Category

Personal Injury

Slip and Fall

By | Articles, Personal Injury, Premises Liability | No Comments

You live in Utah, so you know the weather can be quite a challenge. On average, cities in Utah see around 20 days a year of snow, ranging from the low of 5 days in Ogden to 35 days in Salt Lake City. Snow is a major factor in personal injuries, both in terms of car accidents and slip and falls.

We’ve all slipped and fallen at some point in our lives, and most of us just get right back up and keep going. What happens when you can’t get back up and keep going? What happens when your iPhone breaks or your watch is smashed in a fall?

If you’re injured in a slip and fall, or if your personal property is damaged, Utah law enables you to recover compensation for your injuries and your property damages. Property owners have to keep their property safe, and they have a duty to any visitor to keep them safe from injuries arising from the design, construction, or condition of the property. They’re in control of their property, and they have the responsibility of maintaining the safety of their premises.

As a visitor, you have certain responsibilities, too: you have to use the property in a normal manner. That is, if you’re cruising along on your skateboard on a sidewalk, and you slide down the railing at high speed and lose your balance, you’re the one who’s at fault for your injuries. Utah is a comparative negligence state, and in this situation, you’re likely to be held more than 50% responsible for your injuries, which means you get nothing.

However, if you’re just walking along the sidewalk and you reach out for the railing to support yourself on the way down the stairs, and the railing gives way because it’s rusty and unsecure, the property owner is responsible. He didn’t maintain his property, and as a result, his visitors were subjected to what is known as an unreasonable risk of injury.

These are general principles of slip and fall law in Utah, but you also have to consider the statute of limitations. For an injury to your person, you have four years to file a claim against the responsible parties in a slip and fall. For an injury to your personal property, such as a watch or that expensive pair of Jimmy Choos, you have three years to file. This starts on the date of your slip and fall accident.

The rules are different for commercial and residential properties, so you’ll need to know those differences to protect yourself. If you’re in a commercial property, such as a mall, a store, or a shopping center, notify the business about any accident and injury. Responsibility for the accident is determined in the lease, and it can either be the business or the building owner, depending on what the lease says. In either case, you should be contacted by an insurance company over your claim.

For residential properties, responsibility varies based on whether or not the property is rented or privately owned.

If it’s rented, the landlord is responsible for the premises outside of an apartment or property, and anything immovable inside of the apartment. This includes walls, electrical outlets, and lighting fixtures. The tenant is responsible for anything movable in the apartment, like the furniture.

Let’s say you visit your friend Joe at his apartment for a Super Bowl Party. You get your plate of nachos, hot wings, and sausage rolls and go to sit on the couch. Joe’s couch is broken, and you you wind up plunging straight through the couch and hitting your tailbone on the floor. In the process, you pull your back muscles and miss weeks of work. Joe was aware of his broken couch, and took no steps to fix it or warn you in advance. You can sue Joe for your injuries, as the couch is a movable object in the apartment that he is responsible for as a tenant.

Let’s say you’re visiting Joe at his apartment and he asks you to hit the light switch. When you do so, you slip on the loose carpet and break your arm. Joe knew that the carpet was loose and he had previously asked his landlord to fix the carpet. His landlord told Joe the carpet was fixed, when in fact it was not. You can sue Joe’s landlord, because he knew of the danger and he did nothing to resolve it.

If the home is privately owned, the owner is responsible when you’re injured in a slip and fall due to their failure to maintain the safety of their property, if they knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused your accident.

What does this all mean to you as a regular person? First, don’t skateboard at the mall and grind on stair railings. This not the normal use of the property, and your injuries will be your fault. Second, if you’re injured, always get help for your injuries and notify the owner of the premises of your injury. Third, you can recover for injuries to your body and to your personal property from a slip and fall. Finally, you’ve got four years to file from the date of your slip and fall for any bodily injuries; for injuries to your personal property, you’ve got three years.

