I Got Hurt at Work – Now What?

As is true with many things in life, most of us don’t think about how we would cope with the frequently nerve-wracking scenario of suffering an injury at the workplace until it actually happens to us.  Below are some helpful pointers to know in advance that will help steer you in the right direction if you ever find yourself in this unenviable and difficult position.

  • Immediately notify your supervisor or direct report of the work incident
  • Request to complete a written Incident Report documenting all the fundamental details of the incident while it is fresh in your memory
  • Request immediate medical attention if you suffered a physical injury from the incident
  • If you require and ultimately receive medical attention, make sure to get a work status note from the medical provider to give to your employer so that they are aware of what – if any – work restrictions you may have following your work incident
  • Remember that you have the right to choose your own treating physician should you need continued medical care

– Alexander J. Sarris

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Motor Vehicle Claims: What to Expect from the Insurance Carrier

For the uninitiated, dealing with an automobile accident claim can be a daunting process.  In Connecticut, since all drivers must be insured, it is the insurance companies who are holding the purse strings.  Insurance companies are not in the habit of giving up their money despite advertising claims of being “in good hands” or being there, “like a good neighbor.”  To get what you are properly entitled to, you will likely need to enlist the help of a personal injury lawyer to protect your health care information, analyze liability, and fight for a fair settlement.

Even if the insurance company of an “at-fault” party (its insured) pays your property damage claim to have your car repaired, or replaced, that does not mean the same company will acknowledge the negligence of its insured in settling your personal injury claim.  This is often the biggest surprise to clients who assume, that if they are injured, they can submit their medical bills or proof of lost wages to the company, and that company will pay those bills on a timely basis.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that easily, and may only happen years later, long after they are paid by you, or in the worst of cases, after the bills go into collection.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, please call Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C., for a free consultation, to better understand your rights and obligations.

– AnnMarie Cienava Rocco

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Why All Connecticut Drivers Need Underinsured Motorist Coverage

As we previously covered in another blog post, many Connecticut residents looking to save money on car insurance unfortunately often skimp on “uninsured motorist coverage,” an absolutely vital insurance policy provision designed to protect drivers from reckless drivers with no auto insurance. Just as important as that coverage, however, is “underinsured motorist coverage.”

Under Connecticut state law, all drivers must carry minimum automobile insurance limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Liability insurance generally covers the accident victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

At first, the state minimum policy might sound like a lot of money. Considering that an emergency room bill alone in a serious car wreck could easily exceed five figures, however, it is clear that this amount of coverage is inadequate in serious car accidents. It is therefore vital that all Connecticut drivers protect themselves from being limited to the minimum insurance limits in the event of an auto accident caused by a driver with the state minimum insurance coverage.

Fortunately, Connecticut ordinarily requires that drivers carry “underinsured motorist coverage” (also referred to as “UIM”). As opposed to the liability coverage explained above, which serves to protect others on the roadway from your negligence, this type of coverage protects the policyholder from the negligence of other drivers who do not have enough insurance to pay personal injury claims caused by their negligent driving.

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) protects policyholders in the event that the at-fault driver does carry insurance, but the policy limits are inadequate to cover all injury-related losses. Although most Connecticut drivers are insured, those who opt to only carry the minimum amount required by law are undersinsured for serious accidents. Therefore, accident victims who suffer serious personal injuries will often have to rely on this coverage. UIM coverage is also frequently triggered when a number of victims are injured in the same accident. In such a scenario, the minimal $40,000 total occurrence limit has to be split among a number of seriously injured passengers.

In the event that the negligent party’s insurance coverage is inadequate, the UIM coverage will then cover the policyholder (as well as other passengers and some family members) for losses above and beyond those covered by the at-fault party. Therefore, your personal injury attorney would not be limited to the minimal coverage when negotiating a settlement in mediation, and the full damages could be pursued during a trial in front of a jury. Depending on the particular policy, the policy limit for UIM coverage might be reduced for benefits paid by liability insurance.

To make sure that you and your family have adequate insurance, review your policy limits with a car accident attorney to determine what type of coverage you would have in the event of a motor vehicle accident. If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact a personal injury attorney to determine what options for compensation you have based upon your UIM coverage.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Texting While Driving: Can “Remote Texters” Be Held Liable for Auto Accidents?

By now, almost everyone is aware that it is a bad idea to “text” or otherwise access the mobile web while driving because of the obvious safety concerns- this form of distracted driving leads to many serious car accidents in Connecticut. Fewer people, however, are aware of the magnitude of this growing specific problem and the number of serious car wrecks caused by these careless drivers.

