Click the questions below to be taken to the answer.
How do I know if my case warrants a lawsuit?
What are the limitations of filing a lawsuit after a potential injury? How long do I have to file a lawsuit after suffering an injury?
What factors are considered when determining a fair settlement amount?
How long does the average settlement process take?
What does a deposition entail? What factors should I prepare for during a deposition?
What types of questions can be asked during a deposition?
How do attorney fees work if I go forward with a lawsuit?
What happens if both parties can’t agree on a settlement amount?
What type of cases fall into Personal Injury?
How much compensation can I receive for my case?
Where did the accident have to happen in order for D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC to take my case?
What determines if the person is at fault?
What is comparative negligence, and what does it mean for my case?
How bad does an injury have to be to constitute a claim?
Will the insurance company offer a fair amount for your personal injuries?
What do you do if the person who injured you doesn’t have insurance?
If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, then a lawsuit may be considered. But not all cases are practical to pursue, given the expense of litigation. Whether a lawsuit is practical depends upon the nature and extent of your injuries.
Often it is difficult to tell right away whether your injuries will heal uneventfully and within a short time or whether the injuries will linger on, or worse, be permanent.
For example, a car crash may cause you back pain due to a temporary muscle sprain, or it may be from a herniated disc. Which it turns out to be will only be known in time. Even still, a muscle sprain can be permanent. Certainly, a herniated disc caused by negligence may warrant considering a lawsuit if it is causing severe pain.
There are several factors that go into determining whether a case warrants a lawsuit. It is best to contact us to discuss your injuries, and we can determine whether our involvement is needed or beneficial for you. If you wait, evidence can disappear, and memories can fade, and if your injury ends up being more significant than you first thought, it may be difficult to gather all the evidence needed for a persuasive and successful personal injury lawsuit.
How long you have to file a claim depends on the nature of your claim. Wrongful death, product liability, sexual abuse involving minors, medical malpractice, general negligence claims, and claims against the State of Connecticut each have different and unique statutes of limitations.
Generally, for negligence claims in Connecticut, a person has 2 years from the date the injury occurred or was discovered to bring a lawsuit but not more than 3 years from the date of the negligent act under Connecticut General Statutes § 52-584. If a death was caused, known as a “wrongful death” claim, it is generally 2 years from the date of the person’s death and no more than 5 years from the date of the negligent act, under Connecticut General Statutes § 52-555.
Product liability claims are governed by the Connecticut Product Liability Act and generally require that a lawsuit be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury or from when the injury was first discovered according to Connecticut General Statutes § 52-577a. Depending on when a product was sold, there are other limitation periods that set a maximum number of years after which a claim cannot be brought. For example, a claim may be brought against the manufacturer of a lawn mower that poses a danger because of a lack of a guard even though the mower was sold 10 years earlier as long as the mower had a useful life of at least 10 years or more.
Claims against the State of Connecticut generally are subject to a much shorter time limitation and require submission of a notice to the claims commissioner within 1 year of the date of injury unless an exception applies. Connecticut General Statutes § 4-148; 4-160.
Similarly, claims against municipalities and towns require notification of a claim within a certain period of time. If notice is not given in accordance with the statutory requirements, then a lawsuit will be thrown out. Some notice periods are within mere months of the date of injury.
There can be exceptions to the time limits mentioned above in limited circumstances. Understanding how much time you may have to file a lawsuit and whether any notices are required is complicated, so talking with us right away after an injury is very important.
Determining a fair settlement amount is very much dependent on each unique claim and requires professional legal judgment. No two claims are alike. Here are some factors that are considered:
These are only some of the factors that are considered. Different lawsuits are valued differently, although many of the factors considered are similar. For example, a medical malpractice claim will be valued differently than a car crash claim, although many of the factors considered are similar. Every claim is different, and we listen to you, your concerns, and how your injuries have affected you.
