Was The Driver Who Hit Me Reckless?

Was the driver who hit me reckless?

You are driving along. You are following the safety rules. Then all of the sudden your car is struck. You didn’t see it coming. The other driver was going so fast. Are you a victim of reckless driving?

Whenever we review a personal injury case, we investigate to see if a driver was operating recklessly.

What is reckless driving?

Connecticut law provides that no person shall operate any motor vehicle upon any public highway of the state recklessly, having regard to the width, traffic and use of such highway, the intersection of streets and the weather conditions.

How do we determine if a driver is reckless? We look for the following factors:

1.  Was the person operating a motor vehicle recklessly when that person does so knowing or having reason to know of facts that create a high degree of risk of physical harm to another and deliberately proceeds to act in conscious disregard of, or with indifference to, that risk?

2.  Was a person operating a motor vehicle recklessly when that person knows or has reason to know of facts that create a high degree of risk?

3.   Was the operation of a motor vehicle upon any public highway at such a rate of speed as to endanger the life of any person other than the operator of the motor vehicle?

 4. Did the operation of a motor vehicle upon any public highway at a rate of speed greater than eighty-five miles per hour?

If any of those 4 factors are present, the person who caused your injuries may be responsible for reckless driving.

Reckless driving may entitle you to double or treble damages. That means 2 or 3 times the amount you would have been awarded in a wreck without reckless driving?

Reckless driving needs to be specially pleaded in a complaint.

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Injured By A Cat. Can I Sue?

You’ve been injured by a cat. Can you sue?

In high school, a classmate got cat scratch fever. One day he was healthy. The next day he was in a coma. He was in a coma for weeks. He nearly died. Fortunately, he survived. His doctors feared permanent brain damage. As the result of being scratched by a cat. 

There are lots of dog bite cases. Many fewer cases about cats. Probably because many cat attacks result in minimal injuries. Cases not worth bringing.

The Connecticut Supreme Court in Allen v. Cox held that when a cat has a propensity to attack other cats, knowledge of that propensity may render the owner liable for injuries to people that are reasonably foreseeable as a result of such behavior.

It is the most important case in cat injury law in Connecticut.

Knowing the history of the cat is the only way to know if you have a claim.

If you are attacked by a cat and suffer serious injury, please contact me for a free case review:


What Will I Be Asked At Jury Duty?

“Ryan, I have jury duty coming up, what will the lawyers ask me?” says a friend at a summer picnic.

We just finished 3 days of jury selection on a food safety case in Hartford. The topic of jury selection is at the front of my mind. So here you go.

In Connecticut we have individual jury selection. This means that a juror on a civil case will likely find herself in a room – possibly a court room – with the attorneys on the case and a jury clerk. It may even be in a conference room. 

Attorneys from each side have the right to ask prospective jurors questions.

There’s no quiz. No right or wrong answers. The purpose is to assemble a panel that will give each side a fair chance at trial.

Lawyers often ask questions about professional training. For example, will a nurse or doctor on the panel be able to set aside her medical training for the judgment of another doctor and rely solely on the evidence presented in the case? Will the person who works for an insurance company be fair to a plaintiff?

We also often ask about how sure someone has to be when they make a decision. The standard in a civil case is a preponderance of the evidence. It is ever so slightly more right than wrong. It’s not even 51% it’s more like 50.00000000001%. Some folks need near certainty to make a decision and that may make it hard for them to serve.

Other common questions are about whether or not a prospective juror knows a party, lawyer, or witness.

The last bucket of questions deals with feelings about the parties. Can a juror be fair to a corporate defendant or does the juror see the corporations as evil? Can the jury be fair to the bicyclist who has the same rights to the road as a car or does he see the bicyclist as having less of a right to the road than a car?

These are the common sorts of questions that are asked. There are others too.

And if you’re not picked, it may have nothing to do with your answers. There are many reasons someone may not be picked that have nothing to do with bias. For example, a scheduling conflict or a hardship.

We believe juries are the conscience of our community and are deeply grateful for those who serve. It is truly the most important role in our democracy. The notion that problems that can’t be resolved between parties are resolved by the community has served our country well.