The Personal Injury Education Center of Utah wishes you the best in staying on your feet, come rain, snow, or shine. If you do slip and fall, we hope that this article will be an informative guide to getting back on your feet.

Car Accident

By | Articles, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Spine and Back Injuries, Wrongful Death | No Comments

America has a love affair with the automobile.  We drive everywhere: to work, to play, to eat, to church, and to school.  Driving is a rite of passage; every year, teenagers mark their passage into adulthood with their learner’s permit or their first driver’s license.

The down side of driving is the accident.  If you’re reading this, you’ve either been in a wreck or you know someone who’s been in a wreck.  If you were fortunate, it was just a fender bender and no one was hurt.  However, car accidents aren’t always just fender benders.  Sometimes people get hurt, and when you’re hurt in a car accident, you need to know what to do in order to maximize your compensation for any injuries or damages.

A car accident can result in major injuries, hospital bills, and even lost wages.  What will your family do if you can’t work?  Utah law provides the means for victims of an accident to recover money for the damages they suffer, but being hurt in an accident is so much more than a lawsuit.

If you have any passengers, make sure everyone is okay.  Even if they appear to be okay, call 911 to report the accident.  Internal injuries may not present symptoms initially, and erring on the side of caution can be the difference between a treatable and untreatable injury.  If it’s safe to move, everyone should move to the curb or shoulder of the road.  Turn on your hazard lights, and if you have any cones or triangles, put them out to increase visibility and prevent another accident.

Keep calm.  Don’t escalate the situation.  It’s normal to feel angry and upset after an accident, but it’s not going to help you come out ahead.

That 911 call is going to come to into play when the police arrive.  You’ll need to show the police your driver’s license, registration, and insurance.  Fill out the accident report, and request a copy from the officer.  Make sure you get the officer’s name, badge number, phone number, and the report number.  The accident report will be critical to recovering any damages from an insurance company.  It’s the product of an unbiased third party, which makes it harder for the insurer to challenge.

Don’t skip calling the police, because as we mentioned, injuries aren’t always obvious at first. The police report can strengthen your credibility, but the most important thing for you to do is to get checked out by a physician within 72 hours.  Insurance adjusters rely on data to determine the amount of any potential settlement, and when an injured party sees a physician within 72 hours of an accident, their actions create what is known as a “value driver” that can increase the amount of any settlement offer by an insurance company.

By not going to the doctor, you’re only reducing the amount of money you can collect.  You’re making it harder for your attorney to get a fair settlement with the insurance company.

Finally, make sure you collect as much information as possible.  Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene, any other parties involved, the vehicles, and get the names of any other drivers and their passengers.  Collect their insurance information.  If at all possible, get an email address. This is information that can be used later to prove you weren’t at fault.

The steps above all presume that you’re in good enough condition to function. If you’re severely injured, you may not be able to do any of this.  If that’s the case, you’ll need to rely on passengers and witnesses.  Understand that your well-being comes first, and don’t worry if you can follow the steps above.

Whatever you do, don’t sign anything from an insurance company. An insurer has one sole purpose: limiting their loss, regardless of whether or not their offer is sufficient to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and suffering.  Make sure your family understands this, and if you’re related to someone who’s been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to speak up.  The insurance company’s interests are not aligned with your interests: you need to make sure you have enough money to pay your medical bills, make up for lost wages, and keep your family afloat financially.  That’s why you need to use an attorney to defend your bottom line and make sure you receive adequate compensation for your injuries.

We’ve covered what you need to do, but what is the law in Utah when it comes to car accidents? Utah has a no-fault system, which means that your own insurance company will cover medical expenses and lost income regardless of whether or not you were at fault.  This is why you pay for Personal Injury Protection or PIP on your insurance policy.  PIP coverage is usually $3,000 in Utah.

Only after you exhaust your PIP coverage for any injuries under Utah law can you pursue a claim against the other driver for lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other damages.  That’s why we stressed seeing a doctor within 72 hours after an accident: you want to get any and all injuries diagnosed and treated, and you want to keep your options open by exhausting your PIP coverage.