Obtaining full and fair value requires careful planning and diligent case work-up. This takes time. While some claims may seem more clear than others, all claims take thorough investigation, careful planning and skillful strategy to get the insurance companies to pay full value.
How long a settlement takes varies considerably depending on your injuries and the type of claim. For example, the average time to resolve a medical malpractice claim is 3-5 years; while the average time to resolve a much less complicated car crash claim with no permanent injuries can be as little as 6 months.
There are many reasons for this variation. A medical malpractice claim requires an intensive investigation into your health history and the treatment at issue. The time to acquire all the necessary medical records alone can be 6-9 months or more. Then, these records need to be reviewed by independent and well-qualified, similarly-trained doctors to determine if your medical care fell below-accepted standards of care. Then a legal complaint will be filed and various legal procedures will ensue before such a complicated claim can be ready for a settlement discussion.
This stands in contrast to a less complicated car crash claim with no permanent injuries because there are far fewer medical records to gather, a shorter time for medical review, and typically a greater appetite for settlement by an automobile liability insurance company. Of course, there are many variations to these time frames that are quite fact-dependent. For instance, an injury that takes time to heal must heal, and a prognosis must be learned before we can feel comfortable entertaining a fair settlement on your behalf.
We have resolved many different types of injury claims over the many decades we have been around–from wrongful death claims to medical malpractice claims to nursing home negligence claims, to product liability claims to car crash claims to fall injuries to boating accidents to motorcycle accidents to tractor trailer crashes and countless others. We know what we are doing when it comes to the settlement process and evaluation. You should never settle an injury claim without the advice of a seasoned and respected law firm. We would be honored to be that law firm for you.
A deposition is a formal proceeding where you are asked questions under oath by lawyers representing the various parties in the lawsuit. Typically, this is held at one of the lawyer’s offices. All depositions are transcribed by a court reporter. Some are also videotaped. Many depositions these days are held remotely over an internet-based app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. If the deposition is remote, you will receive a link usually a day or two before, and you will log on from your home or another convenient and quiet location of your choosing. If the deposition is remote, you will likely need a picture ID to verify your identity for the court reporter.
Being prepared for your deposition is critical. The amount and type of preparation is highly dependent on the claim. We will always help you prepare for a deposition. Generally, we will identify the crucial issues in your case and prepare you for the topics we feel are important to your lawsuit. Usually, we will prepare you close in time to the date of the deposition so that everything remains fresh in your mind. Many times we have multiple preparation sessions. We will also provide you with the materials we feel are important for you to read and review ahead of time. Our goal is to ensure that you feel as comfortable as you can during the deposition process.
Generally, in a deposition, you are accompanied by your lawyer. A lawyer for the other parties is also present. The court reporter is present, transcribing all questions and answers. All parties have a right to attend the deposition, but usually, the lawyer appears on behalf of the party. Depositions are not typically public proceedings.
Generally, there is a broad and liberal standard for questioning at deposition. Anything that is relevant or likely to lead to something that is relevant is allowed.
The other lawyer is allowed to ask questions about your background, medical history, criminal history, work history, educational history, family make-up, other lawsuits, discussions with your treating doctors, and, of course, the incident at issue.
Certain topics are off-limits. For example, no questions are allowed about anything you spoke to us about, as that is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Our fee structure is simple. If we don’t win, you don’t owe us anything. This is called a contingency fee agreement. While it can be risky for us, we do this because we understand that legal proceedings are complicated, very expensive, and can take a long time. We also understand that most people who have been seriously injured, and many times out of work, cannot afford to pay legal fees on an hourly basis or pay for the necessary expenses associated with personal injury litigation, such as paying expert witnesses tens of thousands of dollars to review materials, provide opinions and testify when necessary. This is why we always accept representation based on an arrangement where we do not get paid, and you do not owe us anything for legal fees or costs of litigation unless we are successful in the lawsuit on your behalf.
