Frequently Asked Questions
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I got injured at my neighbor’s holiday party and had to go to the emergency room. Can I sue?
Party hosts have legal duties to prevent injuries to their guests, but those duties are not absolute. When a guest causes harm to themselves, a party host has no responsibility for settling insurance claims.
Two situations illustrate when a personal injury case will be and will not be justified following an accident at a party.
When a wooden porch stair that has long needed replacement due to rot gives way, causing a guest to fall and badly injure her leg, the party guest likely has grounds for filing an insurance claim against the homeowner. Failing to keep the porch in good repair put the party guest at an unreasonable risk for injury.
But say the same wooden stair was solid and the guest simply stepped wrong while looking elsewhere. The party host cannot be held responsible for the woman’s inattention to where she was placing her feet.
Of course, a party host faced with an insurance claim over a rotted porch stair will almost always argue, in more legal language, that the woman with the leg injury simply should have watched where she walked. In such circumstances, it is worth consulting with a Virginia personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs in what most people call slip and fall lawsuits.
Do homeowners who host holiday parties have legal duties to protect guests from injuries?
Absolutely, though the duty is relieved when party guests intentionally or recklessly put themselves in harm’s way.
A centuries-old legal principle called premises liability places legal duties on homeowners and apartment owner to protect the health and lives of guests. This duty extends to preventing falls, electric shocks, drownings, dog bites, and attacks by other guests.
A holiday party host would meet this duty by, for example, keeping their home in good repair, covering or supervising a pool, and controlling animals. It is not always clear, however, whether a host has done enough in any of those areas, especially when the issue may be a failure to do proper maintenance. Speaking with a Virginia personal injury attorney who handles what are often called slip and fall cases can clarify whether the legal standards for premises liability apply.
If I slip on my neighbor’s icy sidewalk, can I file an insurance claim against them?
This is a tough question to answer definitively because, on the one hand, city ordinances and common courtesy require homeowners to clear and sand or salt their driveways, sidewalks and stoops. Not complying is negligent and puts other people at risk. At the same time, pedestrians have a duty to take care when they know or suspect that pavement may by icy. Neighborhood sidewalks often go uncleared, so walkers should exercise caution.
A much stronger case can typically be made against a business that fails to secure the approach and entrance to its front door. Customers have an expectation that they will not slip and fall while patronizing a business. Failing to fulfill that expectation can be cited as negligence in a personal injury insurance claim or civil lawsuit.
Another key issue in ice or snow slip or fall cases is whether a business owner had a reasonable opportunity to clear walkways after a complete or temporary cessation of stormy or snowy conditions. Did a day pass, or only 30 minutes? Consult with a skilled personal injury attorney with our firm if you have a question.
How can I prove that a defective drug caused my health problems or a family member’s death?
Succeeding with a defective drug claim in Virginia usually requires showing all of the following things:
- The person who used the drug suffered a serious health problem or died,
- The health problem or death can be linked to use of the drug,
- The drug maker failed to warn the patient about the potential health problem or risk of death, and
- The drug maker knew or should have known that the risk to patients’ health or lives existed.
These are the evidentiary standards imposed on failure to warn cases. A smaller number of defective drug cases arise from manufacturing defects. In those cases, a patient experiences a severe side effect or dies because the drug maker or compounding pharmacist used the wrong ingredients; used too much of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, thereby, triggering an overdose; or included harmful substances in the drug product that should not be included.
A drug maker faced with a defective drug lawsuit will argue that its product was safe and that any problems experienced by patients were caused by things other than its product. Working with a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer is often necessary to collect, organize and present the evidence that counters the drug maker’s arguments.
Can I file a lawsuit over a severe drug side effect?
Just suffering a severe side effect is almost never enough to justify filing a defective drug lawsuit. First, drug makers protect themselves from legal claims by listing potential problems for patients in product labeling. Beyond that, it is not always clear that a health problem or death can be blamed on using a medication.
Grounds for a defective drug lawsuit in Virginia exist only when one of the following things is true:
- A patient or a patient’s family member can show that the drug maker knew or should have known that a risk existed and failed to warn anyone about that risk; or
- A patient or family member can show that harmful errors were made during the manufacturing process.
What is a defective drug?
A defective drug is one that causes undisclosed, severe side effects. A drug can be defective because its maker failed to warn patients about the risk or because it contains the wrong ingredients.
Examples of defective drugs for which pharmaceutical companies failed to issue adequate warning include Actos (pioglitazone for diabetes, which causes heart failure and bladder cancer) and Pradaxa (dabigatran for breaking up blood clots, which causes life-threating internal bleeding).
Any drug product can have manufacturing defects at any time. Analyzing doses from the batch including the drug used by the patient who suffered a severe, unexpected side effect will be necessary to identify the error.
Why does it take a long time in some cases to get my medical records for a bike accident case?Your attorney needs full access to your medical records from all medical providers that gave you treatment. But they are not usually in a rush to send them in quickly; there is no law requiring them to do so on a timely basis. You can easily have to wait months for critical medical records.
Why should I wait to file until I am fully healed from my bike accident injuries?When you settle your claim, the case is over. You cannot go back and have a do-over if your injuries worsen. So you want to wait until you have fully healed so you can get the maximum amount of money, and be certain that your injuries do not worsen after settlement.
How long will it take to settle my bike accident claim?Generally, we find that settling a typical bicycle accident claim, such as a crosswalk accident where you were hit by a car, can take a year from start to finish. But the timeline will vary depending upon the extent of your injuries and accident details. Timelines can run from months to years.
What have the courts had to say about accessing the accident victim's private information on social media?One court of appeals ruled recently that although Facebook and other accounts may be thought of as private, even private materials can be subject to discovery in a lawsuit, if they are relevant. So, use care in what you post on social media after you are injured. It is best to completely stay off of social media if you can if a lawsuit is pending.