However,  if your injuries are serious, there may be an exception to the no-fault requirement that you first exhaust your own insurance coverage through PIP, and having an attorney to guide you will enable you to potentially pursue a claim against the other driver sooner. Some examples of serious injuries include dismemberment, permanent disfigurement, and permanent disability.

The other factor to consider in Utah accident law is comparative fault.  If you’re found partially at fault in an accident, this reduces the amount you can recover from other parties.  If you’re more than 50% at fault for your injuries, you’ll recover nothing.  The percentage of your fault is subtracted from the total damages you’re awarded by a jury.  Again, this is why we stressed collecting as much information as possible earlier: the police report, photographs, and documentation can be used to reduce the level of fault attributed to you, thereby increasing the amount of your recovery.

You’ve got four years to file from the date of the accident under Utah law, and there are no economic caps on the damages you can recover for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering, permanent disability, and vehicle repairs. If the court finds that the defendant’s actions merit punitive damages, the court will order the first $50,000 to be paid to you, and any punitive damages above $50,000 will be split between you and the state.

We here at the Personal Injury Education Center of Utah hope that you and your loved ones have a safe driving experience, and many happy adventures on the roads.  Have fun, but always be safe when you’re on the road.

Dog Bite Law in Utah

By | Articles, Dog Bites, Personal Injury | No Comments

A dog is man’s best friend, and many of us think nothing of approaching a dog on its walk or when it comes to a fence to say hello.  But what happens when a dog loses control and bites a person?

Utah law is clear: if you are bitten by a dog, you can recover damages from the owner or the person keeping the dog.  You don’t have to prove that the dog was vicious or mischievous before the attack, either.  This is important because other states require you to prove that the owner knew that his dog previously bit someone, or acted like it wanted to bite someone, and the owner was aware of the dog’s prior conduct.  Utah doesn’t require the victim of a dog attack to prove any of this; if you’re attacked by a dog and you suffer injuries, you can recover damages because Utah makes dog owners strictly liable for any injury committed by their dog-and not just from bites.

If you own a dog walking service or a doggie daycare-or even if you’re just watching a dog for your friend-you will also be strictly liable for any attacks by a dog you’re keeping, however, there are important exceptions: states, counties, cities, and towns in Utah, as well as peace officers, are not liable for damages for injury committed by dogs trained to assist in law enforcement, so long as “the injury occurs while the dog is reasonably and carefully being used in the apprehension, arrest, or location of a suspected offender or in maintaining or controlling the public order.”

However, even if you aren’t the owner or the keeper of the dog in question, you can still be liable under negligence.  Let’s say you see a stray dog, and you let the stray into your place of business and it attacks a customer.  You’re liable for damages, but Utah law also requires the court to balance the victim’s fault against your fault.  If the court finds that your fault exceeds the victim’s fault, you can be sued for recovery by the victim; however, the amount the victim can recover will be reduced by the level of his fault.

If you’re an owner, or if you’re the person in charge of a dog, you have to adhere to animal control laws, such as ordinances require dogs to be leashed.  If a dog you own or have responsibility for is off leash in violation of the law, this could be the basis of civil liability in the event that the dog attacks someone.  Such violations give victims a prima facie case of negligence, and the only way you can escape liability is to demonstrate an overriding reason to justify having your dog off leash.

In addition, if you’re the relative of a dog bite victim, and you’re present when your relative is attacked, you can recover for emotional distress if it manifests as an illness or a bodily harm.  Anxiety attacks, blood pressure issues, and other forms of stress can be the basis for you to recover monetary damages from the dog’s owner or keeper.

Whether you’re the owner or the keeper of a dog, or merely a person who sees a dog on your walk, exercise caution.  Keep your dog on a leash, and always ask for the owner’s permission to approach the dog.  When a dog is eating, don’t interrupt the dog’s feeding time or try to play with his treats or toys, because this could trigger aggression in the dog.  Always exercise common sense, because it’s better to avoid an injury than to be put in the position of recovering damages after an injury.

