It is not uncommon when people hear the words “personal injury lawsuit,” they are under the misconception that the victim must be “faking” their injuries and is just looking to cheat the insurance company out of money. But the truth is that a personal injury lawsuit is a legally mandated process for victims to be compensated for injuries that were a result of another party’s negligence.
Even a minor injury can result in hundreds of dollars in medical bills. However, when the injury is more serious, the financial losses can be significant. High medical bills for surgeries, hospitalizations, physical therapy, and medications can quickly add up. Even victims with health insurance can find themselves facing overwhelming medical debt because of required deductions. In addition to those expenses, there is often a loss of income because the victim is unable to work because of their injuries, adding even more financial hardship for the victim.
Personal injury lawsuits enable victims to recover some of the financial losses they suffer, as well as compensation for pain and suffering and other damages they face. Whether the victim is injured because of a reckless driver, preventable medical error, defective product, or negligent property owner, a personal injury lawsuit is critical for the victim to “become whole again.”
McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit
One of the most infamous personal injury lawsuits – and one that just added to the public’s misconception about the seriousness of these types of legal actions – was filed against McDonald’s in 1992. This lawsuit became the epitome of “frivolous lawsuits” and the butt of many comedians’ jokes. The truth, however, is that the victim in this case suffered severe injuries, a point never shared with the public.
The victim, a 79-year-old woman, purchased a coffee from the drive-thru at the fast-food chain and accidentally spilled it on her lap. The coffee had been heated to a perilously high temperature of 190 degrees. Within a matter of seconds, the victim had suffered second- and third-degree burns on almost 20 percent of her body. The injury was so severe, the victim went into shock. The burns she suffered were so horrific, the victim had to endure multiple skin grafts.
The victim ended up with more than $20,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses which she sought reimbursement from McDonald’s. The company offered her $800. This left the victim no choice but to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to cove here expenses.
Another fact that the public was never really aware of – and which demonstrated the negligence on the company’s part – was that there had been more than 700 complaints made to the company from customers who had also suffered injuries because of the dangerously high temperatures they served their coffee at. The company later admitted that they had known about this hazard for more than 10 years.
The jury sided with the victim and awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages but reduced the award to $160,000 because they said she caused the spill. But then the jury sent a clear message to McDonald’s for failing to address an issue they had known about for more than a decade that put their customers in danger and awarded the victim $2.7 million in punitive damages.
Contact an NC Accident Attorney for More Information
Personal injury cases can be difficult to prove without the legal expertise of a North Carolina injury attorney. These cases can be complex and failure to provide sufficient evidence could result in a dismissal of the case by the court or a ruling in favor of the defendant (at-fault party).
At Shapiro & Appleton, our legal team will provide a free case evaluation to determine what legal options you may have and how to proceed. Call our office today to find out how we can help get you the financial compensation you deserve.