It’s important to understand the facts when working with personal injury lawyers. Lowe Eklund and Wakefield in Cleveland and Chardon, OH is here to make sure your case gets the best outcome possible given your circumstances. Below you will find answers to commonly asked questions. Our personal injury lawyers have made an extensive list of topics that we cover, including vehicular injuries, product liability, personal injury, nursing home neglect and abuse, medical and legal malpractice, workers compensation and social security disability.
For more information about these practice areas that go beyond the frequently asked questions discussed below, Contact our personal injury lawyers in Cleveland, OH and Chardon, OH today.
If you were injured because of the carelessness or recklessness of another person or entity, contact an attorney to get a professional opinion and to preserve your rights. You have nothing to lose since most personal injury lawyers do not charge for an initial consultation. If a personal injury lawyer determines you have a case, work with them to determine how best to proceed.
It depends on the type of case you have, and in which state you live. In Ohio, the statute of limitations (the time limit to file a lawsuit) for most personal injury cases is two years, although in some instances (such as medical malpractice) the statute is only one year. Because of the statute of limitations, it is important to speak with a lawyer about your case as soon as possible.
As a leading personal injury law firm in the Cleveland area, Lowe Eklund Wakefield handles cases on behalf of those who have been significantly injured or suffered a wrongful death. Our areas of practice include:
This is one of the most common questions from prospective clients, and it’s also one of the most difficult to answer. It is nearly impossible to predict the value of a case until all the information and evidence has been gathered, and you have physically recovered as much as possible from your injuries.
Each case is unique, and the value of each case can vary based on different factors, which primarily include:
- The extent of your injuries (this also includes any permanent scarring, blemishes, or other disfigurement characteristics)
- The amount of your past and future medical bills
- The amount of previous and future income and other employment benefits lost as a result of your injury
- The amount of the defendant's insurance coverage
- The strength of your case
You are within your right to handle your own case, but we suggest only doing so only if your case is extremely small, with little to no property damage or injuries. Otherwise, we strongly recommend hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case. Personal injury lawyers understand the negotiation process and can maximize your recovery. An attorney can also find out about any outstanding medical bills or liens, and can potentially negotiate the amount to save you money. Lastly, attorneys understand when an expert witness might be necessary to support an injury claim and have a network of experts they rely on for litigating cases.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties voluntarily come together to explore the possibility of resolving a case before trial. A trial presents risks to both sides, so engaging with a third-party mediator could help everyone reach a settlement. A judge can also order the parties into mediation conference. Frequently, a mediator is an attorney or retired judge with the skill to help the parties negotiate an acceptable settlement, but they have no authority to resolve the conflict.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties agree that one or more individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments. Arbitration differs from mediation in that a neutral arbitrator has the authority to make a decision about the conflict. The arbitration process is similar to a trial in that the parties make opening statements and provide evidence to the arbitrator, and arbitration can usually be completed more quickly than a trial and is less expensive and less formal.
If you’ve been injured by another individual or entity, you can seek damages to remedy the harm you experienced. Most personal injury damages are classified as "compensatory," intended to compensate you for what was lost because of the accident or injury. Different types of compensatory damages include:
- Medical treatment for any previous and estimated future medical bills and treatment related to your injury
- Loss of income
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
In some cases, there may be punitive damages, which are intended to punish reckless or negligent behavior and are in addition to compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages are intended to compensate a victim for their loss, and require that a plaintiff prove they suffered as a result of the incident in question. Compensatory damages can be awarded for such things as loss of income, bodily injury, property damage, and so on. Punitive damages go a step further, because they are a monetary award in addition to compensatory damages, with the intent to punish the tortfeasor for their reckless or negligent behavior.
The cost of hiring a lawyer can depend on the type of case you have, since different areas of law can have different fee arrangements.
Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that a client won't pay anything up front and the lawyer or law firm will advance the costs of the case. If any money is recovered, either through a settlement or a successful trial judgement, the attorney will take a percentage (between 33.3 percent to 40 percent).
Under a contingency fee agreement, your attorney agrees to handle your personal injury without asking for any money up front, and you agree to remit a certain percentage of any compensation you receive. Because some personal injury cases have a high expense (for example, medical malpractice cases or product liability cases can sometimes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars), a contingency arrangement makes it possible for injured parties without extensive financial resources to hire an attorney, while providing more incentive for an attorney to recover as much as possible without any risk to you.
Auto, Truck and Vehicle Injuries
That depends on a number of factors. While you ultimately make the final decision, if you have retained an attorney, speak with your lawyer about your options. Our motor vehicle accident lawyers begin negotiating your claim only after you have recovered from your injuries as much as possible after an accident—that way there is a comprehensive understanding of the extent of your injuries, and all associated medical costs in the event that healthcare providers or Medicare needs to be reimbursed from a settlement. You also need to weigh the pros and cons of continuing to litigate your case in hopes of a better offer.
Hopefully you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy at the time of the crash. Uninsured motorist coverage is typically included as part of full-coverage policies (check with your insurance company.) Your uninsured motorist coverage should provide the same compensation, from your own insurer, for property damage, medical bills, wage loss, and pain and suffering as if it were the at-fault driver’s company.
Personal injury claims can take anywhere from a few months to several years to resolve. Our attorneys will only begin negotiating your claim with an insurance company at the conclusion of your medical treatment to know the true value of that treatment. Next, our legal team will gather all the relevant medical bills related to your injuries from your health care providers. Lastly, our attorneys will determine if any medical providers need to be paid back.
At this point, our attorneys will prepare and send a demand package to the defendant’s insurance company, and in the course of several weeks, will determine if there is an opportunity to settle for a reasonable amount. If a settlement isn’t possible, then we proceed by filing a lawsuit in court. Usually, a trial date is scheduled nine months out or later after a lawsuit is filed, but a settlement is still possible at any time during this period.
A defective product is a product that does not perform as advertised under normal use and causes injury to one or more people. The three main types of product defects are design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects (defects in warnings.)
In Ohio, you can pursue a product liability case and receive compensation even if you were partially at fault. The amount of compensation awarded may be decreased based on what degree your negligence contributed to the injury (also known as “comparative negligence.”)
In defective product lawsuits, there is a statute of limitations and a statute of repose. The statute of limitations is a state law that puts a time limit on bringing a civil lawsuit to no more than two years after you were harmed by a defective product. A statute of repose sets a deadline based on the mere passage of time or the occurrence of a certain event that doesn't itself cause harm or give rise to a potential lawsuit. In Ohio, if the product was originally sold more than 10 years before it caused injury, the claim may be barred.
Navigating an insurance claim can be a challenging feat after a serious injury, and without a lawyer, insurance companies will likely try to pay you far less than your injuries are worth. By hiring a lawyer to negotiate your injury claim, you have someone working in your best interest who can maximize your compensation, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Your lawyer will investigate your accident claim and gather all the relevant evidence and medical records. From there, your lawyer will consider making a demand and begin negotiating a potential settlement. Finally, if a settlement is not possible, your attorney will file a lawsuit and continue litigating, which may include taking your case to trial if warranted.
According to Ohio law, you can be held liable criminally and civilly if you furnish alcohol, or allow alcohol to be served, to anyone under the legal drinking age, and that individual subsequently gets into an automobile accident that causes an injury or damages.
Nursing Home Neglect and Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse occurs when a resident in a long-term care facility is victimized by physical, emotional, psychological or sexual harm because of the neglect or intentional actions of their care providers. A nursing home or nursing facility could be liable for abuse based on inadequate care, inadequate employee screening, inadequate employee supervision, and improper facility maintenance. Nursing home abuse can include:
- Physical abuse (hitting, pushing, etc.)