If we are successful, of course, we take these legal fees and costs into account when we negotiate a resolution of your claim. We will not pursue a lawsuit if we do not feel it is practical, and we will tell you that upfront.
Most cases do settle with expert professional advice. When they don’t, the forum for resolving the dispute is a jury trial in the state of Connecticut Superior Court or the Federal District Court, depending on the parties and the nature of the dispute. The jury trial is the most well-known way that parties can resolve a lawsuit if a settlement cannot be agreed upon.
We understand this, and we always work up your case as if a jury trial is an eventuality. This approach helps ensure that settlements that can be had are had and also ensures that we are prepared for a jury trial in those cases that don’t resolve.
We are very experienced with jury trial litigation and have our own courtroom in our offices in Watertown, Connecticut where we routinely hold focus groups and help to prepare you if a trial is necessary.
But there are also alternatives to a jury trial that the parties can agree to if a voluntary settlement cannot be had. And we have successfully used these alternatives many, many times. Known as “Alternative Dispute Resolution”, arbitration is one means and mediation is another.
Arbitration is an abbreviated proceeding where the parties to the lawsuit agree on a neutral arbitrator who will decide the issues in dispute. This is similar to a court trial where the judge or the arbitrator acts as the fact-finder. Most often the arbitrator is a retired judge or another lawyer very experienced in personal injury litigation. Arbitration proceedings are usually truncated and can be finished faster than a jury trial. The process is similar to a jury trial: you would testify at the arbitration, similar to what would occur at a jury trial, but arbitrations are not held at the courthouse; rather, arbitrations are held at a law office in a conference room. There are typically no court reporters, and there is no jury. The arbitrator serves as the judge and jury and will usually render a written decision within 30-60 days of the arbitration proceeding. The parties typically agree that the decision of the arbitrator is not appealable except under very limited circumstances.
Another alternative dispute resolution procedure is mediation. The mediator, like arbitration, is usually a retired judge or a lawyer who is very experienced in personal injury lawsuits. But there are two key differences. One is that mediation is non-binding. Meaning that the mediator is not deciding the case, but rather trying to facilitate a negotiation whereby the parties voluntarily agree to a settlement. The other difference is that at mediation, you do not need to testify at all; rather, the entire presentation is done by us as your lawyer. Similarly, the other side will present their position through their lawyer. Then we will engage in settlement negotiations through the mediator. Mediations are often successful in resolving disputes and avoiding the expense and anxiety of a court proceeding. All mediation discussions are confidential, and there is no obligation to settle, and no binding decision is rendered by the mediator. It is simply an effort to try and resolve your lawsuit with the help of an independent and experienced mediator.
Each dispute resolution forum has its benefits and its risks. One of our experienced trial lawyers will discuss your case with you and make recommendations regarding what the best option is to resolve your claim.
“Personal Injury” is an umbrella term that encompasses any case where you have been physically and emotionally injured through the wrongful conduct of another. Common categories of cases we have handled include medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, nursing home negligence, car crashes, motorcycle crashes, bus crashes, dog bites, bicycle crashes, boating crashes, defective premises, truck crashes, sexual assault, inadequate security, firework accidents, explosions and many more.
Unlike some other states, Connecticut does not have a “cap” to the economic or non-economic damages that a jury can award. There are no laws or regulations that set a specific amount of compensation that you can receive except in a worker’s compensation claim. Generally, a judge tells a jury that the amount of compensation should be “fair, just, and reasonable” for the nature, extent, and duration of the injuries the person suffered. The judge will also explain that there are two components of money damages that can be considered: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those things like medical bills and wage loss. In essence out-of-pocket monetary losses, past and future. The judge will also explain that just as important are “non-economic damages,” which are awarded for non-monetary losses like pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of activities, scarring and disfigurement, and the like, past and future. Non-economic damages are very important because these are the losses that make you “you.” Thus, if your lawsuit cannot be settled, the amount that you will receive will be decided by a jury.