Considering the variety of ways that texting distracts drivers, it is not surprising that using a smart phone while driving has become a leading concern for motorists. Texting while driving potentially distracts drivers in three ways: shifting the driver’s visual focus to a phone screen, taking the driver’s hands off of the steering wheel, and diverting mental focus from safe driving to the content of the text message. Recent studies reveal alarming statistics about this trend:

  • According to a study performed by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, more than 3,000 teenagers die annually due to texting while driving.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2010 alone, 416,100 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving, and that nearly one in five crashes that year involved distracted driving.
  • One driver participating in a Car and Driver experiment, traveling at 70 m.p.h., needed an extra 36 feet to stop while reading a text message and 70 feet to stop while writing a text message. The same driver was then tested while legally intoxicated- and only needed an extra four feet to stop.

But what about the person potentially distracting the driver by sending text messages? Most of the time, people sending text messages do not know what the recipient is doing at the time the message is sent. If the person writing the text messages knows that the recipient of the message is driving a car and might look at the messages while driving, however, the sender is recklessly subjecting Connecticut drivers to danger of experiencing a car wreck.

Although this theory has yet to be decided in Connecticut, a New Jersey appellate court decided that, depending on the circumstances, a remote texter can be held liable to accident victims if the text message recipient causes a motor vehicle accident.

In Kubert v. Best, two motorcyclists seriously injured in a car accident sued a person who had sent the driver a text message shortly before the accident. The appellate court decided that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.” Despite that general proposition, however, the court concluded that the “remote texter” in that case was not liable because there was not sufficient evidence that she knew, or should have known, that the recipient was driving when she sent the text message.

Although the New Jersey case is not directly binding on Connecticut courts, and potentially subject to further litigation in New Jersey, it does create persuasive authority that “remote texters” can theoretically be held liable for auto accidents in Connecticut courts.

If you are the victim of a distracted driver due to texting while driving, it is important to speak with a motor vehicle accident attorney immediately because as any fines assessed in criminal court will not cover your medical bills, time lost from work, or personal injuries suffered. Please contact us to schedule a meeting in either our Middletown or Old Saybrook offices. An experienced attorney can communicate with the insurance company, file a claim, investigate the circumstances of the car collision, and help ensure that your legal and financial interests are protected.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

What To Do If You Are Involved in an Automobile Accident

All drivers are responsible for knowing what to do if involved in an accident, and following some basic steps could help protect your legal and financial interests regardless of who is at fault in the collision.

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Be sure to stop your car and remain at the accident scene. Under Connecticut General Statutes § 14-224, anyone knowingly involved in a motor vehicle accident on Connecticut roads must immediately stop, render any necessary assistance, and provide contact information to another party (such as the other driver or a police officer). Be wary of exiting your vehicle, however, in the event that a minor accident is only a pretext for luring you out of your vehicle.

Assess the accident scene to ensure safety, and move to another area if the conditions present additional safety concerns. Be aware of the traffic situation and other potential dangers, such as fire. Try to make the scene as safe as possible by activating hazard lights and using flares, if available.

After ensuring personal safety, call the authorities to report any injuries at the accident scene and request medical assistance. Even if there were no injuries in the accident, the police should be notified so that they may conduct an investigation.

Once help is on the way, document the scene and exchange information. Gathering key information will help in the event of a future claim, so try to obtain names, license plate numbers, contact information, and insurance policy information for all other drivers involved in the accident. Record contact information for all known witnesses to the accident before they leave the scene. Take photographs of the scene and vehicle damages.

Try to limit your interaction with the other driver to guard against possible “road rage.” Remain calm, even if the other driver does not. Do not admit fault for the accident because that is for the police to determine, and do not apologize for the accident because it might be used against you in future court proceedings.

Seek medical attention to make sure that you do not have serious injuries. It is a good idea to be checked out by emergency responders and hospital personnel because many accident victims do not notice injuries until hours (or even days) after the accident due to the initial shock of being involved in an accident. Be sure to follow up with your primary care doctor if recommended by hospital personnel.

Once time allows, consider notifying your own insurance company about the accident, but do not give a recorded statement until after you have an opportunity to consult with an attorney. Do not speak with the other driver’s insurance company. Connecticut law provides that vehicle owners may choose where repairs are done.

Consider hiring an attorney if you suffer an injury in a car accident. An experienced attorney can communicate with the insurance company, file a claim, address many common problems, and help ensure that your legal and financial interests are protected.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Defective Premises Cases in Connecticut

Defective Premises cases involve a claimant who slips, trips or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. Slip, trip and fall accidents can occur inside or outside of a building, and on residential, commercial or public spaces. Whether a claimant is entitled to compensation for injuries depends largely on the type of dangerous condition and whether an owner had knowledge of the condition. You may have a defective premises claim if you sustained an injury because of any of the following, as well as other circumstances:

  • Steps in poor repair
  • Potholes or uneven pavement in parking lots or sidewalks
  • Food or liquids on floors in retail or other business establishments
  • Dangerous objects in store aisles
  • Building Code violations (e.g. lack of handrails on stairs)
  • OSHA violations (e.g. failure to erect safety barriers at construction sites)
  • Ice and snow on driveways, parking lots and sidewalks

What to do if you are injured

Inspect the area where you slipped, tripped or fell to determine the defect, then photograph it with your cell phone or otherwise, immediately.   Remember, conditions can change quickly so if you are unable to photograph the condition which caused you to fall, contact a friend or relative and ask them to photograph it. Take several photographs of the specific defect (e.g. pothole, cracked pavement, ice), and the surrounding area.

