What you need to know about personal injury cases

The following information was discussed by Attorney Whitney Hughes on the June 5, 2007 edition of Legal Briefs on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live Show.

What is a Personal Injury Case?

A person may have a personal injury claim if he/she suffers physical or emotional harm based on the actions or negligence of another person.

What is the difference between a personal injury claim and a products liability claim?

In a products liability claim, an individual has been injured because of a product, rather than the actions or negligence of a person. Keep in mind that the product must have been used as it was intended by the manufacturer.

Are there different types of products liability and personal injury cases?

Yes. A personal injury case can be something as minor as a simple slip and fall or a dog bite, or as complex as a motor vehicle accident or a wrongful death claim.

Products Liability cases fall into 3 categories:

  1. Manufacturing Defect ­ An unintentional flaw occurred while the product in question was being made
  2. Design Defect ­ The product was specifically designed in a particular way that included a defect
  3. Inadequate Instructions ­ The product's instructions failed to warn consumers of possible dangers and defects

Why are some attorneys reluctant to handle a slip and fall case when it seems so simple?

These are premises liability cases in which the person is liable for your injuries because he/she is responsible for the premises on which the injury occurred.

They can be difficult because you must prove:
  • The owner/manager was aware of the condition that caused your injury, or
  • The Owner/Manager caused the condition, or
  • The owner/manager should have known about the condition because it would have been known by a reasonable person.

Also keep in mind that Pennsylvania follows a concept called comparative negligence which essentially states that the amount you stand to recover may be reduced by the amount that you were at fault in the accident.

I've been injured - now what?

Keep in mind these helpful tips:

  • Document everything! Keep as detailed a record of the accident or injury as possible. Make sure you have names and phone numbers of witnesses, photographs, description of the conditions and injuries sustained, and any relevant insurance information. Also, it's always handy to keep a disposable camera in your car in the event of an emergency.
  • Do not make any statements to anyone. Remember that even something as innocent as "the sun was in my eyes" may come back to haunt you later on.
  • Do not sign anything. Many documents from insurance companies contain waivers or settlement clauses. If someone presents you with a document, always show it to an attorney before you sign it.
  • Act quickly. Keep in mind that generally you have two years from the date you are injured or the date you discover your injury to file a lawsuit.
  • Speak with an attorney to preserve your rights. Consulting with an attorney who specifically practices in the area of personal injury claims or products liability suits will allow you to determine exactly where you stand and what steps to take next.