Frequently Asked Questions
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How many bus accidents are there in the US each year?According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are 300 bus accidents with fatalities each year, and more than 20,000 injuries. Buses are massive vehicles and they often drive at high speed on highways and loss of control can lead to serious injuries and death.
Is a personal injury attorney needed to file an injury claim or lawsuit on behalf of a minor child?
There is no law which requires a victim to hire a person al injury attorney to represent them in an injury claim or lawsuit, however, unless injuries were very minor, these cases can become complex, especially when they involve a minor child.
It is not uncommon for an insurance company to try to settle these cases as quickly and cheaply as possible, playing on parents’ emotions and offering them settlements far less than what the family deserves. By retaining the services of a personal injury attorney, you can be assured that attorney will work diligently to protect the rights of your child and family against the insurance company.
When does an injury claim or lawsuit have to be filed on behalf of a minor child?
North Carolina law says a child has until one year beyond their 18th birthday to file a claim against the negligent party, however, many in the legal field feel that is usually not a good idea to wait that long, especially if the child is very young at the time of injury. This is because critical evidence could be lost during that time, witnesses move away or die, and other changing factors that could impact the case.
Since the law does not recognize a minor child as being legally capable of filing a lawsuit on their own behalf, a guardian ad litem is appointed to be the child’s “voice” in any claim or lawsuit filed. This person can be a family member, attorney, or another third-party.
The law requires that any settlement be approved by a judge before it becomes enforceable. Failure to do could allow the child to file their own lawsuit when they turn 18 because the courts may declare the child is not bound by the terms of the original settlement since judicial approval was not obtained.
What should a parent do if a child is injured in an accident caused by another party?
When a child is injured, a parent’s first priority is to make sure that the child receives the medical treatment he or she needs to recover. Once the extent of the injury has been determined, as well as any long-term effects the injury may cause, the parent may decide to bring forth a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the party responsible for the injury.
Any claim or lawsuit pursued can result in the financial compensation for any losses the child and their family suffered because of the injury. This can include all medical expenses, as well as the lost income sustained by the parent if they were unable to work because they had to care for the child during the recovery process. There may be other damages that can be pursued, including pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and permanent scarring or disfigurement. North Carolina law requires that these be filed as two separate claims, one on behalf of the child and the other on behalf of the parent.
When does the statute of limitations on a Virginia medical malpractice claim start ticking?
Any Virginia medical malpractice attorney will tell you that statute of limitations questions do not always have simple answers. As a matter of law, victims of medical malpractice have two years to file a claim. The clock starts ticking on either the day a negligent or reckless act harmed the patient, or on the day that the harm caused by a health care provider or medical provider caused harm.
Harm to a patient can be immediately obvious. Operating on the wrong person or body part, for instance, is hard to miss. But sponges or surgical implements left inside a patient may remain undetected for years while the person undergoes treatment for symptoms but receives no accurate diagnosis of the actual problem.
Similarly, birth injuries may not produce recognizable symptoms until a child is older than 24 months, and a misdiagnosis of cancer may not be evident until an autopsy is performed.
Consulting with a malpractice lawyer will help a patient or family understand whether their claim can proceed without getting dismissed for being outside the statute of limitations. Enlisting the help of an attorney will also make sense because one of the first arguments a health care provider or medical facility will make is that the victim missed the legal window for filing a claim.
Does the cap on medical malpractice damages mean my hospital and therapy bills with not be paid?
During 2018, Virginia law places a hard cap of around $2.5M on total damage awards to victims of medical malpractice. No matter what happened or how much lifelong care a person requires as a result of malpractice, the most he or she can recover for medical bills, pain and suffering, and continuing care is less than $3M.
The statutory cap on medical malpractice awards does not, however, apply to punitive damages. These are noncriminal penalties assessed against health providers or medical facility owners who should have known that their behavior or policies and procedures put the patient at risk for death or disability. A jury can award any amount of punitive damages it believes the malpractice victim deserves.
Another way to defeat Virginia’s hard cap on medical malpractice is to file separate claims against every health care provider or medical facility that failed to meet its duty to protect the patient’s life and well-being. Pursuing more than one claim is not always possible, though, because a court may order that claims be combined into a single lawsuit.
Your Virginia medical malpractice lawyer will know whether the facts of your case merit seeking punitive damages or filing multiple claims against different providers and facilities.
Who can commit medical malpractice?
A provider-patient relationship creates a duty of care. Failing to meet that duty by acting negligently or recklessly constitutes medical malpractice.
What this means in practical terms is that any medical professional who diagnoses, treats or takes care of a patient in a hospital or nursing home can potentially be held liable for medical malpractice. The facilities where patients seek care can also be found liable for malpractice when a provider’s negligence or recklessness resulted from insufficient policy guidance, training or supervision.
An incomplete list of people and organizations that can face medical malpractice claims includes
- Facility managers
- Facility owners
While medical assistants and pharmacy technicians can commit medical malpractice, those paraprofessionals will rarely be named in lawsuits because their work is directly overseen by doctors, nurses or pharmacists. That situation actually makes a doctor, nurse or pharmacist responsible for meeting the duty of care.
How does recklessness affect wrongful death claims?
Reckless behavior that leads to another person’s death can make the reckless individual or organization liable for paying punitive damages to the deceased victim’s family. Punitive damages are noncriminal fines awarded as part of a civil lawsuit judgment. They must be paid in addition to any economic compensation and noneconomic damages like those for pain and suffering that get awarded to the family.
In North Carolina, punitive damages can be awarded following a wrongful death from a drunk or drugged driving accident. Punitive damages can also be sought in medical malpractice cases and in cases arising from dangerous and defective products. Driving under the influence is assumed to be reckless because a person who is not fully in control of his or her own body cannot be expected to control a car or truck. In medical malpractice and dangerous or defective products cases, punitive damages are due when a person or organization knew that deadly risks existed but intentionally did nothing to remove or mitigate those risks.
What happens if my family already filed personal injury claims but our loved one dies?
Under the laws of North Carolina, any situation that entitles a person or family to file personal injury insurance claims or civil lawsuits will also provide grounds for taking legal actions for a wrongful death. When a person who became incapacitated following an accident later dies from his or her injuries, a North Carolina personal injury lawyer can file paperwork to change personal injury claims to claims for a wrongful death.
A person or organization found liable for taking a life can often owe more in compensation and damages because the surviving family can ask for money to make up for loss of companionship and support in addition to the deceased individual’s medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
How does North Carolina law define ‘wrongful death’?
Section 28A-18-2 of the North Carolina General Statutes states,
When the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default of another, such as would, if the injured person had lived, have entitled the injured person to an action for damages therefor, the person or corporation that would have been so liable, and the personal representatives or collectors of the person or corporation that would have been so liable, shall be liable to an action for damages, to be brought by the personal representative or collector of the decedent; and this notwithstanding the death, and although the wrongful act, neglect or default, causing the death, amounts in law to a felony.
To put that in plain language, a wrongful death occurs when a person or organization acts negligently, recklessly or criminally and kills someone else. Such a wrongful death gives the family of the deceased individual legal rights to seek monetary compensation and damages from the responsible party.
In light of the statutory language, a wrongful death in North Carolina can result from a traffic accident, medical malpractice, defective products, dangerous drugs, unsafe building practices, failures to protect customers and visitors, and assaults.