Report the incident to a manager, property owner or other appropriate person, and get a copy of the incident report. If a commercial establishment, ask that an incident report be prepared, and that you be given a copy. If they claim that cannot give you a copy, ask to review it, and take a photograph with your cell phone.

If a manager, or employee comments that they knew of the dangerous condition or someone previously reported the problem, or someone else fell in the same location, ask for the name of the person making the comment, and write down what they said to the best of your recollection. Also write down anyone who was present.

If any emergency personnel come to the scene of the fall, report your injuries, and tell them how and why you fell so that they may accurately describe it in their report. If a paramedic, police officer or firefighter who responds to the scene, makes a comment about the defect (e.g. “It’s very slippery, get some salt”), recall the responder’s comment and write it down when you have the chance, after you leave the scene.

Seek medical attention immediately

Obtain the services of a medical professional and relay the cause of your injury. Follow the advice of your doctor.

Consult a legal professional

Defective premises cases are complicated, and your ability to bring a claim is limited. Make sure your rights are protected. As soon as you are able, contact a lawyer with knowledge and experience in defective premises cases.

-AnnMarie Cienava Rocco, Esq.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Recent Study Shows That Distracted Drivers Endanger Connecticut Lives

As succinctly explained by the popular law enforcement slogan, Connecticut law regarding cell phone use while driving is simple: “U drive. U text. U pay.” As set forth in Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 14-296aa, no person shall drive vehicles on Connecticut roads while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call, and drivers cannot type, send, or read a text message with a telephone or other mobile electronic device while the vehicle is in motion. The statute specifies fines that these distracted drivers must pay, ranging from $100.00 to $250.00, but does not address civil lawsuits in the event these distracted drivers cause an accident in Connecticut.

Unfortunately, distracted driving because of cell phone usage encompasses much more than the telephone calls and text messaging described in C.G.S. 14-296aa. Considering the wide range of applications available for a variety of phones, it is no longer a safe assumption to believe that another driver staring at a phone instead of the roadway is reading or sending a text message. A recent study conducted by AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign shows that: approximately forty percent of drivers use various forms of social media while driving, approximately thirty percent use internet browsers, and approximately ten percent even made video calls! Overall, approximately seventy percent of drivers admit to one form of another of smartphone activity while driving, including specific activities such as: checking e-mail (one third of drivers), using Facebook (almost thirty percent), taking a “selfie” or other picture (almost twenty percent), and using Twitter or Instagram (almost fifteen percent).

Looking at phones, whether it is to write a text message or use some other smartphone app, is particularly dangerous because it distracts drivers in at least three ways: taking the driver’s eyes off the roadway, taking hand(s) off the steering wheel, and mentally distracting the driver from the roadway. A distraction lasting for even only a second or two can have tragic consequences for others on the roadway considering how far cars can travel in a short time.

Distracted drivers cause car accidents on Connecticut roads every day, often leading to serious injuries for other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Considering the large number of drivers text messaging and using smartphone apps while driving, the personal injury attorneys at Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C. investigate whether the at-fault driver in a car crash was distracted in some way.

If you are the victim of a distracted driver, it is important to speak with a motor vehicle accident attorney immediately because any fines assessed in criminal court will not cover personal injuries suffered, medical bills, or time lost from work. Please contact us to schedule a meeting in either our Middletown or Old Saybrook offices. An experienced attorney can communicate with the insurance company, file a claim, investigate the circumstances of the car collision, and help ensure that your legal and financial interests are protected.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents Have Rights in Connecticut Criminal Courts

Unfortunately, despite the widely known dangers of drunk driving, many irresponsible Connecticut drivers continue to endanger the lives of innocent victims, and accidents often result in catastrophic injuries to people simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

drunk driving personal injury accident

These innocent victims likely have claims in civil court against the drunk driver, but they may also have rights in criminal court that can help obtain fair, just and reasonable compensation, as well as the appropriate consequences for the drunk driver.

Victim’s rights are defined by both Connecticut and federal laws, and include notification of rights, attendance and a voice at court proceedings, access to information, and assistance with some court-based services.

