Rhode Island Personal Injury FAQs
No one wants to be involved in a personal injury or legal malpractice case. However, life happens and many people find themselves facing a dispute. At these times, victims feel uncertain and have questions about the future. Here, our knowledgeable legal team shares their answers to these most common questions, addressing issues concerning what constitutes a strong case, information about the legal process, types of compensation available, tips for victims to protect their cases, and more.
How much is my claim worth?
The settlement value of a claim cannot be determined until the attorney knows the length and frequency of their client’s medical treatment, total amount of medical bills, the amount of lost wages or lost earning capacity, whether there is permanent injury, and whether pre-existing medical conditions are a factor. Competent, experienced attorneys will resist answering this common question until after a client’s treatment is completed. It is not possible to know the answer earlier, and providing a guess only leads to unjustified expectations. Beware of any attorney who makes an early prediction of your case value.
Do crosswalks need to be marked on the road surface?
Many persons believe crosswalks must be marked on the road surface. This is only partly correct. Rhode Island law provides that crosswalks exist at all intersecting streets, even when not painted on the roadway. When pedestrians are crossing at a street corner, there is almost always a crosswalk implied by law. Drivers of vehicles approaching intersections and crosswalks must use extra caution and slow their vehicles in order to avoid striking pedestrians.
When will my auto accident personal injury claim settle?
This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on a variety of factors that are not all within your attorney’s control. No personal injury claim should be moved to settlement while the injured person is still under medical care for their injuries. This is because the full extent of the person’s injuries and pain and suffering from the accident is unknown until treatment is completed. Also, the medical bills are unknown. Many prudent attorneys prefer to let some time go by after their client completes treatment to make sure there is no relapse resulting in additional treatment and bills. After the attorney presents a settlement demand to the insurance company it must be reviewed and analyzed by the adjuster. Claims with higher value may require additional review by a claims supervisor, or a claims committee composed of experienced adjusters. Insurance adjusters have limited monetary authority to settle claims on their own. Additional levels of review slow down the settlement process. Another factor that delays claims is when an insurer defends by blaming the injured person for partial responsibility in causing the accident, or asserts that some of the injuries pre-existed the accident. A great deal of negotiation may be necessary to settle a claim in those circumstances.
Does a pedestrian have injury claims if they were struck by a vehicle that flees?
Pedestrians living in a home where another resident has uninsured motorist coverage, or who are insured under an auto policy that has uninsured motorist coverage, have claims when they are struck by hit and run vehicles. It is not a requirement that an injured person be occupying a vehicle at the time they sustained their injury. They may be walking along a road, on a sidewalk or crossing a street. The key element is that the person’s injuries result from the negligence of an uninsured vehicle. In Rhode Island, vehicles that flee from an accident scene and cannot be identified are considered uninsured.
Do I have a claim if my car was forced off the road by a vehicle that fled the scene and cannot be identified?
Yes. Injured persons who can prove they were forced off the road by another vehicle that fled the scene can make claims to their own insurance company if they have uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. A vehicle that flees the scene and cannot be identified is considered to be uninsured. It is easier to prove this type of claim when there is contact between the two vehicles, but Rhode Island law does not require actual contact between the vehicles. This is sometimes called a “miss and run” accident.
Can I still make a claim if my driver’s license and auto registration were suspended at the time of my accident?
Yes. When another motorist has been negligent in causing an accident, the license and auto registration status of the injured person are irrelevant. The cause of the accident is the other motorist’s careless driving, not whether the injured party possessed a currently valid driver’s license or registration.
How are fractured or broken bones compensated in a personal injury claim?
Insurance companies often place a higher value on the claims of persons who suffer broken bones, fractures, dislocations, damage to bodily organs, cuts and lacerations, and scars or burns. These types of injuries are more visual, and are easier to prove than claims of aches and pains. Insurers realize juries will be more accepting of these types of claims and this enhances their value. Particularly visible or upsetting injuries, such as to a person’s face, or a woman’s breast or breast implants, can have substantial value.