If you’re a dog owner in Utah, realize that you’re liable for your dog and make sure that your dog is adequately socialized with other dogs and people and trained to respond to voice commands.  Always follow local laws and keep your dog leashed, and make sure that they are secured on your property.  What you pay for an obedience class will be far less than the cost of an attorney and any damages you have to pay as the result of a dog attack.

Personal Injury Education Center of Utah wishes you and your furry friends a long, healthy, and legally uneventful life together.  Remember, knowing the law is the first step to avoiding any legal problem.  The second step is following the law, and as long you know what the law requires, you can easily avoid any legal trouble, as well as any spike in your homeowner’s insurance premiums.

Summers v. Tice

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

What Happened: Ernest Simonson, and Harold W. Tice (Defendants) were hunting in the same area and at the same time, both negligently fired their guns at a quail, and in the direction of Mr. Summers. Mr. Summers was struck in the eye and lip by shots from one or both of Defendants’ guns. There was no way to determine whether the shots were from the gun of one defendant or the other or one shot from each of them. The shot that entered Plaintiff’s eye did the most damage, and that shot could not have come from both of the Defendants. However, the trial court held that both Defendants were liable. Defendants appealed on the grounds that they were not joint tortfeasors, they were not acting in concert and there was insufficient evidence to show which of them was negligent.

Question Before the Court: Are both Defendants liable for shooting Mr. Summers when it cannot be determined which gun or guns fired the shots that injured him?

Court Ruling: When there is negligence by multiple parties, and one party can only have caused the plaintiff’s injury, then it is up to the negligent parties to absolve themselves if they can. If two defendants cause damage that either one would be liable for, then both defendants will be held liable if it cannot be easily determined which defendant was the cause in fact of the injury.

Frequently Asked Questions Part 2

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What should I bring with me for my initial no-cost review?

 

You should bring all documents in your possession that are related to your injury.

 

For example, with an auto accident you should bring:

  • A copy of the police or incident report,
  • A copy of your automobile insurance declaration page
  • Photographs of your automobile
  • Photographs of your injuries
  • Copies of any medical records for treatment related to the accident
  • Correspondence from the insurance companies
  • Estimates and repair records and receipts for your automobile
  • Receipts for towing and car rental
  • Any wage loss information.

 

During our meeting, we will make photocopies of all of your documents so that you can retain a copy for your records. We will also provide you with checklists for any other information that we may need from you.

 

How much is my case worth?

 

Each case is unique so it is hard to determine a client’s damages at the very beginning but every injury claim depends on the severity of the injuries, case details, limits on insurance or the ability of the responsible party to pay, and the identity of the defendant.

 

Assuming the liability issue is straightforward, a case’s worth is mostly based on the five areas listed below.

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical bills
  • Lost wages

 

A case’s value is based on evidence, such as discrepancies in the testimony or other portions of the case that may detract from the integrity of the injured party’s claims.

 

Based on our experience with past cases, we may be able to estimate the value of your case once we have gathered all medical records and statements and have an idea as to whether you or your loved one’s physical and mental state has improved or worsened from the date of injury.

 

The following factors will be considered when determining the amount of compensation owed for your injuries:

  • The severity of your injuries;
  • The details of your accident;
  • Your degree of fault;
  • Your employment history;
  • Your ability to work;
  • Your life expectancy.
  • The manner in which you obtain medical treatment,
  • Your lifestyle, and
  • Your litigation history will also be considered.

Is my case big enough for a lawyer to handle?

 

Lawyers handle small, medium, large, and very large damage cases. Our injury cases range from soft tissue injury auto accident cases to catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. We are equipped to handle all personal injury cases resulting from negligence and we are happy to review any case free of charge.

 

What is negligence?

To have a viable personal injury claim, the victim must have been injured from the negligence of another individual or entity. Negligence occurs when an individual fails to exercise a reasonable standard of care for the safety of others. If a person fails to act as a reasonable person would, he or she may be liable for any resulting damages.