Compensation may also be available through criminal court in two forms:

1. Restitution

Restitution is court –ordered payment by the drunk driver to the victim to cover some or all of the costs associated with the collision. Requests for restitution can be made with the State’s Attorney Office or the Office of Victim Services (OVS) advocate located in the criminal court where the case will be prosecuted.

2. Crime Victim Compensation

The Crime Injuries Compensation Fund is also available for physical injured victims, or their families, to assist in recovering from the financial and emotional impact of the drunk driving accident. Eligible victims can seek reimbursement and financial assistance for up to $15,000 of expenses related to the drunk driving collision such as medical and dental costs, counseling costs, and lost wages. Unfortunately, the program does not provide financial assistance for property loss, property damage, non-economic loss such as pain and suffering, or any expenses that are covered by any other source such as medical insurance. In most circumstances, the drunk driving collision must be reported to the police within five days and an application for compensation should be filed with OVS within two years of the injury.

If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, serious consideration should be given to not only obtaining an attorney, but choosing one who is familiar with all of the remedies available to you. The personal injury attorneys at Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C. are ready to meet to discuss the circumstances of the accident, injury, and potential legal options.

-Sylvia K. Rutkowska, Esq.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Accident Induced Brain Injuries

A blow to the head from a sports injury, a fall down, or a motor vehicle collision can interfere with normal brain functioning. Medical professionals usually call this type of injury a “concussion” or a “closed head injury.”  Although some concussions are mild and usually not life threatening, these brain injuries can be very serious. Brain injury victims sometimes lose consciousness, but some serious brain injuries occur without a demonstrated loss of consciousness. Symptoms sometimes show up right away, but may not show up for days or weeks. Symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headaches or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems, dizziness, confusion
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Feeling sluggish or slowed down
  • Feeling foggy or groggy
  • Does not “feel right”
  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall (retrograde amnesia)
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall (anterograde amnesia)

Signs of worsening neurological functioning may include:

  • Headaches that worsen
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Looks drowsy or can’t be awakened
  • Increasing confusion or irritability
  • Can’t recognize people or places
  • Weakness or numbness in arms, or legs
  • Neck pain
  • Unusual behavior change

Symptoms which necessitate an emergency room visit immediately include:

  • Cannot be awakened
  • Have one pupil (the black dot of your eye) larger than the other
  • Have convulsions or seizures
  • Have slurred speech
  • Are getting more confused, restless, or agitated

If you or a loved on suffers a brain injury in an accident due to another person’s negligence, you should seek proper medical attention. After receiving treatment, the personal injury attorneys at Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C. are ready to meet to discuss the circumstances of the accident, injury, and potential legal options.

-AnnMarie Cienava Rocco, Esq.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Why All Connecticut Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

For many unknowing Connecticut residents, shopping for auto insurance is easy: simply identify the minimum car insurance requirements, and then call around for the lowest rate. Although this approach might save time and money while shopping for insurance, only purchasing the minimum motor vehicle insurance coverage can have disastrous consequences in the event of a car crash- particularly if the at-fault driver is uninsured.

Fortunately, making informed decisions regarding “uninsured motorist coverage” can help ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage regardless of the other driver’s insurance policy.

Under Connecticut state law, all motorists are required to carry minimum liability insurance limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Liability insurance generally covers the accident victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Drivers failing to meet these minimal requirements potentially face criminal charges, fines, and suspended registrations. Despite these requirements, however, an alarmingly high number of drivers on our roadways do not carry any insurance. According to a 2011 survey by the Insurance Research Council, approximately 10% of Connecticut drivers are uninsured. It is therefore vital that all Connecticut drivers obtain their own insurance coverage in the event that an uninsured driver causes a serious car accident.

In the event that the driver who caused the car accident either does not have insurance, your own coverage is very important. Fortunately for Connecticut residents injured by uninsured drivers, Connecticut also ordinarily requires that drivers carry “uninsured motorist coverage” (also referred to as “UM”). As opposed to the liability coverage explained above, which serves to protect others on the roadway from your negligence, this coverage protect the policyholder from the negligence of uninsured drivers.

Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) provides coverage for people injured due to the negligence of uninsured drivers. This coverage can also be invoked if the negligent party is unknown, such as if a “hit and run” driver causes an accident and then flees the scene prior to being identified. In either event, the injured party simply makes a claim with their own insurance company, which “stands in the shoes” of the negligent party to cover the policyholder’s losses.

Declining UM is a tremendous mistake because this coverage protects the driver and any other vehicle occupants from the negligence of uninsured car drivers. To make sure that you and your family have adequate insurance, review your policy limits with an attorney to determine what type of coverage you would have in the event of a motor vehicle accident. If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact a personal injury attorney to determine what options for compensation you have based upon your UM coverage.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.