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Attorney Advertising: Website content for informational and educational purposes only and should not be substituted for speaking with an attorney.  All cases are different, and past results do not guarantee future outcomes. All fees must be finalized in writing and may vary based on the circumstances of a case.

Personal Injury: Plaintiff and Defense

Personal Injury Plaintiff
Personal Injury Defense
Example Case
Injury During Arrest
Statute of Limitations
Exercise Your Rights

Personal Injury Plaintiff

An injury, whether physical or psychological, can be life changing. An injury can cause a person to lose a job. An injury can cause life-long pain. An injury can cause a person to be bed ridden for weeks, months or years, taking away the most valuable thing in life—a person’s time. Sometimes, a serious injury can restrict a person’s freedom as much as a jail sentence. An injured person should be compensated for these harms.

Personal injury lawsuits make up a disproportionately large amount of civil cases because of the potentially high profits. However, many law firms only accept sure bets, and people with legitimate claims do not get their day in court. Law firms often settle smaller cases quickly to focus on the more lucrative cases, or they do not accept them at all!

If a law firm accepts a personal injury case, the firm takes about 35%-45% of the settlement or judgment, and sometimes they add other fees. It is possible that after a lawsuit concludes, the firm will take home more money than the injured client!  (The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua only charges a 27% contingency fee.)

Most lawsuits end with a settlement because a trial costs far more than a reasonable settlement. Also, most defendants do not want to risk losing a trial and paying both a defense lawyer and an unfavorable judgment. Consequently, the majority of a personal injury case, at least for the client, is a waiting game. Meanwhile, the opposing lawyers will investigate the case for helpful evidence to use during negotiations.

A patient lawyer will negotiate a fair settlement quickly or will take a case all the way to trial to pressure the opposing party (many defendants offer favorable settlements after the first day of the trial). Everyone deserves their day in court, and the Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will never force a client to settle a case for quick cash.

Personal Injury Defense

Because of the potentially large payouts in personal injury verdicts, many law firms only represent plaintiffs or, if they decide to defend a client, they take advantage of the client’s position and charge hourly fees.

As mentioned earlier, defending against a personal injury lawsuit requires a great deal of patience. Most defendants in a personal injury case end up settling with the plaintiff because even a successful trial can cost more than a fast settlement. Unfortunately, this permissive system has increased (dramatically) the rate of frivolous lawsuits and has caused most defendants to offer a quick payoff (a “nuisance settlement”).

In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove the facts by “a preponderance of the evidence,” a standard that makes the outcome difficult to predict early. The preponderance of the evidence standard simply means more likely than not.  To explain this standard, a lawyer may ask the jury to imagine the scales of justice in perfect balance. To win a case, the plaintiff or the defendant only needs to place a feather on one side, slightly tipping the scales. Naturally, the preponderance standard makes many defendants nervous because it is hard to predict a jury verdict, and an incorrect prediction can cost millions of dollars.

A personal injury trial has two major phases. The first determines liability (fault), which gets complicated when a jury must determine how each party contributed to an injury. For example, a jury could decide that in a car accident, the first driver was 25% responsible for slamming on his breaks without warning, the second driver was 50% responsible for rear-ending the first driver, and a jaywalker was 25% responsible for illegally crossing in front of an oncoming car in the middle of the night.

After determining the liability of each party, the jury must decide damages and determine what injuries exist and how much compensation each party deserves. This might sound straight forward, but the damages phase of a trial can last longer than the liability phase! The plaintiff will present doctors and experts and the defense will refute them with more doctors and experts.

Example Case

A personal injury lawsuit can lead to a complex series of litigation, which is a major reason for fast settlements. Let us consider the most common personal injury case, a car accident, to demonstrate the legal process.

Example Facts: Driver A travels at 25 miles per hour and rear-ends Driver B at an intersection, pushing Driver B into a crosswalk and hitting a pedestrian at 5 miles per hour, knocking her down.

The case has only three parties—Driver A, Driver B, and the Pedestrian—and no serious injuries. Sounds simple, right?

As previously mentioned, the lawsuit has two major phases: liability and damages. Before anything else happens, the case must survive the pretrial process. The insurance companies will attempt to settle with the parties by offering quick cash in exchange for signing away the right to sue. The companies will ask each party to visit a variety of doctors to evaluate the potential injuries. Assuming the parties hired representation, the lawyers for each party will file a series of complaints, responses, counterclaims, and cross-claims. Afterward, the lawyers will file a series of motions relating to jurisdiction, venue, dismissal, discovery, and summary judgment.

During the liability phase, the parties will each try to blame one another for the injuries. Driver B could sue Driver A for rear-ending him, and Driver A could countersue Driver B, perhaps claiming that the driver was negligently stopped at a green light or violating the rules of traffic in some other way. The Pedestrian could sue both drivers because both contributed to hitting her. Both drivers could argue that the Pedestrian was not actually in the crosswalk when crossing the street, thus jaywalking, or that the Pedestrian was crossing against a stoplight.

