Frequently Asked Questions

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Personal Injury

1. What exactly is a personal injury case?

Personal injury cases arise from such a wide array of situations that it would be impossible to list them all here. Some of the most common are:

  • construction and workplace accidents
  • wrongful death
  • slip, trip and fall accidents
  • electrical accidents
  • motor vehicle accidents
  • medical malpractice
  • birth injury

Any time someone is harmed by the fault of another person or company, there might be a personal injury claim. In fact, personal injury lawyers often handle negligence claims that don’t actually involve physical injuries at all – negligent destruction of property, for instance.

2. How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

You can find out whether or not you have a viable personal injury claim by talking to a personal injury lawyer. Among many other elements, there are a few main things a claimant must prove in order to recover in a personal injury case: that you suffered damages, that the defendant was negligent, and that the defendant’s negligence caused your damages. Even if you have a valid claim, though, your personal injury attorney will have to investigate whether or not you would be able to collect on your claim. If the other party does not have insurance and does not have other assets that could be used to compensate you, then it may be that you have a valid claim but will be unable to collect compensation for it.

3. How much is my personal injury case worth?

A number of factors figure into the monetary value of your personal injury claim. For instance, the value of your case is dependent on by the nature and degree of your personal injuries; the amount of your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other financial losses; pain and suffering; and present and future disability. Even when those factors are considered, there are significant variations in the value of a personal injury claim based on the amount of insurance involved or the assets of the defendant, any partial fault on the part of the injured person, the victim’s willingness/ability to invest a long period of time in litigating the claim versus the need for a relatively quick settlement, and more. A personal injury lawyer can weigh the various factors to give you their estimate on the outcome of your case.

4. What should I do if I’m hurt in an accident?

First and foremost, get medical attention. Report accident to your employer if injured at workplace or file a police report, either at the scene or as soon as possible afterward. At the same time, if you’re able, you may want to create a record that could help protect your claim. Try to get names and contact information from any witnesses. If you’re able, write down exactly what happened as soon as possible after the event. Take photographs.  Accident scene photographs often provide valuable evidence.  And, of course, you can talk to a personal injury lawyer to get advice about how to proceed, what kind of records you should be keeping, and how to handle any phone calls you should receive from the other party’s insurance company.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s critical to retain a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident in order to protect your legal rights, ensure that you receive the best medical treatment, and to maximize your opportunity to recover the full value for the damages that you sustained.

Construction and Workplace Accidents

1. What are the most common construction accidents?

  • Being Struck by equipment or material
  • Scaffold Accidents
  • Structural Collapses
  • Falls
  • Crane Accidents
  • Aerial Lift Accidents
  • Electrical Accidents

 2. If I am injured on a construction worksite, who is liable for my injuries?

If you are injured while working at a construction site, it is important that you and your legal counsel consider all of the potential defendants who may be liable for your injuries. These can include other subcontractors whose employees were negligent, the property owner or the manufacturer and distributors of defective construction equipment and tools. Each case is different and it requires thorough investigation and careful review of the facts to identify the at-fault parties.

3. Can I file a lawsuit against persons or entities that caused my injury even if I am collecting workers’ compensation benefits?

Yes. If third parties other than your employer caused your injuries, you may bring a “third-party” lawsuit against them even though you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits available under Workers’ Compensation are limited by state statute and do not include many significant damages such as pain, suffering, emotional distress or disfigurement. Therefore, a third-party claim may be your only way to be fully compensated for your damages.

4. What if my employer is at fault for causing my injuries?

In most states you are barred from suing your employer for negligence. That means that if you or your employer is 100% at fault, your remedies will be limited to workers’ compensation benefits. There is a narrow exception where the conduct of the employer is so outrageous as to be considered intentional or wanton and reckless. However, if a third-party such as the employee of another supplier or contractor contributed to the accident, you may still file suit on a third-party claim.

5. What are the most common workplace accidents?

Some of the most common workplace accidents include:

  • Chemicals
  • Gas explosions
  • Heat and burn risks
  • Malfunctioning equipment

6. What damages are recoverable in a construction or workplace accident?

The damages recoverable will depend on a number of factors including the law of the state where the accident occurred. Ordinarily the injured worker is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain, and suffering and if the defendant’s conduct is bad enough, punitive damages. If the worker dies in the accident, his or her survivors may be entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses including damages which stem from the loss of the society, care, and companionship of their loved one.

Wrongful Death

1. Who can sue for wrongful death?

In most states, only a direct relative of the deceased may sue for wrongful death. For instance, a parent can sue for the wrongful death of a child; a wife can sue for the wrongful death of a husband; a minor child, through the aid of a guardian, can sue for the wrongful death of both parents; and so on.

2. What sorts of damages can be obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit?

The types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit depend on the individual case, but generally include compensation for medical and funereal expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and losses and expenses that can be projected into the future, such as future lost wages and benefits, loss of consortium, loss of support, and loss of companionship.

3. Can I file a wrongful death claim if my deceased family member was partly at fault for the accident?

In states with comparative liability laws, it may be possible to collect some compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit even if your loved one was partly at fault for the accident that resulted in his or her death. The amount of money to which you would be entitled would be reduced in proportion to the degree to which your loved one was at fault. For example, if your loved one was found to be 40 percent at fault for the accident, you would be eligible to recover 60 percent of the overall award you would have recovered if your loved one had not been at fault at all.

Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents

1. What are the most common types of premises liability accidents?

The most common types of premises liability accidents include slip and fall accidents, trip and fall accidents, accidents involving falling objects, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and accidents due to collapsing floorboards or stairs.

People who are injured in attacks perpetrated on commercial properties that do not provide adequate security may also be eligible to file a premises liability claim.

2. Who is eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit?

Visitors onto property are divided into three categories under the law. Invitees are those who enter onto commercial properties, such as stores and businesses. Licensees are those who are guests of private residences or other non-commercial properties. Trespassers are those who are uninvited but still enter onto a property. The first two types of visitors have clearly defined legal rights and may be able to obtain compensation if they are injured due to the negligence of a property owner. Trespassers have more limited rights; however, under certain circumstances, even they may be eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit.

3. Are all injuries on another party’s property fair grounds for a premises liability lawsuit?

Not necessarily. Visitors on a property are expected to exercise common sense and reasonable care. For example, someone who slips and falls on a red liquid on a grocery store with white-tile floors will have a more difficult time obtaining compensation than someone who slips and falls on a clear liquid in the same store where there was no warning posted.

Electrical Accidents

1. What is considered an electrical accident?

There are three main types of electrical accidents:

  • Electric shock: occurs when an extremity such as a finger, hand, or arm is placed across an electric current. The body is a good conductor of electricity because it is made up of mostly water. Electric shock can be mild, moderate, or severe. A mild electric shock leaves a slight tingling sensation. Moderate electric shock causes the muscles to contract and it may be difficult to pull away from the electric current. Severe electric shock causes respiratory or heart failure.
  • Electrical burn: occurs when severe electric shock causes tissue to burn. Electrical burns can be external or internal. Internal burns occur when the electric current takes a path through bone and burns deep tissue.
  • Electrical fires: occur when electric current ignites flammable materials. Electrical fires are extremely dangerous because putting them out with water may expose a person to a higher risk of electric shock.

2. What are the causes of an electrical accident?

Electrical accidents can occur due to a number of factors, including:

  • Old wiring
  • Electric cords that run under carpeting
  • Flammable materials left near exposed electrical wiring in the workplace
  • Loose connectors
  • Poor wiring: substandard wiring can lead to electrical fires and electric shock
  • Lack of preventive devices such as ground fault circuit interrupters (a device that monitors and shuts off electric current in the event that the flow fluctuates), three-pronged outlets, and polarized plugs

Motor Vehicle Accidents

1. What should I do If I’m Involved in a Car Accident?

When you are the victim of another’s negligence, knowledge of what to do after an accident can help protect your rights and preserve evidence for future auto accident lawsuits.

Before anything, find out if anyone needs medical assistance, and if necessary, call or have someone call an ambulance. When you are sure that the situation has stabilized and medical needs have been addressed, begin to collect information about the accident.

Take the next recommended steps:

  • Get as much information as possible about the driver and passengers of each vehicle, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers and expiration dates, and insurance information.
  • Write down the make, model, and license plate number of each car involved. If possible, get the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Contact any witnesses and get their names and phone numbers. The outcome of auto accident lawsuits in New York and elsewhere in the country often hinges on witness statements.
  • Get the names and badge numbers of any police officers on the scene. Ask how you can get a copy of the police report.
  • Draw a diagram of how the accident happened and the final accident scene. It’s important to do this while details are still fresh in your mind.
  • Use your smartphone camera or digital camera to photograph the accident scene. Take a photo from every angle.