The other driver’s insurance company is blaming me for causing the collision. Do I still have a claim?
Insurance companies often attempt to place blame for causing an accident on another driver. This is a frustrating situation for many injury claimants who know they did nothing wrong and are incorrectly accused of bad driving. If you completely caused an accident you have no liability claim. But you do have a claim if you are partially or not at all responsible. When you are partly at fault the full value of your claim will be reduced by your percentage of negligence. Rhode Island follows the rule of “pure comparative negligence”. This means the negligence of the injured person will reduce the amount of their claim, even when the injured person’s negligence is the greater negligence. A driver who is 90 percent negligent in causing an accident is entitled to receive ten percent of the full value of their claim.
I was disabled at the time of my accident. Do I still have a personal injury claim?
Persons suffering from disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions are entitled to receive compensation for injuries received in an automobile accident. Insurance companies are not allowed to defend by claiming a person was already disabled before the accident happened. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be familiar with the methods available to differentiate the injuries caused by the accident from the medical conditions that existed before the accident.
What types of compensation am I entitled to receive for being injured in an accident?
The insurance company for the party at fault in causing the accident owes several types of compensation. The insurer must pay the fair and reasonable cost of all medical care necessary to treat or diagnose injuries resulting from the accident. The insurer also must reimburse all lost wages, without reduction for taxes and withholdings. If a person was not employed at the time of the accident but can demonstrate a capacity to earn, the insurer is responsible for the reduced earning capacity. If scarring, disfigurement, or permanent loss of motion or function of a body part resulted from the accident, the insurer owes compensation for this. The amount owed depends on the extent of the scarring, disfigurement, or loss of use, motion or function, and by the age of the injured person. The insurer also owes money for pain, suffering and general damages caused by the accident. The amount owed varies based on things like length and frequency of medical treatment, whether a full recovery was made, age of the person, prior level of health and activities, and whether the injured person was able to work during the time they received medical care.
How is a passenger’s claim different from a driver’s claim?
It is rare that a passenger is blamed for causing an automobile accident. This is not true for drivers. Insurance companies frequently try to blame poor driving by other motorists as a cause of accidents. Passengers may present claims for the full amount of their damages to the insurance company for any driver who was responsible for causing the accident, even if only to a small extent. As an example, Rhode Island law allows a passenger to collect the full amount of their claim from the insurer for a driver who was only one percent responsible for causing the accident. This is significant because some personal injury attorneys will attempt to represent both the driver and passengers in the same vehicle. When there is a defense that both drivers were at fault, the attorney is conflicted and should not represent the passengers. This is because the attorney’s passenger clients have potential claims against the attorney’s driver client and the attorney cannot effectively and professionally represent clients who might have claims against each other arising from the same accident.
How Can Social Media Negatively Impact Your Personal Injury Case
When someone is active on social media and they have an auto accident, they need to shut down all of their social media activities and they need to contact their friends and say “Hey please don’t post anything about me”.
Things that are detrimental to your case are:
- Posting pictures of yourself
- Doing activities that might be inconsistent with what your doctor said you shouldn’t be doing
- Going on vacation and playing beach volleyball or horse back riding
My lawyer made a mistake handling my case. Do I have a claim against him?
When a court case doesn’t go as planned, it can be frustrating and disappointing. When things don’t work out because a lawyer made an avoidable mistake, it can cause even more stress and anger. Lawyers have a duty to represent their clients in a specific, meaningful way. When they fail to do so, they can be held accountable. However, not every mistake is cause for a legal malpractice suit.
Requirements for Legal Malpractice
Although you may be angry and frustrated with your lawyer, not every bad outcome or mistake constitutes malpractice. Just as with everything else in life, sometimes things simply don’t go your way. However, there are instances in which an attorney’s behavior caused negative consequences for the client. For a client to pursue legal action against an attorney, the client will have to show:
- Breach of duty. The client must show that the lawyer made a mistake. The mistake can be active or passive. The lawyer took an action that was wrong, or failed to take a necessary action.