Connecticut does, however, limit the amount of punitive damages a person can receive. Unlike “economic” and “non-economic damages,” which are designed to make a person “whole,” punitive damages are designed to punish the Defendant and deter conduct. In Connecticut, punitive damages are typically capped at attorney’s fees and non-taxable costs, or in a product liability claim, two times the compensatory damages, Connecticut General Statutes § 52-240b; and in some other types of claims such as reckless driving, 2-3x the damages award, Connecticut General Statutes § 14-295.
Depending on the particular case, other forms of additional compensation can be obtained, including pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, offer of compromise interest, and taxable costs. Whether and to what extent these additional forms of compensation are available to you are things we can discuss further when we talk about your case.
If you or your family were injured through the negligence of someone else that occurred anywhere in Connecticut, we can represent you. Connecticut is a small state, and we routinely handle cases in every courthouse in the state, including the Federal courts.
If you reside outside of Connecticut, if you were injured in Connecticut we can help. We offer in-person and ZOOM consultations and meetings to ensure that your location is not an impediment to our representation.
Even if you are a Connecticut resident but were injured out of state, we often can file a lawsuit in the state of Connecticut in federal court as long as the person or corporation that caused your injury has ties to or does business in Connecticut.
If you neither live in Connecticut nor were injured in Connecticut and would like to speak to us about your legal case, we may be able to refer you to a law firm we trust in the state where you were injured.
Some cases are relatively clear; for example, someone rear-ends you while you’re stopped at a red light. But most cases are not so straightforward. The short answer in most cases is that determining fault requires a very thorough and meticulous investigation by us.
The longer answer is that “fault” depends on the type of claim. For example, in medical malpractice cases, a lawsuit cannot be filed unless another doctor who has similar training and experience has a good faith belief that the doctor-at-issue provided bad care. The same applies to nursing home lawsuits and any other injury suffered because of the negligence of a healthcare provider, which includes a pharmacist. This is a Connecticut statutory requirement that does not apply to other types of claims.
In a car, motorcycle, bus, or any other vehicular crash, often a governmental authority investigates the crash, which could be a police officer, for instance. In a boating accident, it could be the boating division of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. In an airplane or train crash, it could be the National Transportation Safety Board. In a product liability lawsuit, often an expert in that type of product is consulted, which can be an engineer or a warnings expert. In general, if the person believed to be negligent cannot be judged by the common and ordinary experience of a layperson, then an expert skilled in the field in which the negligent act falls is consulted to determine fault. Negligence is defined broadly as failing to do that which a reasonably prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances. In a product liability claim, there is a special kind of fault known as strict liability. Strict liability does not require proof of fault but rather is based upon the dangerous nature of the product. If the product is unreasonably dangerous and that dangerous condition caused the injury, that is sufficient for fault. The challenge is proving that the product is unreasonably dangerous. Sometimes, this is relatively straightforward. For example, if a new TV catches on fire and causes injury. Other times it is more difficult, such as when exposure to a specific chemical is thought to have caused cancer.
Generally, in Connecticut, there are two different applications of comparative negligence. In all cases other than product liability, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover any compensation for your injury. This is governed by a statute in Connecticut, 52-572h. If you are 50% at fault or less, then the amount that is determined to be full fair value for your injury is reduced by the percentage that you are at fault. For example, if your injuries are determined to be valued at $100,000 and you are 30 percent at fault, then you will receive $100,000 minus $30,000, or $70,000.
In a product liability claim, you can be more than 50% at fault and still recover. The amount you will receive will be the full fair value for your injuries minus your percentage of fault. So if the full fair value for your injuries is $100,000 and you are 80% at fault, you can still recover, but you will only receive $20,000. The comparative fault in a product liability claim is governed by a different statute in Connecticut, 52-572o.