If you’ve served, what have you been asked? Leave your answers in the comments below.

How To Calculate Pain and Suffering

We’re often asked: “How do I calculate pain and suffering?”

Injured persons in Connecticut are able to recover for pain and suffering. These damages are in addition to “economic damages” things like medical bills and lost wages. 

The answer is perhaps unsatisfactory to folks who like certainty. There is no formula to enable a jury to arrive at an award for pain and suffering damages. Our Supreme Court in Jerz v. Humphrey,  160 Conn. 219 (1971) held that the determination of damages rests within the discretion of the trier of fact. A trier of fact is a jury in a jury trial or a judge in a bench trial.

Appellate courts routinely uphold generous awards of pain and suffering damages. Jury verdicts on pain and suffering are only overturned for things like corruption, prejudice or partiality.

It makes sense. The role of the jury is very important. Every case is different. It is they jury who must balance the scales of justice and vote on a verdict that reflects the harms and losses of someone who has suffered a wrongful injury.

We carefully evaluate every case we take through confidential methods to arrive at an amount of money for pain and suffering that is just and reasonable.

The jury is the conscience of the community.

The founding fathers got this right.

We ultimately calculate damages for pain and suffering by asking the community.

Contact us for a free evaluation of your injury case:


Tripped and Fell On Sidewalk Do I Need A Lawyer?

I’ve been there. Running along a sidewalk on a nice fall morning. I’m enjoying the crisp weather. Looking at what is ahead of me. And suddenly I’m on the ground. Fortunately, aside from a scrape I’m okay. I look back to see what caused my fall and I notice the sidewalk is uneven. I’m lucky. I don’t need to make a claim.

Not everyone is so lucky. Falls on sidewalks can result in serious injuries.

In Connecticut, one of the harshest statutes we have is the sidewalk notice statute. Many folks are injured on Connecticut’s sidewalks. Often because towns fail to maintain or inspect them.

If you are injured on a sidewalk you need to seek a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. 

Connecticut provides that a person who was injured by means of a defective sidewalk may recover damages from the party bound to keep it in repair. In making a claim under that a person was injured because of a defective sidewalk, the first thing the plaintiff must prove is that he gave the required statutory notice of injury.

No notice no case.

The law requires that an action can only be brought to recover damages caused by a defective sidewalk if the plaintiff provides written notice of the injury, with a general description of the injury, the cause, the time, and the place of its occurrence. This notice shall be given within ninety days thereafter to a selectman or clerk of the town, city or borough bound to keep the sidewalk in repair.

Your lawyer should immediately investigate the sidewalk. You should accompany your lawyer to the location of the fall. Pictures should be taken. Your lawyer should do a title search to determine ownership of the sidewalk. Your lawyer also needs to examine town ordinances related to sidewalks.

All of this has to be done within 90 days of the fall. If it is not, you cannot make any claim for your injuries. And just because you give notice doesn’t mean you have to pursue a claim.

If you have fallen on a sidewalk and would like to discuss your claim, please contact me for a free consultation at (860) 471-8333


Do I Have A Case?

I am often asked “Do I have a case?”

The answer requires understanding the law, investigating the claim, and listening to the client. Every situation is different. Only an experienced Connecticut injury attorney can answer this question. 

I always ask myself two questions: (1) what do I have to prove? and (2) can I prove it?

In order to do this I think about the civil burden of proof. Commonly referred to as a preponderance standard. Below I’ve paraphrased and cut from the CT Civil Jury Instructions on burden of proof:

“In civil cases, an injured person who asserts a claim has the burden of proving it by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that is, the better or weightier evidence must establish that, more probably than not, the assertion is true.

In weighing the evidence, a jury must keep in mind that it is the quality and not the quantity of evidence that is important; one piece of believable evidence may weigh so heavily as to overcome a multitude of less credible evidence. The weight to be accorded each piece of evidence is for the jury to decide.

Imagine the scales of justice. Put all the credible evidence on the scale. If the scales incline, even slightly, in favor of the assertion may you find the assertion has been proved by a fair preponderance of the evidence.”

