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How a Plaintiff Gets Paid After a Personal Injury Settlement

The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to provide the plaintiff with the means to cover expenses associated with the injury as well as compensation for the negative consequences of the injury in the person’s daily life. Plaintiffs often assume that at the end of a successful lawsuit they’ll be handed a check. Although in most successful cases a defendant does make a payment as part of resolving the dispute, the mechanics behind the payment process are usually more complicated. Personal injury lawsuits can resolve in the plaintiff’s favor in two ways: either as a negotiated settlement, or by a final judgment of a trial court. Most cases end in settlements, for a variety of reasons. Settlements provide both sides the opportunity to control how the plaintiff will be compensated. If the case goes to trial, the judge and jury take control of many aspects of the process.

Who, exactly, gets paid after a personal injury lawsuit?

Although the injured plaintiff is right to feel entitled to receiving money from the defendant who is responsible for his or her injury, the plaintiff is often not the only party who expects to be paid out of a settlement or judgment award. It’s common for plaintiffs to be one of several parties that have claims to the defendant’s payment:
  • The plaintiff’s insurer (or insurers) may have the right of subrogation, which means that it is entitled to be reimbursed for its expenses related to the injury out of the settlement or judgment. If the plaintiff has been covered by Medicare, it will need to be reimbursed before anyone else can receive money from the award.
  • Providers of medical care who have not otherwise been paid for their services may have issued liens that must be satisfied.
  • If the plaintiff’s law firm has handled the case on contingency, it will take the portion of the judgment award to which it is entitled to cover its expenses and pay its staff for the time they have put in on the case. The amount the firm is owed will have been set out in the firm’s engagement letter with the client, and should have been explained orally as well.

Alternative forms of payment

In settlement negotiations the plaintiff and defendant may choose between a number of approaches for facilitating the payment of the settlement amount to the plaintiff and others who are entitled to a share. In cases involving large sums, a structured settlement can be a superior approach both for the defendant who is faced with a significant financial burden and the plaintiff who can receive a variety of benefits. In a structured settlement the defendant purchases an annuity, with the plaintiff as beneficiary. The annuity pays the plaintiff at regular intervals over a specified period of time. The plaintiff often gets tax benefits from this approach, and the defendant’s overall costs may be lower. Even if the defendant will pay a lump sum, the sum typically gets placed into a special account that is used to pay off other expenses before finally being distributed to the plaintiff. Management of this account is often handled by the plaintiff’s attorneys and can be subject to court oversight. The goal is always to get a payment to the plaintiff as soon as possible. Experienced personal injury attorneys work hard throughout the process to minimize delays at this phase of the case. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. Our attorneys are available to provide free consultations. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Suing for Loss of Consortium in Nevada

Loss of consortium is a kind of damages that sometimes gets added to a plaintiff’s claim in personal injury lawsuits. It seeks to compensate the plaintiff for the basket of losses associated with a serious injury to a spouse or domestic partner. By adding loss of consortium to the claims in a lawsuit the plaintiff can recover compensation for injuries that might otherwise go uncaptured in the scope of other types of damages. In Nevada loss of consortium has several important features:
  • Who can claim loss of consortium?

Loss of consortium is available only to the spouse or domestic partner of the individual who has been seriously injured or killed. The important thing to note here is that important categories of people aren’t able to claim loss of consortium: children and other dependents, people in committed but legally unrecognized relationships (including people who are engaged to be married but as-yet unmarried), and so forth cannot make a claim for this type of loss.
  • What sort of losses are accounted for in loss of consortium?

The definition of “consortium” is simply the intangible interests that the plaintiff has in the welfare of his or her spouse or domestic partner. Because the term is vaguely defined, it leaves open the possibility of a plaintiff pursuing compensation for circumstances that are unique to his or her family. Common types of loss that are included within loss of consortium include loss of companionship, mutual assistance, sexual relations, and emotional support.
  • How is loss of consortium proved?

To recover loss of consortium damages they must be proved with sufficient specificity to enable the fact finder in the case to place a value upon them. In a sense the proof requirement imposes limits that are not present in the open-ended definition of “consortium.” For example, the plaintiff who claims loss of consortium on grounds that the injury has affected sexual relations will need to testify about the couple’s sexual relationship. Needing to explore these details in an adversarial proceeding is one reason why some plaintiffs opt to not pursue loss of consortium damages.
  • What is the relationship of loss of consortium claims to the underlying injury?