- Cause. The client must then show that the lawyer’s mistake hurt his case. In many states, the client must show that he would have won the case but for the mistake.
- Damages. The client must have suffered some financial loss because of the outcome. Either money out of pocket was loss or compensation that would have been awarded in the case was missed.
Essentially, it is the duty of the client to show that the attorney’s actions caused a negative outcome on a case that could have been won, and that that outcome caused the client to lose money.
Some Common Malpractice Mistakes
While sometimes a mistake is just a mistake and doesn’t have any effect on the case, there are times when a lawyer’s action (or inaction) does constitute legal malpractice. Some common examples of these mistakes include:
- Failing to file the case before the statute of limitations
- Missing other filing deadlines
- Failure to prepare for trial
- Failure to follow court orders
- Not producing expert witnesses
- Failure to file other legal action as promised
- Settling a case without client approval
While you may not be happy with your lawyer’s performance, not every poor showing constitutes legal malpractice. A skilled and experienced malpractice attorney can examine your case and help you determine if you have been a victim of legal malpractice. Contact the legal team at KLF Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation at 401-421-0300.
How much is my car accident case worth?
No one wants to be involved in a car crash, but sometimes accidents happen. Often, the circumstances are beyond anyone’s control. However, when another person’s negligence, carelessness, or poor choices result in an accident, that person can be held accountable. Personal injury cases exist to help the victims of car crashes to both seek justice and obtain compensation for their injuries and losses.
Though it can be difficult to think about a lawsuit while a victim is still recovering from the accident, these cases can provide important compensation to help the victim and their families move forward with their lives.
Types of Compensation Available
When you’ve been hurt in a car accident, the law allows for a number of different kinds of compensation. This compensation is divided into two sections: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages cover money lost by the victim due to the accident. Punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are meant to punish the offender.
These types of compensation can cover:
- Medical treatment. The cost of the medical care associated with the accident includes money for treatment already received and the estimated cost of future care.
- Loss of income. When an injury prevents a victim from working, he can recover compensation for wages already lost and potential future income that may be lost due to the injury.
- Loss of property. In car accident cases, vehicle repairs or replacement can be covered. If other property was damaged in the accident, such as items inside the vehicle, they may also be covered.
- Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering compensation covers the physical pain associated with the injuries sustained in the accident, as well as any emotional or mental toll.
- Loss of consortium. Typically, this compensation is related to the damage to a spousal relationship or a relationship with a child. In some cases, this is awarded directly to the spouse or child(ren).
Calculating an Appropriate Settlement Amount
When determining a settlement amount, a common practice is to add all the numbers in each category and then use a multiplier. This multiplier is typically between 1.5 and 5, though in extreme cases can be higher. Greater injuries will increase the multiplier. That number is added to any punitive damages that may be awarded. Every case is unique, and a skilled personal injury attorney can work with a victim to evaluate his situation and determine an amount that is fair.
Additionally, in Rhode Island, personal injury plaintiffs can be held to some degree of fault for an accident. In this situation, the settlement would be reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault, with no limit. If a victim is awarded $100,000, for example, and is determined to hold 10 percent of the fault, they would ultimately receive $90,000.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident, we may be able to help obtain the compensation you need. Contact the experienced legal team at KLF Law by filling out an online contact form to learn more about protecting your rights after an accident and injury.
How much time do I have to file a personal injury claim in Rhode Island?
For personal injury cases, Rhode Island’s statute of limitations is 3 years from the date of the injury. If you fail to file your lawsuit within that time frame, it’s likely that your case will be thrown out and you could lose your right to recover monetary compensation for any injuries and damages. It’s important to take legal action as soon as possible after an accident and to keep track of any medical documentation that could be valuable to building your case.