2. Should I Admit Fault If I Think I’m Partly to Blame for the Accident?

Never. Until a full investigation of the accident has been completed, there is no way to say for certain who or what specifically has responsibility for causing the accident. Events you may not have seen, defective automotive equipment, and a host of other factors may have had a role in the accident. If you admit fault to other drivers, your words can be used against you in car accident lawsuits. Never admit fault in an accident until all the facts have been collected.

3. Should I See a Doctor Even If I Don’t Have Apparent Injuries?

Always see a doctor before settling claims with insurance companies. The doctor may find problems caused by the accident that could significantly affect you in the future. Seeing a doctor ensures that future problems, if they occur, will be justly compensated.

4. Do I have to sue to be compensated for injuries and damage to my car?

If the other driver’s insurance company offers what you and your attorney feel is just compensation for your injuries and any damages to your vehicle, a lawsuit will be unnecessary. Insurance companies, however, often offer lowball payments to protect their interests. Having an attorney to represent you in negotiations with insurance companies is always highly advisable.

5. Can I Handle Negotiations with Insurance Companies Myself?

Nothing prevents you from negotiating with insurance companies on your own. However, many car accident lawsuits that could have been avoided if the accident victims had an attorney during negotiations with insurance companies. Consult an experienced attorney to represent you in any auto accident claim. Remember, insurance companies rarely make a move without consulting their lawyers. You deserve professional legal representation as well.

Medical Malpractice

1. What qualifies as medical malpractice?

It is important to note that physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers are not expected to be perfect, and that not all mistakes made by these professionals qualify as medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases hinge upon a lawyer’s ability to demonstrate that a healthcare professional failed to act as his or her competent peers would have under the same circumstances and that, by falling below this reasonable standard of care, he or she caused harm to his or her patient.

2. What are the most common types of medical malpractice?

Common examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Surgical error (such as performing the wrong operation on a patient)
  • Obstetrical errors leading to birth injuries (such as cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy)
  • Medication errors (prescribing an incorrect dosage, for instance)
  • Pharmaceutical errors
  • Failure to diagnose diseases such as cancer in a timely manner
  • Misdiagnosis of diseases

3. Can a medical malpractice lawsuit be filed against more than one party?

A medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed against multiple parties if more than one medical professional was responsible for injuring or killing a patient. Under the doctrine of shared liability, more than one party can be named in any civil lawsuit.

4. What qualities should I look for in a medical malpractice lawyer?

You will want to seek out a medical malpractice lawyer who is not only experienced, but experienced – and consistently successful – in handling cases similar to yours. For instance, if you have a potential pharmaceutical malpractice case, you probably would not want to entrust your case to a law firm that primarily handles birth injury cases, but rather one that has presented and won several pharmaceutical malpractice cases.

Birth Injury

1. What is a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries include Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, Athetoid dyskinetic cerebral palsy, spastic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy, and other conditions.

2. What are the different types of Cerebral Palsy?

The condition known as Cerebral Palsy actually refers to a number of conditions caused by brain damage that can occur before, during, or after birth. Symptoms of cerebral palsy can appear early in life, but they may not be noticed until early childhood, or even in early teens.

There are numerous types of cerebral palsy, classified as such based on the area of the brain that is damaged. The following are common types of this condition:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: This is most common form of cerebral palsy, affecting 70 to 80 percent of patients, and it occurs in the cerebral cortex. Where pairs of muscles normally work in concert, alternately tensing and relaxing to allow normal movement, the muscles of those afflicted with spastic cerebral palsy tense in unison, causing abnormal movements. Spastic cerebral palsy sufferers often experience a lifetime of difficulties due to lack of control in movement.
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy: Affecting approximately 25 percent of cerebral palsy patients, this form, also known as dyskenetic cerebral palsy, is caused by damage to the basal ganglia. Symptoms include slow, writhing movements of the hands, feet, arms, or legs, but it can also affect the muscles of the face and tongue. Athetoid cerebral palsy afflictions can have a dramatic effect on many lives.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: This form is caused by damage to the cerebellum, and it affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of people with cerebral palsy. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects movement coordination, and tends to affect balance, causing sufferers to walk or stand with legs wide apart and appear unsteady and shaky. Ataxic cerebral palsy victims experience many difficulties throughout life and compensation costs can improve the quality of life for those afflicted with these problems.