- Mental or psychological abuse (verbal abuse, withholding mail, etc.)
- Neglect (infrequent check-ins, failure to treat bedsores, wandering away or elopement, malnutrition or dehydration, medication errors, understaffing, etc.)
- Sexual abuse
- Exploitation or fraud (deceiving residents for financial or personal gain)
Choosing a nursing home or nursing facility for a family member is an important decision, so be open to a variety of factors beyond location. Take a “scheduled” and “unscheduled” tour of a nursing home, and see if anything is out of the ordinary during the unscheduled tour. Finally, search your local court records for any lawsuits against a nursing home. Medicare.gov has also compiled a nursing home ratings tool that can be helpful in seeking out possible options as well.
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, seek immediate medical help or treatment for any injuries or pain. You might also consider relocating to a different nursing home. Next, speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer about pursuing a claim against the facility for compensation for losses related to any abuse, including for pain and suffering. Finally, notify the Ohio Department of Health so they can launch an investigation into the nursing home and hopefully prevent future neglect or abuse at the facility.
A lawsuit can be brought against a nursing home either by the resident themselves, or by a family member on their behalf. Filing a lawsuit on behalf of a family member will depend on their mental capacity, or if they died as a result of their injuries.
Medical malpractice is a mistake made by any healthcare provider (which could be a surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, etc.) It occurs when that healthcare provider delivers faulty, substandard, or negligent treatment that results in death or injury to the patient.
There are specific requirements that must be met for a medical malpractice case to hold water:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship, and the doctor had a duty to provide care.
- The provided care and treatment deviated from accepted medical standard. In other words, would another doctor provide treatment the same way?
- The patient was harmed because of the provided care.
- The harm suffered is significant as a result of that medical care.
The exact definition of informed consent can vary based on each state's own laws, but it generally means that a healthcare provider must tell a patient of all the potential benefits, risks and alternatives associated with a surgical procedure or course of treatment. Once a patient is informed, they then must provide consent, usually written, to a healthcare provider to proceed with surgery or treatment.
A healthcare provider's failure to obtain informed consent could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
If you’ve been injured on the job, report the injury to your manager or supervisor right away. Seek medical treatment and make sure to mention how you were injured to the medical provider. Lastly, complete and submit a worker's compensation claim form after you have spoken with a lawyer.
If your workers compensation claim was denied, you have the right to appeal. A denial letter should include the basis for denial, as well how to appeal your claim and important deadlines. Unless your claim was denied because of a simple mistake, we encourage you to speak with a workers compensation attorney to determine the best course of action.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Ohio workers compensation system. PPD is a separate benefit paid to an injured worker who has suffered a permanent disability, and it often involves the loss of use of an extremity or part of an extremity (such as an arm or leg, or hands or feet.)
In Ohio, the amount of money an injured worker will receive is calculated using two formulas: Average Weekly Wage and Full Weekly Wage. For the first 12 weeks of missed work, you will receive a Full Weekly Wage (the average of your earnings for six weeks prior to your injury.) After 12 weeks of missed work, you will receive 72 percent of the Average Weekly Wage (the average of your earnings for one year prior to your injury.)
Social Security Disability
According to the Social Security Administration, to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security, usually for the last 10 years. You must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability:
- You are unable to do the work that you did before
- Social Security determines that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medial condition(s)
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or is likely to result in death
You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits by scheduling an appointment at your local Social Security office, or you can apply online at ssa.gov, and fill out a form at your own convenience.
In fact, three out of four initial applications are denied, but you can appeal that decision and request a hearing. This is when retaining legal representation can make a difference—you are twice as likely to be approved for benefits at a hearing with the help of a lawyer. Once your claim is denied, you have a limited time to file an appeal, so consult with a Social Security disability lawyer immediately to determine the best course of action.
If your Social Security Disability benefits are approved, there is a five-month waiting period before your benefits begin. You will receive your first monthly benefit for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.