 

Is there a different basis for personal injury liability besides negligence?

Yes, the other basis for personal injury recovery is called strict liability. Strict liability holds people accountable for the harm that that they have caused others, even if there was no negligence involved.

 

Under a strict liability theory, a person who is injured may recover compensation by a defective or dangerous product without showing negligence, but this theory of liability is limited to specific situations and is a narrow exception for most cases. The most common strict liability cases are dog bites but they also can include a person using explosives, or storing dangerous substances.

 

Why do I have to pay the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) deductible on my insurance?

When choosing a plan, you have the option of paying a low monthly premium with no deductible—should you be in an accident.

 

You also have the option of purchasing PIP insurance with deductibles ranging from $250 up to $2000. If you have a deductible, your premium will be higher depending on the amount you choose.

 

If you choose to have a deductible, you are agreeing to pay that amount up front in the event of an accident before the PIP insurance will begin coverage.

 

How long will my personal injury lawsuit take?

There is no general timetable for personal injury cases because each case is so unique. A personal injury lawsuit may settle in a few months without the need for a trial, while others may take longer to complete.

 

Who can be held liable for a catastrophic injury?

To determine liability, it’s important to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. More than one person may be responsible for your injuries. Depending on your type of personal injury, the liability may rest on a hospital, doctor, motor vehicle driver, truck driver, employer or drug manufacturer.

What can I do if the person that caused my injury is claiming that it was my fault?

Many negligence cases involve a he-said/she-said situation, where it is initially unclear exactly what happened. An experienced attorney will have a plan of action for proving who caused the injury.

 

Lawyers can work with a number of investigators and accident reconstruction professionals that can often provide scientific evidence of how the accident occurred and who is to blame.

 

It’s important to note that not every case is the result of just one person’s negligence. Often more than one person, sometimes including the injured party, is to blame for the resulting damage. In this situation, an accident victim can often recover a percentage of the damages that he or she sustains.

 

Working with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys is often crucial for receiving compensation in this type of situation.

Can I still pursue compensation if I was partially at fault for my injuries?

 

It depends on your jurisdiction. In a few areas, individuals cannot recover compensation if their negligence partially contributed to their injuries. However, in Utah, victims can still receive compensation if they were partially at fault for their injuries. In these cases, the amount of compensation awarded to the victim may be decreased in accordance with the victim’s degree of negligence.

Frequently Asked Questions Part 1

By | FAQ, Personal Injury | No Comments

How Much Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

There is no cost for initial consultations, so you can talk to a Lawyer risk-free. Any information you share with the Lawyer will be kept strictly confidential. Personal injury cases are done on a contingency-fee basis. That means that you don’t have to pay anything until the case is won or settled.

 

Why do I need an attorney?

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s mistake, you need a personal injury attorney. Insurance companies do this every day, and they don’t get to be big companies by paying a lot of claims.

 

In fact, they have teams of experts whose job it is to reduce the amount they pay out on claims. If this makes you feel a little sick inside, it should. Someone paid premiums on that insurance policy, sometimes for years, expecting that if they made a mistake, the insurance company would compensate the people they hurt.

 

The idea that a rich insurance company would take those premiums every month, and then work so hard to avoid paying claims is disgusting. That machinery is exactly what you are up against when you are injured in an accident.  You need expert advice to help you navigate these dangerous waters, and avoid being taken advantage of by the insurance industry.

 

It is important to remember that your personal injury claim will not be decided by the person who accidentally hurt you. The claims are decided either by the insurance company or by a jury in court.

 

Lawyers are here to protect you, and to uphold the rules of law that promote and protect the safety of the community. If careless people and their insurance companies can hear your experience and be made to provide full compensation, they will learn to be more careful, and our community will be safer for everyone.

 

Insurance companies avoid paying damages by pointing the finger. They will claim that your injuries aren’t real, that it was someone else’s fault, that your suffering is made up, and if that doesn’t work, they may even suggest that you are a liar and a cheat.