To sue for loss of consortium in Nevada a plaintiff’s spouse or domestic partner must also be suing to recover compensation for his or her injuries. Loss of consortium is a derivative claim that cannot stand on its own without a personal injury lawsuit for it to be derived from and made a part of. Depending on the facts of the case, the spouses may be represented by the same attorney. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injuries. We are passionate about helping clients recover full compensation for their injuries and will explore the pros and cons of a loss of consortium claim with clients in appropriate cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Attacking a Defendant’s Character in Personal Injury Cases

In personal injury lawsuits the defendant’s character can sometimes become an important piece of a plaintiff’s case. The defendant’s character could involve his or her propensity to tell the truth, behave lawfully, act violently, and so on. But character evidence isn’t always relevant to the core issue of a personal liability case: whether or not the defendant is legally responsible for compensating the plaintiff for costs related to the injury. Understanding when a defendant’s character can be used at trial requires consideration of Nevada’s evidence rules. Nevada law limits when and how character evidence can be used in civil trials. Under NRS Chapter 48, a number of things must be true about character evidence before it can be used:
  • It must be relevant. In legal terms relevance means that the character evidence makes a fact of consequence in the case more or less probable than would otherwise be the case. For other kinds of evidence the question of relevance may be straightforward. For example, in a drunk driving case the individual’s blood alcohol content near the time of the accident is clearly relevant. But character isn’t always a direct issue in a case. The defendant’s character may come into play if there are questions about his or her honesty or other traits.
  • It must not be unfairly prejudicial. The character evidence’s informational value should not be substantially outweighed by the likelihood that the trier of fact (a judge or jury) will be swayed against the defendant for reasons that have nothing to do with the facts of the case. For example, if the defendant was convicted of a serious drug offense (say, selling cocaine to minors) 30 years ago but the current case involves a car accident with no connection to drug use or sales, the fact of the old conviction may not just be irrelevant, it may also be unfairly prejudicial.
  • It cannot be offered solely to prove that the defendant acted in a certain way. In a sense, this rule is another way of getting at the rules of relevance and fairness. Proving that someone has a general habit of drinking too much can’t be used to prove that the person was drunk on a specific occasion. Showing that a person has a history of domestic violence does not prove that he or she is still committing violent acts. But if the defendant tries to argue that he doesn’t drink, or that she wouldn’t hurt a fly, these character elements can become important. Note that the defendant may need to open the door for the plaintiff to use this sort of evidence. A smart attorney will avoid making this kind of rudimentary mistake.
Provided that character evidence is relevant, fair, and appropriate, it also must be offered in a reliable way. Witness testimony is probably the most important source of character evidence, but other pieces of evidence can help establish character. Social media can be a rich source of character evidence, because people often use it without considering how it might later be used against them in a court setting. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for over 45 years. If you have questions about your personal injury case, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Getting Hurt on Trips Overseas

When an injury interrupts an overseas vacation, getting healthcare is only part of the challenge. Figuring out how to recover compensation from the individual or organization that is responsible for the injury can be a daunting task. Although the specific approach needed to address each situation will depend on a host of differing factors—where the injury occurred, the kind of legal system there, and so on—a few basic ideas apply to every personal injury overseas.
  • Get medical attention. Without question the first thing to worry about after suffering a serious injury is the necessary medical attention required to prevent more serious complications. Medical care in foreign countries can vary dramatically from care in the United States. After seeking care it’s important to also get ahold of records related to the injury. Doctors back home will want to know what was done, and the records will be important in any legal proceeding.
  • Report the incident to authorities. Depending on the country where the injury takes place, seeking help from police or even the local tourism bureau can be a helpful first step for finding resources to address the legal side of the injury. The U.S. consulate is also a good resource. Ideally the authorities can help to identify the people involved in the incident and secure evidence that will be needed later. One challenge of overseas injuries is the varying degree of cooperation a tourist can expect to receive from local agencies. For example, if local police are corrupt or unsympathetic to foreigners, they may be of little help.
  • Gather evidence. Just like injuries at home, gathering evidence about the facts of the injury is vitally important. Getting the names and contact information of people involved in the accident, as well as witnesses, can go a long way toward making recovery possible. Language barriers and cultural challenges can make this process difficult in some places, which is another reason to look for help sooner rather than later.
  • Find legal counsel. Figuring out another country’s legal system is not something an injured person should try to do. Instead, find an attorney in the United States that can do the legwork of tracking down a reliable lawyer in the country where the accident happened. The U.S. firm can “translate” the process and help coordinate the process of reaching a fair conclusion in the host country.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. If you have suffered a personal injury overseas and need help understanding your legal options, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