3. Does birth injury qualify as medical malpractice?

Yes. Obstetrical errors leading to birth injuries qualify as a medical malpractice case. Medical malpractice cases hinge upon a lawyer’s ability to demonstrate that a healthcare professional failed to act as his or her competent peers would have under the same circumstances and that, by falling below this reasonable standard of care, he or she caused harm to his or her patient.

Workers’ Compensation

1. What is workers’ compensation? 

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was created for workers injured on-the-job, or who develop a work-related illness that prevents them from working. Benefits include wage loss compensation and paid medical expenses until workers can return to work. These benefits are generally paid by employers through a private insurance company, the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, or by the employers themselves if they are self-insured. Employers in Pennsylvania are required to maintain workers’ compensation.

2. How do you know if you need an attorney? 

Serious work-related injuries or illnesses and the litigation process are all situations that generally require legal representation. If you are injured, or have contracted a work-related illness, or believe you have been treated unfairly, contacting an attorney is in your best interest. You are permitted to represent yourself in court and in front of a judge. However, this is ill-advised because the employer and its insurance company will undoubtedly be represented by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, putting you at a severe disadvantage. Even if your case is not before a judge, it may be wise to contact an attorney to help you navigate the difficult process of dealing with the insurance company, which often provides you with little, incorrect or conflicting information.

3. What should a worker do after getting injured on the job? 

It is extremely important to report your injury to your supervisor or employer IMMEDIATELY. You must include the date, time, and circumstances of your injury.  As long as you were not doing anything illegal, your injury is covered, so do not hesitate to report such an injury—even if you feel it may be your fault. Job-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and repetitive trauma injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome that occur over time must be reported as soon as a diagnosis has been obtained and you learn that the injury or condition is related to your employment.

4. What injuries, diseases or illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation? 

Generally, injuries, illnesses and diseases caused by your work are covered from the first day of employment. Some time limitations may apply to lung diseases. Not covered are self-inflicted injuries or those caused by intoxication or violation of the law including the use of illegal drugs. Repetitive trauma, or over-use injuries are covered by workers’ compensation.

5. Can you be fired by your employer for applying for workers’ compensation? 

No. It is against the law for an employer to fire workers simply because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, if you are on disability for an extended period of time, there is a chance you may be replaced and your job will not remain available for you. Employers are not required to hold your job for you while you recover, although some do. In such a case, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are not receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

6. How do you pay for an attorney to represent you in a workers’ compensation claim? 

Many attorneys handle workers’ compensation cases for a percentage of the lump sum offered to settle the case. Your attorney will not get paid unless you get paid. Whatever the arrangement, your fee agreement with your lawyer must be approved by the judge or Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board handling your case.

7. Is it possible for you to receive a lump-sum settlement if you are found to be permanently and totally disabled from further gainful employment? 

Yes. Settling your case for a lump sum takes careful consideration and a variety of factors must be analyzed. You and your attorney should and will go over what to consider when contemplating settlement. Retroactive payment after winning a disputed claim may also be in the form of a lump sum, plus interest, and weekly benefits thereafter. You may be entitled to a specific loss award if you have permanently lost the use of an appendage such as finger, toe, hand, arm or leg, loss of hearing or sight, or disfigurement. A specific loss award is paid in a lump sum.

8. Can my employer try to terminate my workers’ compensation benefits? 

Yes. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer may file a petition to terminate your right to workers’ compensation benefits, if it can show that you are no longer disabled or that any remaining disability is unrelated to the injury. Your employer can win a termination of benefits if its medical expert offers testimony that you are fully recovered, that you can return to work without restrictions, and that there are no medical findings to support your complaints of pain.

9. Will a pre-existing problem, like arthritis, prevent me from getting workers’ compensation benefits? 

No. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, even if you had a pre-existing problem, such as arthritis, you may receive benefits if you can show that an aggravation, re-activation or acceleration of the condition occurred as a result of your job duties or the work incident.

Social Security Disability

1. What are Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income?

Both SSD and SSI are disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSD is a benefit for those who had a relatively steady work history for a period of time prior to becoming disabled. SSI is a benefit for those who may have only worked for a brief period of time, or not worked at all, prior to becoming disabled. To be eligible for SSI, you must meet financial guidelines for Public Assistance.