 

We know this sounds a little extreme, unfortunately, this is an argument we see insurance companies make over and over.

 

Their lobbyists spend billions of dollars every year trying to convince people like you that frivolous lawsuits are filed all the time, and that money-grubbing plaintiff’s and their lawyers are ruining America.

 

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed by the negligence of someone else, you know this “tort reform” propaganda is false. It takes a skilled attorney to help jurors understand that people do not go through the hassle and expense of filing a time-consuming lawsuit when their claims are frivolous.

 

You need an experienced attorney to fight for you against this “tort reform” bias, and help jurors understand who you really are, and what you are suffering because of this needless accident.

 

The insurance company said I don’t need an attorney – is that true?

It is a violation of the Utah Administrative Code for an insurance company representative to discourage you from hiring a lawyer. If that happens, make sure and take down the name of the representative and the name of their company so that they can be reported to the insurance division.

 

Utah created this rule because your interests and the interests of the insurance company are not the same. This suggests that even the State of Utah recognizes that it is better for you to deal with insurance companies through an experienced personal injury lawyer.

 

Again, if you have been injured in an accident, always get an opinion from an experienced personal injury lawyer. You have rights, and lawyers are trained professionals who will help to protect those rights. Lawyers can give you unbiased legal advice at no cost to you.

 

Why not get the opinion of an experienced lawyer before trying to deal with the insurance company, especially when it doesn’t cost you anything?

 

What if I tried to start my case on my own?

Some people have already tried to deal with the insurance company on their own. Often, they end up going to a lawyer because they feel they are not being treated fairly, and they find the process stressful and burdensome.

 

We are here for you! When clients come into our office that have tried to deal with claims on their own, we immediately begin reviewing the files to protect their interests and undue (whenever possible) anything negative the insurance company has already done to their case.

 

This process begins by gathering the necessary information and immediately informing the insurance company not to communicate with our clients anymore. They are asked to direct all further communication to our office, and we will take steps to protect your private, personal information from their prying eyes.

 

It is our goal to alleviate as much stress as we can from you so you can concentrate on getting healthy again, both mentally and physically.

 

Should I sign a release?

No! This sounds harsh, but never sign anything that has not been reviewed by your attorney. Insurance companies would like nothing better than for you to sign away all of your rights and privileges without consulting with a lawyer to determine what your claim is actually worth. If you sign a release, you may be unable to recover future damages.

 

In some instances, the insurer may offer an early settlement, which may not fully compensate you, as they may still be unaware of the extent and future costs of their injuries. We will help you every step of the way!

 

Should I accept the insurance company settlement?

No matter how nice the insurance adjuster seems or how many details they give you regarding your compensation, the adjuster’s goal is to pay you as little as possible.  In fact, the adjuster is usually rewarded for resolving claims for as little as possible and as quickly as possible.

 

It cannot be reiterated enough that insurance companies are in the business of minimizing payouts to maximize company profits.

 

For these reasons, it is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to visit you very soon after an accident.  To entice you to accept a settlement for far less than you could recover, the adjuster often comes ready to make a payment immediately.

 

This is an underhanded tactic used to end a matter right away when an injured party is at their most vulnerable and has not had time to fully evaluate their injuries and options.

 

It is important not to fall for this trap!   There is no reason to make rash decisions about a settlement or offer from an insurance company.  It is prudent to fully think through all legal decisions and not to sign away legal and/or medical rights without being fully aware of the consequences.

Should I make a statement to the insurance company?

 

The short answer is no! Remember, the insurance company’s interests are not the same as your own. There is no benefit to making recorded statements or providing material to the insurance company without first getting legal advice.

 

In most cases, these requests are made specifically to use your words against you in possible legal cases in the future.  Even if you simply intend to state that you were not responsible for the accident, it is very easy for these comments to be taken out of context and used adversely.  Please, always get legal advice first.