How Defendants May Use Bankruptcy to Avoid Paying Judgments

Defendants in personal injury lawsuits can end up owing the plaintiff a significant amount of compensation, whether as part of a settlement or as a consequence of a court judgment. In simplified terms, the successful plaintiff becomes a creditor of the defendant. One concerns that successful plaintiffs may have is that defendants may seek to reduce or eliminate their debt obligation by discharging it through personal bankruptcy. There are several kinds of bankruptcy, which are named after the applicable chapter of Title 11 of the U.S. Code, also referred to as the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. For individuals, the two forms of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The mechanisms and requirements of these two forms of bankruptcy are quite different.
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy is for debtors who lack the income necessary to pay at least some of their debts. If the debtor is already barely staying afloat when the judgment comes down, Chapter 7 might be available. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy forces the debtor to sell off or surrender property for which there isn’t an exemption. The debtor uses the resulting proceeds to pay off as much of the debts as possible, leaving only a small, exempted amount for the debtor’s own use. After the debtor has paid what he or she can, the rest of the debts are discharged. At the end of the process if a creditor cannot be paid because there is nothing left, the creditor may be out of luck.
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the option available for people who do not satisfy the debt-to-income requirements of Chapter 7. Chapter 13 is more favorable to plaintiffs because it does not result in debts being discharged for good. Instead, the Chapter 13 debtor is required to adopt a repayment plan that is compatible with the debtor’s income. A Chapter 13 repayment plan is overseen by the bankruptcy court and a trustee, and may last up to five years.
Both types of personal bankruptcy involve all of the debtor’s credit obligations, meaning the plaintiff’s award gets thrown in with other forms of debt, like mortgages and car payments. One consequence of this is that the successful plaintiff may end up behind other, higher priority creditors in the process. For example, if a mortgage lender has a lien on the debtor’s home, the home’s value may be out of the plaintiff’s reach. A personal injury plaintiff is a sympathetic creditor and may receive some discretionary priority from a bankruptcy court, but the law of secured debt can limit the size of the potential asset pool available to pay all creditors. Plaintiffs in drunk driving cases should note that bankruptcy law prohibits bankruptcy courts from discharging debts associated with injuries caused by drunk drivers. Such debts are on a list of nondischargable debt that also covers student loans, most taxes, and government debts. Bankruptcy is designed to ensure that the debtor does not come out of the process with nothing. The idea is that debtors get another chance to “start again.” For a personal injury plaintiff this can feel unfair, especially in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case where the debt ends up wiped away. As a consequence, plaintiffs’ attorneys need to anticipate the ability of the defendant to pay as part of their legal strategy. For example, it may make strategic sense to enter into a settlement with provision for securing the debt voluntarily, so it is harder to discharge through bankruptcy. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for over 45 years. If you have questions about your personal injury case, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Pesticides, Herbicides, and Long-Term Health Problems

Pesticides, Herbicides, and Long-Term Health Problems
In sufficient concentrations, pesticides and herbicides used in many forms of agriculture are known to cause a range of health problems, from irritated skin to hormonal imbalances, nerve problems, and cancer. Studies have found a connection between the use of the herbicide Roundup and celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. People who are harmed by agricultural chemicals may have legal recourse to recover compensation, but there are a range of challenges that a plaintiff must overcome.

Establishing causation can be difficult in pesticides cases

In a personal injury case the plaintiff must show, among other things, that the defendant’s negligent actions or inactions caused the plaintiff’s injury. In cases involving injuries caused by chemicals, a central question can be whether the defendant’s chemical really caused the injury, or if other intervening sources might be to blame. Putting aside the exotic situation where someone accidentally eats a huge amount of a toxic substance, the most common scenario involves health problems that are slow to develop and difficult to trace. Highly technical evidence is usually required to establish the causal link between the defendant’s chemical and the plaintiff’s injury. Scientific studies can be useful evidence. Typically, one or more expert witnesses are asked to provide written or oral testimony. The witness, who must be properly qualified (for example, an oncologist to speak about causes of cancer), may give a professional opinion about the chemical at issue has been shown to cause the plaintiff’s injury. Scientific evidence doesn’t always provide clear answers. Two studies of similar issues may reach different conclusions. Experts can disagree about the effectiveness of a study’s methods or its applicability to the plaintiff’s particular case. Cases involving relatively new health problems, like celiac disease, may suffer from inadequate studies. And chemical manufacturers often conduct tests of their own, with “experts” standing by to refute any claims about a chemical’s toxicity.

When? Where?

Another problem for plaintiffs is showing precisely when and where they came in contact with the defendant’s chemical. If the plaintiff cannot prove that he or she was exposed to the chemical at issue, a successful case will be hard to make. Proving exposure can be especially challenging if it happened a long time ago. On the other hand, if many people are suffering from the same problems and exposure to the same chemical can be established between them, a group of plaintiffs may be able to draw an inference that would not otherwise be available to an individual. Questions of exposure can be different for someone who works closely with agricultural chemicals. Farm laborers, who are excluded from Nevada’s workers’ compensation system, can be exposed to extremely high levels of toxicity if not adequately protected. Someone who has been exposed to very high levels of toxic chemicals and has developed a serious illness as a result should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients to help them get the compensation they deserve. If you are suffering from an illness that may have been caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals, reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.