2. How long do you have to be disabled before applying?

You should apply right away, because there are delays between applying and actually receiving benefits. There are certain requirements regarding the expected length of disability and certain waiting periods during which benefits are not payable. I will explain these clearly to you.

3. What if you are receiving other benefits, such as workers’ compensation, will they be affected?

In some cases, there are offsets (reductions) against your Social Security Disability benefits as a result of workers’ compensation benefits you may have received during the same period of disability. This is something that must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and we can advise you on an individual basis. Generally, Veterans Administration benefits and private pension benefits do not offset (reduce) SSA’s disability benefits.

4. What is the SSD process for determining whether you are disabled?

The Social Security definition of disability may be different than other programs. It is based on your inability to work at all for a long period of time.You are considered disabled and eligible for SSD benefits if you meet these conditions:

  • You are not working—if you earn more than $1,000 a month, you are not considered disabled
  • Your condition must be so severe that it interferes with work-related activities you must perform to do your job
  • Social Security maintains a list of medical conditions used to determine if applicants are eligible to receive SSD benefits—if your impairment is not on the list, you are not disabled
  • You are unable to do the work you did before you were disabled
  • You are not able to perform other types of work that your background may have prepared you to do
  • It is important to understand that this is a simple explanation that does not take into account special situations that may make you eligible for disability benefits even it you have not fulfilled all the above conditions. Disability attorneys at Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano can advise you regarding your eligibility and then help you apply.

5. How long does it take for you to start collecting benefits?

The process of obtaining disability benefits from SSA can be a long, confusing and tedious process. It typically takes anywhere from four months to a year and a half to get an award of benefits. At Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano, we can guide you through the process as quickly and effectively as possible. Social Security has adopted fast-track processing for certain disabilities. Our objective is to assist you in obtaining the benefits that you deserve as quickly as possible.

6. How can you afford to pay a lawyer to help with SSDI when you are applying for SSDI because of financial problems?

You owe no fees unless we are successful and then, as regulated by the Social Security Act, we get a percentage of the recovered benefits.

7. What are personal injury cases?

If a personal injury results from the negligence of a company or another person, it is considered a personal injury case. Some examples of personal injury cases involve motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall, medical negligence, or defective products.

8. How long do I have to take legal action if I am injured as a result of someone’s carelessness or negligence?

Eligibility requirements vary by state. In Pennsylvania, most negligence-based claims must be filed within a two year window. Some cases involving intentional misconduct may have as short as a one year window. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible following your accident to ensure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

9. How quickly should I contact an attorney?

To be safe, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can provide you with guidance concerning your medical care and necessary treatment, and help you with your bills.

10. What will it cost me to hire an attorney?

Usually, personal injury cases involve a contingency fee agreement. Your attorney receives compensation only once you have recovered wage losses. If you win, your lawyer’s payment is a pre-determined percentage of the money you recover. If there is no recovery, there is no fee.

11. What if the negligence caused someone’s death?

Cases that result in death are known as “Wrongful Death” cases. The claim is usually pursued by an appointed special administrator, often a family member. In Pennsylvania, parents, spouses, siblings, and children are considered “wrongful death beneficiaries,” and claims are pursued on their behalf. The wrongful death beneficiaries may be entitled to compensation for economic losses they suffered as a result of the death and may also be entitled to claim damages for the mental anguish suffered as a result of the death of a loved one.

12.What is my case worth?

The value of your case depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • medical expenses
  • wage loss
  • future damages
  • disfigurement and scarring
  • evidence as to the degree of fault
  • the location of the accident
  • the likelihood of punitive damages
  • the amount of insurance coverage

Case values are determined by an agreement between all parties when there is a settlement. If parties cannot agree on a settlement, the case value is established by the “trier of fact” (usually the jury or a judge).

13. How long does it take for a case to go to trial once it has been filed?

This varies greatly on a case-by-case basis. The courts try to schedule the oldest cases first, but any scheduling has to take into account the trial schedules of all of the attorneys who are involved. Criminal cases normally have priority over civil cases, which are often postponed or
“continued” to a later trial date. The complexity of the case may also have an effect on how soon a trial date can be obtained. It is easier to schedule a one day trial than a trial that will last for weeks.