Vermont Personal Injury Lawyers
When lawyers speak about “personal injury” cases, they’re referring to cases in which their client has suffered an injury because of the negligence of someone else. The critical component of these cases is that someone else is at fault. Just because you have been injured does not necessarily mean you have a legal claim for damages. Someone else must be at fault.
Negligence means the failure to exercise reasonable care in any given circumstance. It could mean that a person has broken a law, such as running a red light or texting while driving. It could mean that the person has failed to follow a building code, such a failing to install a handrail for a flight of stairs. It could simply mean that a person has failed to pay close enough attention to what he or she is doing. Negligence is a flexible term that encompasses a lot, but not everything.
In Vermont, a jury must also consider whether the injured person is at fault for the resulting injury. This is called “comparative negligence.” If a plaintiff is somewhat negligent in causing the injury, then the money that he or she can recover in damages will be reduced in proportion to his or her own negligence. If a plaintiff is more negligent in causing an injury than the defendant, then he or she cannot recover anything.
If you believe you have been injured because of the negligence of someone else, you should seek legal counsel. An experienced Vermont Personal Injury attorney knows what to expect. The lawyers at Jarvis & Modun handle the process for you so that you don’t have to. We listen to you, and we fight to get you full compensation for your injuries whether through settlement or a jury trial.
In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff may recover an amount of money that makes him or her whole again, subject to any offsets because of the plaintiff’s own negligence. This includes tangible losses such as the cost of medical bills, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses. It also covers intangible losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, compensation for disfigurement, loss of enjoyment and loss of earning capacity. A spouse may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium.
In special cases, a person may also recover other types of damages, such as for wrongful death or punitive damages for particularly egregious conduct.
Statute of Limitations
Personal injury law suits must be brought within a specified period of time or they cannot be brought at all. This rule is known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is not uniform for all types of cases. For many types of personal injuries, the statute of limitations is three years from the time the injury occurred or was discovered, but there are exceptions. In some cases, such as skiing injuries, the statute of limitations can be as little as one year. If you believe that you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney soon after you are injured for advice on how much time you have to file a suit in your particular circumstances.
In most instances of personal injury, one deals first with the negligent person’s insurance company. If you are in a car crash, you will deal first with the other person’s car insurance. In other circumstances, you may deal with the person’s homeowner’s or business liability insurance. Insurance companies use an adjuster to handle claims, and in many cases a settlement can be negotiated with the adjuster before filing a law suit. However, if this cannot be done, then the plaintiff must file a law suit. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, this could happen in federal or in state court.
The rules governing federal and state civil actions are somewhat different. However, they follow a similar general pattern. Generally a plaintiff must file a complaint with the court and serve it upon the defendant with a summons to answer that complaint. The defendant must then answer the complaint by admitting or denying the allegations and by stating any defenses that he or she intends to raise. The case then goes into the stage of “discovery.” During this phase parties may ask interrogatories of one another. They may ask each other to make admissions and to produce documents. They may take depositions of the parties and other witnesses. In both state and federal court, cases usually go through a court-mandated attempt at alternative dispute resolution before a trial. In federal court this process is known as Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE). In state court this usually takes the form of mediation. At times during this process, one party or the other may ask the court to decide or dismiss certain aspects of the case before trial.
If a case cannot be resolved through alternative dispute resolution or decided by the court on purely legal grounds, then it goes to trial. In Vermont either party to a civil action in which money damages are sought has the right to a jury trial, but generally a party must ask for a jury trial as part of his or her initial pleadings (i.e. with the complaint or answer) or the party may be found to have waived that right. In a jury trial, the jury decides all issues of fact, including whether the defendant was negligent in causing the plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff’s comparative negligence, and the extent of the plaintiff’s damages.
Each party has the right to appeal the trial courts decision, if he or she disagrees with it. In state courts, the appeal goes to the Vermont Supreme Court. In the Vermont Federal Courts, the appeal goes to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Appellate courts are much more limited in what they can consider. They typically only consider whether the trial court abused its discretion and whether any abuses were harmful to the outcome.
How Jarvis & Modun Handles Vermont Personal Injury Claims
The lawyers at Jarvis & Modun are experienced in representing Vermonters in personal injury claims. We know how difficult it is to suffer a serious injury because of someone else’s fault. We listen and we care. Whether your claim settles or goes to trial, we will shepherd you through the legal process and fight to get full compensation for your injuries. Call us at (802) 540-1030 for a free consultation to see if we can help you.