Connecticut’s personal injury claims follow similar laws regarding personal injury claims in other states. A personal injury claim is a legal term used to describe the legal action someone takes after they have suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Personal injury claims can be filed against individuals and they can also be filed against institutions, both private and governmental agencies. In Connecticut, the most popular type of personal injury claims includes car accidents followed by wrongful death lawsuits and then medical malpractice lawsuits. Personal injury lawsuits can also be filed because of injuries that result from product defects.
Steps in Filing a Personal Injury Claim
In order to file a personal injury claim in Connecticut, an injury needs to have occurred and you need to have reasonable proof that the injury was a result of someone’s negligence. So whether you were injured during a car accident, or may have been bitten by someone else’s dog, there needs to be an injury that is substantial enough for you to move forward with legal action.
Step 1: Hire an Attorney
Your first step in filing a personal injury claim is hiring a lawyer. The statute of limitations makes personal injury claims time-sensitive especially considering how long the whole legal process can be. Because of this, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as you decide to move forward with legal action. For the best results, you’ll need to contact a personal injury lawyer. Your personal injury lawyer will help file the necessary documents and will aid you in the collection of important evidence that shows that negligence has occurred. This includes documents from the police, photographs of the scene and the injury, any medical documents that you received because of your medical care received, and anything else that helps strengthen your case.
Step 2: A Complaint is Filed and Served
Once you have hired an attorney, and it’s established there is enough documentation that shows negligence has occurred, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit with your local court system. Once your personal injury lawsuit is filed, you will need to wait for the case to go to trial. As you wait, you and your lawyer will continue developing your case in a process known as discovery.
Step 3: Pretrial and “Discovery”
As part of the process of going through a personal injury claim, you and your attorney will participate in what is called pretrial and discovery. During this process, information will be shared between parties about the claim so that no surprises are brought up during the trial. This is done as a means to avoid what is known as “trial by ambush.”
Step 4: Personal Injury Lawsuit Trial
During a personal injury lawsuit trial, both parties will be able to bring forth evidence in front of a judge in order to argue their case. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will determine whether or not an individual is liable for any damages in a claim that is brought against them. If an individual is awarded any damages, all other factors associated with the claim including comparative fault will be analyzed and discussed, and ruled on during the trial.
Step 5: Settlement Process
A majority of personal injury claims are never brought to trial and are usually settled outside of court. During the settlement process, attorneys will typically agree outside of a courtroom to have a settlement take place. A settlement is when an agreement is reached between both parties. When a settlement takes place, contracts are typically signed regarding settlement payments and any additional details pertaining to the settlement of the claim. Once a claim is settled, both parties will typically sign a release of liability. Once signed, both parties cannot reopen the claim.
Connecticut Personal Injury Laws You Need to Know
Depending on the claim, there are some laws that will apply to your claim and will dictate how or whether or not you can move forward with your claim. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly observed personal injury laws.
Time Limits on Connecticut Injury Lawsuits
In Connecticut, a statute of limitations is observed on personal injury claims. The term statute of limitations is used to describe how much time an individual has to move forward with a claim once the injury happens. After your injury has occurred, there is only so much time that can pass before you will no longer be allowed to file a claim on that injury.
In Connecticut, individuals have two years to file a claim for their injury. If you do not file a claim within two years, then you lose your right to get your case heard. There is also a statute of limitations depending on the type of claim you are filing. Generally, the statutes include the following
- Negligence claims, defamation claims, and wrongful deaths all fall under 2 years
- Assault and battery, strict liability, product liability all fall under 3 years
Time Limit For Claims Against a Government Entity
If your claim is against a government entity then you have a stricter statute of limitations to adhere to. Claims against government entities must be filed in your city or state within six months of the injury occurring. Additionally, your State’s Claims Commissioner needs to receive your claim against the government entity within one year.
Comparative Fault in Connecticut
Comparative fault in Connecticut refers to the reality that when people file a claim against an individual or entity and are seeking compensation in their claim, the individual or entity will fight back and argue that that person is partially responsible for their injury occurring.
This reality of personal injury lawsuits is remedied through a “comparative fault rule“. The comparative fault rule either eliminates or reduces the damages presented in the claim. This only happens however if the person who was claiming that they got injured is found to have played a role in their injury occurring, to begin with.
Under comparative fault, a percentage will be ruled in your favor and in your defendant’s favor. For example, if you were found to be 10% at fault for the injury and the defendant is 90% responsible for your injury occurring, the comparative rule would limit damages up to that percentage point. If you were awarded damages at the conclusion of your claim, then your award would be decreased by whatever percentage was deemed to be your fault for the injury taking place.
Car Insurance Laws in Connecticut
Because personal injury lawsuits involving car injuries are the most common in Connecticut, it’s important to understand the rules around them. Connecticut is what is considered a “fault” state. In a fault state, people who suffer from an injury due to a vehicular accident have a couple of options to choose from. They can do the following:
- Move forward with the claim and file it through their own auto insurance.
- File a claim through the other driver’s auto insurance.
- Move forward with a personal injury claim and file a lawsuit through the court system.
Liability for Dog Bite and Attack Cases
Although it’s not one of the most common types of personal injury claims, individuals could be held liable if their dog bites another individual. In many states across the nation, the “one bite rule” is observed. The one bite rule means that dog owners will typically not be held liable for any injuries their dog may cause someone if it is their first time biting that individual. This rule is especially applied when the dog is not deemed to be dangerous.
In Connecticut however, there is a specific statute that deviates from this nationally accepted one bite rule. This statute stipulates that dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries they may cause another individual. Regardless of that dog’s previous behavior, their perceived level of danger, and other factors, if a dog bites another individual the dog owner is liable for any injury sustained. The statute explains in part,
“If any dog does any damage to either the body or property of any person,” [the dog owner] “shall be liable for such damage, except when such damage has been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog.”
Damage Caps in Connecticut Injury Cases
The term damage caps refers to how much money an individual can seek in personal injury claims. In most states, there are caps on how much an individual can argue for. These caps differ based on the different types of injury cases. In Connecticut, there is no cap on damages in any type of injury case. When it comes to medical malpractice personal injury claims, while there is no cap, claimants can seek punitive damages but only up to the actual cost of the case including attorney fees.
Having the right personal injury lawyer beside you can help you navigate the legal process so that you can get the most out of your complaint. Having the right legal counsel can guide you on relevant laws, necessary legal action to take, and all the other nuances that can make pursuing a personal injury claim difficult.