering to settle for $25,000 each, or $50,000 total, which was Campbell’s policy limit. State Farm assured the Campbells that “their assets were safe, that they had no liability for the accident, and that State Farm would represent their interests, and that they did not need to procure separate counsel. However, a jury rendered a verdict that Campbell was 100 percent liable for the accident and awarded a judgment of $185,849. State Farm refused to pay the excess amount, nor would it post a supersedeas bond to allow Campbell to appeal the verdict; Campbell obtained his own counsel to appeal the verdict. While the appeal was pending, the Campbells reached a settlement with Slusher and Ospital’s estate, whereby those parties agreed not to seek satisfaction of the judgment against the Campbells, and the Campbells would pursue a bad-faith action against State Farm. The attorneys for Slusher and Ospital’s estate would represent the Campbells in the bad-faith suit and would make all major decisions regarding it. No settlement would take effect without the approval of Slusher and Ospital’s estate, and they would receive 90 percent of any verdict against State Farm.The Utah Supreme Court denied Campbell’s appeal concerning the underlying car accident and State Farm then paid the entire amount of the judgment including the excess amount.

Nevertheless, the Campbells filed suit against State Farm alleging bad faith, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Campbells won a $145 million verdict against State Farm for their bad faith actions in not protecting their insureds, Resulting in over $116 million dollars to the Estates of Ospital and Slusher and $29 million to the Campbells.

Question Before the Court: There were two questions before the court; (1) was Campbell liable for the original car accident, and (2) did State Farm act in bad faith by not paying the verdict against the Campbells or settling the case for a reasonable amount?

Court Ruling: Campbell was liable in the underlying accident and State Farm acted in bad faith by not paying the original verdict, not settling the case for a reasonable amount, and not paying for the supersedeas bond; essentially, State Farm violated their duty owed to their insureds the Campbells.

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants

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What Happened: Stella Liebeck ordered a cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s restaurant. With the car parked and Liebeck in the passenger seat Liebeck attempted to add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants that absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds, reducing her to 83 pounds. After the hospital stay, Liebeck needed care for 3 weeks, which was provided by her daughter. Liebeck suffered permanent disfigurement after the incident and was partially disabled for two years.

Question Before the Court: Did McDonald’s breach the standard of care by serving its coffee too hot?

Court Ruling: A twelve-person jury reached a verdict applying the principles of comparative negligence. The jury found that McDonald’s was 80% responsible for the incident and Liebeck was 20% at fault. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. In addition, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The jurors apparently arrived at this figure from Morgan’s suggestion to penalize McDonald’s for one or two days’ worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000, three times the compensatory amount, for a total of $640,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald’s and Liebeck in December 1994, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000.

Garratt v. Dailey

By | Cases, For Attorneys, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Spine and Back Injuries | No Comments

What Happened: Garrat alleged that Dailey, a five year-old boy, moved a chair away just as she was about to sit down in it, causing her to fall and to be injured.

Question Before the Court: Intent necessary to establish Battery.

Court Ruling: The Court held that battery could only be found if it is shown that the boy knew with “substantial certainty” that by moving the chair Garratt would attempt to sit in the chair’s original position. That is, the accused must be substantially certain that his action would cause the offensive contact. The absence of an intent to injure or play a joke is not sufficient to absolve the accused of liability. It is sufficient for the plaintiff only to prove that the accused had sufficient knowledge to foresee the contact with “substantial certainty”.