Bottom line: Everyone could sue everyone else. Ultimately, all parties would claim that the other parties caused the accident and the injuries.

These theories take time to investigate, to prove, and to litigate. After a few months of filing legal paperwork, the discovery process forces the parties and the witnesses to answer written questionnaires called interrogatories and to respond to oral questioning during depositions. Remember, in a lawsuit, no constitutional right to “remain silent” exists, and so each party must testify at videotaped depositions, hearings, and trials. In our example case, the witnesses will include the three parties, the police officers, the emergency personnel, and any drivers or pedestrians who saw the accident. In addition, each of the parties will hire expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists or engineers, to support his or her version of the facts.

In the liability phase of the trial, one party easily could call seven witnesses (in additional to herself). Although some witnesses for the three parties may overlap, such as the police officer writing the accident report, the lawyers may examine and cross-examine twelve or more witnesses in total.

Once the jury determines liability, the damages phase begins. During the damages phase, the jury determines how much each party suffered. Driver A, Driver B, and the Pedestrian will all have emergency personnel, nurses, doctors and other experts testify about the injuries. Aside from physical injuries, each party will call a psychiatrist to discuss the mental trauma. Finally, the parties will call witnesses to discuss quality of life changes and future economic losses. Can the parties still play with their children and make love to their spouses? Can the party work at the same job and perform the same activities? Between all of the parties, another dozen witnesses easily could testify.

This example case only takes us through the liability and the damages phases of the case. Remember, either side can move for a summary judgment at any time before, during, or after a trial verdict. A summary judgment means that the judge can rule for one side or the other based solely on the law (usually when the facts are undisputed). After a verdict, dismissal, or summary judgment, the losing side can appeal, which can take a year or longer. The side that loses the appeal can decide to appeal the appeal, and in New York the court of last resort is called The Court of Appeals. Even though The Court of Appeals only hears a relatively small number of cases each year, it can take a long time for the court to respond to a petition, even when rejecting it.

Once the highest state court accepts and rules on an appeal, the case usually will return to the trial court for futher proceedings, and those proceedings may be appealed (again).  If the highest court rejects a case, the lawsuit ends in the state court system. However, the federal system runs parallel—and sometimes supersedes—our state court system. Therefore, after a party exhausts all state court options, he can start filing in the federal system, assuming that he has a claim based on federal law.

A lawsuit winding through the various court systems can take many years, and many unscrupulous lawyers use tactics to draw out a lawsuit for as long as possible. Additionally, many lawyers charge huge amounts of money to defend these long cases. Defending oneself against a lawsuit can result in six-figure legal bills, which is why most defendants will choose to settle a claim regardless of the validity of the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, there is little to lose when filing a lawsuit, and many people view personal injury lawsuits as a part of the cosmic lottery of life. If an opportunistic person slips in a supermarket, they will try to sue for unlimited damages. I realize that some of this may sound like a political argument for tort reform (the area of law that governs personal injury lawsuits) but I hope this information serves as a reality check for potential clients considering a defense in a personal injury case. Often, clients get frustrated with their lawyers defending against a lawsuit because the case can move slowly and grow expensive.

Fortunately, an aggressive defense can eat away at a plaintiff's case and can cast doubt on the validity of the complaints. A skillful deposition and discovery process can hurt a plaintiff's case and may persuade the opposing lawyers to consider a small “nuisance settlement” or a dismissal.  The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will defend against personal injury lawsuits using a flat fee system for legal costs.

Injury During Arrest

Many personal injury cases arise from the police using excessive force on a suspect, friend, or family member.  In one recent case, the police mistook one resident of an apartment building for another because they were the same age and race.  Even though the unlucky man did not resist the wrongful arrest, the police bashed his face with a radio.  In another case, a male officer strip-searched a teenage girl after arresting her for a class B misdemeanor.

If the police cause injury or trauma, the victim may be entitled to sue the police department and recover for physical, psychological, and punitive damages.  The police have a job to do, but they do not have the right to use excessive force, even during an arrest.  The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will represent a client's rights and will hold the police responsible for the reckless use of Tazers, pepper spray, batons, guns, or other force.

Statute of Limitation

A plaintiff must file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.   Because the rules change based on the circumstances, it is best to contact a lawyer right away. Otherwise, the law will preclude the lawsuit.  In all situations where an injury or a wrongful death occurred, know the dates of all major events and consult with the Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua to understand your rights.

Exercise Your Rights

The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will fight for an injured client with a low contingency fee and will defend a client from frivolous accusations using a flat fee system.  Do not let a large law firm overcharge and tack on endless costs to the legal bill, otherwise the lawyers will end up taking home more than the injured victim!  Instead, choose a first-rate lawyer with persuasive negotiation skills and aggressive trial strategies.

The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will represent clients in personal injury cases, especially those relating to arrests or alleged criminal conduct, as well as wrongful death, medical malpractice, and insurance company nonpayment.

Contact the Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua at (917) 656 - 7076 or bevelacqualaw@gmail.com and speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately.