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A Personal Injury Lawsuit—Part Three

Jury Selection and Jury Instructions

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part ThreeThe complaint is filed and answered, and discovery is complete. You’ve argued all dispositive motions and evidentiary disputes. There are still a couple very important steps before opening arguments can be made.

Jury Selection

Opening statements are made to the jury, so a jury must be seated before you can commence a trial. The jury selection process, also known as “voir dire,” can differ in minor respects from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically follows a common pattern:

  • Potential jurors are selected from voter rolls or drivers license lists
  • A certain number of potential jurors are notified that they may be called for jury duty during a specific period. Often, the jurors must either call in or receive to call to learn if they need to show up at the court.
  • Jurors are typically gathered in a separate room and are called into the court in small groups
  • Once in the courtroom, the prospective jurors are individually called to the witness stand, where they may be questioned by the judge, and by attorneys for all parties. The questions are designed to determine whether the jurors can render an impartial decision based on the facts of the case.
  • The judge may excuse a potential juror at his or her discretion. Attorneys for each side have two ways to challenge a potential juror—peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. A peremptory challenge allows an attorney to excuse a juror for any reason, but each side has a limited number of peremptory challenges. A challenge for cause must be based on the belief (gathered from the potential juror’s statements) that the juror cannot be impartial. There are no limits on the number of challenges for cause, but the decision is ultimately made by the judge.

Jury Instructions

In the American civil justice system, the judge makes determinations of law and the jury makes determinations of fact. However, juries must apply the law to the facts when rendering a verdict. Because the jury cannot be expected to know the law, they are given instructions, which essentially tell them what legal conclusions they must make based on their determination of facts. Typically, the judge will ask attorneys for both sides to prepare prospective jury instructions and will rule on what directives are ultimately given to the jury. Some judges prefer to wait to rule on jury instructions until it’s clear that the case will go to the jury. Others complete this as part of the pre-trial process.

Contact Us Now

Don’t run the risk that evidence will be lost— contact us online or call our office today at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is free. We are available evenings and weekends upon request. We’ll also travel to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all product liability claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

A Personal Injury Lawsuit—Part Two

Evidentiary and Dispositive Motions

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part TwoIn this series, we’re looking at the timeline for a personal injury lawsuit, so that you know what to expect and can work more effectively with counsel.

So, you’ve filed your complaint and the defendants have all answered in a timely manner. Settlement efforts were unsuccessful, so you conducted depositions, obtained copies of all relevant documents, examined any physical evidence and submitted and responded to all interrogatories. There’s still much that needs to be done before you’re ready to go to trial.

It’s important to understand that court dockets are full, trials can be time consuming, and judges have a vested interest in streamlining the process, should a case actually go before a jury. With that objective in mind, the next phase of a personal injury lawsuit involves proceedings in court designed to either eliminate the need for a trial, pare down the issues that need to be addressed at trial, or resolve issues that are best taken care of outside of the hearing of the jury. This is done through the use of two types of motions—dispositive motions and evidentiary motions.

Dispositive Motions

The purpose of a dispositive motion is to either resolve a claim or eliminate the need to resolve an issue. Dispositive motions may be filed by either party. An injured party may contend that, based on all the evidence gathered during the discovery process, the defendant has asserted no valid defense, and the plaintiff should be granted relief without the need for a trial. A defendant, on the other hand, may allege that the injured party has not produced evidence to support one or all of the claims made in the complaint.

Evidentiary Motions

During the discovery process, the rules of evidence are somewhat more lax than they are at trial. Evidence that would be inadmissible at trial—perhaps as opinion or hearsay—may be allowed during a deposition. If there’s a dispute as to the admissibility of any evidence obtained during discovery, those disputes are best resolved outside the earshot of the jury. Accordingly, any evidence objected to during discovery can be reviewed by the court before trial and ruled admissible or inadmissible. If the court concludes that certain evidence is not appropriate and a party introduces it anyway, it can be the basis for contempt of court and a potential mistrial.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

A Personal Injury Lawsuit—Part One

Filing the Complaint | The Discovery Process

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part OneWhen you have been injured because of the carelessness or negligence of another person, one of the first things you want to do is contact an attorney and initiate a personal injury lawsuit. You may be unable to work and without any income to meet your financial obligations. Unfortunately, a personal injury lawsuit is a process, one that can take months or years to complete. This series of blogs helps you understand the process, so that you can work more effectively with your attorney, and can make good decisions about how you want to proceed.

Initiating Your Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit begins when you file a complaint with the appropriate court. You’ll need to file your complaint within the specific period of time—what is known as the “statute of limitations.” But you’ll want to file your lawsuit without unreasonable delay, but it’s also in your best interests to do so. Memories can fade and witnesses can disappear. The sooner you file your lawsuit, the sooner your attorney can start to gather and preserve all relevant evidence.

Once you’ve filed your complaint, and served all defendants with a copy, the defendants have a specific period of time to file an “answer,” either admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint. In most jurisdictions, that’s 30 days. If a defendant fails to file an answer in a timely manner, you can ask the court for a default judgment, which will typically be enforced absent significant extenuating circumstances.

The Discovery Period

If the defendant(s) all answer in a timely manner, the court will next schedule a first meeting, where the judge will learn a little bit about the case, and will most likely explore the possibility of settlement before trial. In some instances, the judge may actually require that you try mediation or some alternative method of dispute resolution, so that trial can potentially be avoided.

At that first meeting, the judge will typically establish the “discovery” schedule. Discovery is a legal term that refers to the gathering of evidence, which is typically done through:

  • Depositions-Oral examination of witnesses by attorneys for all parties, transcribed by court reporters
  • Requests for production of documents and physical evidence, so that all parties can examine
  • Interrogatories—Written questions to parties that must be answered in writing and delivered by a certain date. The court customarily establishes limits on the number of interrogatories

Depending on the complexity of the case, the court may establish a discovery period of a few months or even more than a year.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

The Most Deadly Construction Site Accidents

The Fatal Four Accidents that Cause Most Construction Site Deaths

Most Deadly Construction Site AccidentsIf you work in the construction industry, no one has to tell you it’s a dangerous occupation—in fact, the most deadly job in the country, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Statistics gathered by OSHA show that nearly 1,000 construction workers lost their lives in work-related accidents in 2015, and that about two of every three deaths were caused by four different types of accidents—what industry officials refer to as the “fatal four.”

Falls from Heights

Almost every construction job requires that you work at some elevation above the ground, whether it’s a single family home or a skyscraper. More than one of every three deaths in 2015 stemmed from a fall from a significant height. Statistics show a variety of causes, including:

  • Failure to construct, maintain or assemble a scaffold
  • Improper use of ladders, buckets, cranes or other equipment
  • Lack of appropriate guard rails or barriers, or poorly constructed/maintained safety barriers

Electrocution

Nearly ten percent (8.6%) of those killed died when they came into contact with live electrical current, either in the form of loose wiring or by making contact with an overhead power line.

Falling Objects

Likewise, about ten percent of the deaths in 2015 resulted when construction workers were struck by falling objects, from building materials and tools to jobsite debris or heavy equipment. OSHA officials say most could have been avoided with the use of appropriate barriers.

Caught-Between Accidents

According to OSHA, 66 construction workers died in 2015 when they were crushed between heavy equipment, building materials and other construction site structures.

Contact Our Office Today

Don’t wait another day—evidence may be lost! Your first consultation is free of charge. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

An Introduction to Personal Injury Litigation—The Standard of Care

an-introduction-to-personal-injury-litigation-the-standard-of-careWhen you’ve been hurt in an accident, one of the first things you’ll want to do is take an inventory of your losses and try to determine exactly what happened. If the accident was caused by the conduct of another person, you have a right to pursue reimbursement for past, present and future losses. Though you can always recover monetary compensation (also known as damages) for the intentional or reckless behavior of another person, most personal injury lawsuits are based on a legal theory of negligence.

In this three-part series, we’ll take a close look at what you must prove in court to succeed with a personal injury claim:

  • That the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would (breach the duty of care)
  • That the failure to act reasonably caused an accident
  • That you suffered actual losses because of the accident

In this blog, we examine the standard of care in a negligence claim.

Breaching the Duty of Care

Under the law of negligence, as it has evolved over the last millennium, initially in England and then in the United States, all persons in society are under a duty to use a certain level of care in all daily activities, whether it’s driving a motor vehicle, operating machinery, maintaining property or designing/manufacturing a consumer product. That duty requires everyone to act “as a reasonable person” would. The failure to do so can make a person potentially liable for any physical injury, financial loss or property damage sustained by another person.

The law, however, has never been very specific about what qualifies as “reasonable.” Though some courts have construed “reasonable” to be what an “average person of ordinary prudence” would do, the reality is that the standard is determined by the jury on a case-by-case basis (though prior decisions are given consideration).

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

Protecting Yourself Against Home Improvement Fraud in New Jersey

The Requirements for a Home Improvement Contract in New Jersey

Custom Kitchen Design Drawing

The state of New Jersey takes consumer fraud seriously, including any fraud perpetrated by persons offering home improvement services to homeowners. Under New Jersey’s Home Improvement Practices Act, this includes general contractors, landscaping contractors, clearing or restoration contractors and anyone performing home improvement or repair service for a homeowner. All home improvement contractors must annually register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and may be denied permits if they have not done so.

Home Improvement Contracts in New Jersey

Under the provisions of the Home Improvement Act, any contract for home improvement services in excess of $500 must be in writing. Furthermore, the written agreement must include the following:

  • The legal name, address and state registration number of the contractor, as well as any subcontractors
  • When the work will start, as well as a projected completion date
  • A full and accurate description of all work to be done and all services to be provided
  • The full amount that the homeowner will be charged for all services and materials, including any potential finance charges
  • A full description of all supplies and materials the contractor anticipates using to complete the project
  • A description of any type of security interest the contractor will take regarding the payment for home improvement services
  • Any guarantee that the contractor offers regarding the services provided
    The contractor must advise the homeowner of the right to cancel the contract any time within three days of signing. The contractor must also give the homeowner a copy of his or her general liability insurance policy.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

An Introduction to Personal Injury Litigation–Causation

an-introduction-to-personal-injury-litigation-causationIn this series, we’re looking at what you must prove in court to successfully prosecute a personal injury claim based on a legal theory of negligence. In our first blog, we considered the standard of care in a personal injury claim. In our next blog, we’ll look at what constitutes “actual loss.” This blog examines the causal connection between the careless act of the defendant and any damages incurred.

Under the law as it has developed, you must prove two different types of causation to demonstrate negligence—actual, or but for, cause; and proximate cause.

Actual Cause

First, you must show that, had the defendant not breached the duty to act as a reasonable person, the accident would not have happened. In instances where there’s only a single cause, this is typically a simple process—either the defendant’s negligence caused the accident or it didn’t. But the matter can get pretty complicated when there are multiple defendants, or when the injured party contributes in some manner to the cause of the accident. Suppose you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, and it can be proven that, had the defendant not been speeding, he would have been able to stop in time to avoid hitting your car. If the defendant can show that you failed to stop at a traffic light or sign, there can be issues of actual cause.

Proximate Cause

Even if you can show actual cause, you cannot recover damages unless you can also demonstrate proximate cause. This requires that you prove that the damages you suffered were “reasonably foreseeable” based on the negligence of the defendant. It’s referred to as proximate cause because the injuries you suffer must be “proximate,” or close, to the wrongful conduct. You can’t be held responsible for any loss that can conceivably be tied to your negligence. For example, if you run a stop sign and hit another car, it’s reasonably foreseeable that there will be property damage, as well as personal injury to anyone in the car. However, if you cause the other car to careen into a building, which starts a fire, it may not be reasonably foreseeable that five buildings and their contents will be lost because you ran a stop sign.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

Feds Hope Increased Fines Reduce Truck Driver Log Violations

feds-hope-increased-fines-reduce-truck-driver-log-violationsUnder federal laws and regulations, over-the-road truckers must maintain logs that document how much time they spend behind the wheel. Federal regulations require truck drivers to take regular breaks, and limit the amount of time they can be on the road over given periods of time. Unfortunately, many truckers and their employers circumvent the regulations, with some actually maintaining bogus logs to submit to federal enforcement agencies.

In an effort to reduce the incidence of driver log violations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes fines and penalties on drivers who infringe upon the rules. In 2015, the agency made a number of changes, with the specific purpose of increasing the costs of non-compliance with “on-the-road” regulations. Here’s an overview of the changes made two years ago:

  • Recordkeeping violations—Any failure to keep records as required by the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) will subject the offender to a $1,100 per day fine, up to $11,000. That’s a daily increase of $100 and a total increase of $1,000.
  • Egregious hours of service violation—A trucker found to engage in “egregious” violation of the “hours on the road” requirements can face a maximum fine of $16,000, up from $11,000.
  • Violation of 24 hour out-of-service requirement—A trucker who fails to stay off the road for the mandatory 24-hour period set forth in the regulations can be fined up to $4,125 per violation, up from $3, 750 per incident.

Contact Our Office Today

Don’t wait another day—evidence may be lost! Your first consultation is free of charge. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

We handle all truck accident injury claims on a contingency basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

An Introduction to Personal Injury Litigation—Actual Loss

an-introduction-to-personal-injury-litigation-actual-lossThis blog is the last in a series examining what you must prove to successfully recover monetary compensation in a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence. In earlier blogs, we looked at the breach of the duty of care, as well as the required causal links in a negligence claim.

The Requirement of Actual Loss

Let’s assume you are waiting to make a right turn at a stop sign and take your foot off the brake for a second. The person behind you gives it a little too much gas and taps the back of your car before you pull out. You don’t feel any physical discomfort and never seek medical treatment. You look at your car, but can’t make out a scratch.

Do you have a claim for negligence? The other driver clearly breached the duty of care—a reasonable person would not pull forward until his or her pathway was clear. In addition, that breach of duty caused an accident—there was contact between the vehicles. But you won’t be able to pursue a personal injury claim, because you can’t show actual loss.

In negligence claims, there are generally two types of damages—compensatory and punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended, as the name suggests, to punish the defendant. They typically require egregious conduct by the defendant and are rarely granted. All other damages are compensatory—designed to reimburse or compensate you for past, present or future losses. Those losses can include expenses incurred, physical injury, or the diminution in value of property. If you can’t show any of those consequences, you can’t show actual damages.

Another instance where you won’t be able to show actual loss is if the loss is covered or paid for in some other manner. If you have insurance, workers’ compensation benefits or some other way that you have been reimbursed for the loss, you can’t recover again—you’ve already received compensation for the loss.

Contact Us Now

Don’t run the risk that evidence will be lost— contact us online or call our office today at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is free. We are available evenings and weekends upon request. We’ll also travel to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all product liability claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

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