There is no law in Connecticut that sets the bar for an injury claim based on the severity of the injury. However, there are practical considerations, and depending on the type of claim, the costs necessary to prove the claim can be prohibitive. For example, if your claim is worth $10,000 but it would cost $25,000 to pay the costs of litigation, while technically you have a claim, it would not make practical sense to pursue it.
In medical malpractice and product liability cases, the litigation expenses are extremely high and routinely exceed $100,000. Thus, for a medical malpractice or product liability claim to be practical, the injury must be severe or have caused death. And although we advance these expenses on your behalf, we must feel that the legal value of your injury is high enough to compensate you fairly after considering the legal fees and costs. Our philosophy is that if we don’t feel that we can provide you with reasonable compensation in your pocket after considering legal fees, costs, and the time you spent litigating the case, we will tell you that we don’t think a claim is practical for you.
For less complicated claims, the severity of the injury plays a smaller role. But even less complicated claims can be expensive. For instance, if your injury in a car crash claim involves significant surgery, we will need your doctor to testify and explain the nature of your injury and your future care and prognosis. Life care planners are also utilized to project future medical costs; typically, these are physicians trained and skilled in physiatry and rehabilitation medicine. Doctors and other witnesses who are considered experts in a particular field are very expensive, often tens of thousands of dollars. So we are careful what costs we incur in pursuing claims and make sure before we do incur more significant costs there is sufficient insurance that the liable party has to obtain a fair recovery for you.
We have represented folks for all different levels of injury severity, from more minor to paralysis and death. We believe that everyone is entitled to experienced, proven, and trusted representation. If we do not feel your claim is practical, we will explain that to you upfront.
Most often, no. An insurance company will not offer you a fair amount for your personal injury claim unless it knows that there is a risk that it will have to pay more at a jury trial. Why? Because an insurance company is profit-driven. The less an insurance company pays out on claims, the better for their business. So insurance companies have an incentive to pay as little as possible.
We have heard too many horror stories of injured people resolving claims on their own without our legal advice. It ends badly. Insurance companies will try and sweet talk you into a settlement, knowing that you may not know how to maximize the value of your claim and knowing you may not realize you are more hurt than you know. Don’t do it without calling us. We have been negotiating with insurance companies for injury claims for decades. We know what we’re doing. If an insurance company is not willing to offer what we know is fair, then we will prepare you for trial. The jury is the equalizer, taming the goliath insurance companies. We have tamed many. Because of our reputation for court success, we are often able to get insurance companies to pay a fair settlement. Don’t go it alone.
This is highly dependent on the type of claim at issue. In a vehicular crash, there is a type of insurance that Connecticut requires all of us to have and it is called “uninsured motorist coverage”. This is coverage that is required on all automobile insurance policies at a minimum of $25,000. So, if you were injured in a car crash and the person at fault does not have insurance, you can make a claim against your own auto policy. What we often see is that someone is seriously injured, and the minimum limit of $25,000 is not enough to cover their more significant losses. So buying more uninsured motorist coverage with your auto policy is a good rule to live by. Buy as much as you can comfortably afford. The protection is worth it. We highly recommend at least $300,000 and more if you are able.
For injuries resulting from medical negligence, the state of Connecticut requires all licensed doctors to have a minimum of $500,000. Often doctors carry higher limits, and hospitals usually have much higher limits. If a doctor causes serious injury and does not have enough insurance coverage, the doctor’s personal assets are at risk.
For injuries caused by dangerous products, the insurance varies by the size of the company manufacturing and selling the product. It is unusual for there to be no insurance, but if that happens, then there is no practical claim that can be brought unless the company has a lot of assets.
There are many different types of injury claims. We investigate each thoroughly and determine if there is insurance coverage and how much. If we do not believe the claim is practical because there is no insurance or not enough insurance or other assets to fairly compensate you for your injuries, we will tell you this and advise you not to waste your time and energy bringing a claim. As the old saying goes, “You cannot get blood out of a stone.”