If you would like to talk about your case contact me at (860) 471-8333

Do I Have To Dress Up For Jury Duty?

One of the questions that I’m asked is “do I have to dress up for jury duty?” The answer is: no.

When we interact with jurors we are completely interested in what a prospective juror is telling us. What someone is wearing never factors into the equation.

Wear jeans. Answer questions honestly.

Here’s the official guidance from the Judicial Branch:
Decorum is maintained in the courthouse and jurors should dress accordingly. Shorts, t-shirts, or clothing containing offensive language or imagery are not permitted.

And whatever you are wearing, understand that the lawyers, judges, and court staff are very grateful for your service.

Very grateful.

Injured Playing Sports. Can I Sue?

Last week at the Olympics the USA women’s national team won the silver medal.

In Connecticut, events on the pitch have made it to our high court –  with a friendly between Jaworski and Kiernan.

On May 16, 1993, during a game,  Kiernan made contact with  Jaworski during a recreational soccer game while Jaworski was shielding the soccer ball from the opposition so that the goalie on her team could retrieve the ball. As a result of this incident,  Jaworski suffered an injury to her left anterior cruciate ligament, which caused a 15 percent permanent partial disability of her left knee.

Jaworski then sued Kiernan for her injuries claiming among other things that Kiernan should be found liable for negligence because his actions were in violation of league rules.

The Supreme Court disagreed and offered this analysis of the game of soccer:

Soccer while not as violent a sport as football,  is nevertheless replete with occasions when the participants make contact with one another during the normal course of the game. When two soccer players vie for control of the ball, the lower limbs are especially vulnerable to injury. If a player seeks to challenge another player who has possession of the ball or seeks to prevent another player from gaining possession of the ball, the resulting contact could reasonably be foreseen to result in injury to either player.

The Court went on to find that the defendant could not be held liable for negligence only deliberate, wilful, or reckless conduct:

A final public policy concern that influences our decision is our desire to stem the possible flood of litigation that might result from adopting simple negligence as the standard of care to be utilized in athletic contests. If simple negligence were adopted as the standard of care, every punter with whom contact is made, every midfielder high sticked, every basketball player fouled,  every batter struck by a pitch, and every hockey player tripped would have the ingredients for a lawsuit if injury resulted. When the number of athletic events taking place in Connecticut over the course of a year is considered, there exists the potential for a surfeit of lawsuits when it becomes known that simple negligence, based on an inadvertent violation of a contest rule, will suffice as a ground for recovery for an athletic injury. This should not be encouraged.

If you have been injured playing sports whether or not you can sue depends on how your injury occurred. Every situation is unique. If you would like your claim reviewed by an attorney, free of charge, contact us:

Practice Gratitude

We can spend our entire lives in scarcity . . . just waiting for for the other shoe to drop and wondering when it will all fall apart. Or, we can lean into the uncertainty and be thankful for what we have in that precious moment. When I’m standing at the crossroads of fear and gratitude, I’ve learned that I must choose vulnerability and practice gratitude if want to know joy. – Brene Brown

I’ll never forget that day. The day the water came through the ceiling. Lots of water. A pipe burst 3 floors above our office. 

All of our carpet – destroyed. The ceilings needed to be redone. The cleanup company installed dryers that sucked moisture from the hardwood floor. They also sucked electricity from the meter. My keyboard was fried. Our brand new office was offline for what now felt like months though if you told me was weeks – I’d believe you.  There was a moment of panic about insurance coverage.

There were other problems too. Ones not for this post. But at the time the water was both real and metaphorical.

My anxiety levels were very high.  I was waiting for something worse to happen.

This is exactly the place many clients find themselves in when they meet me.

Something bad happened. And when something bad happens unexpectedly it makes us very aware that another bad thing can happen unexpectedly. It is a scary place.

For the most part we can deal with problems. We can hold the safety rule violating company responsible for the damages they have caused. Carpet can be replaced as can keyboards.

In some ways the harder part can often be the anxiety.

Lee Rosen has a nice list of things you’ll fear when you open a law practice.

I found Brene Brown somewhere along my journey in the not for the faint of heart world of legal self employment. Brene Brown teaches that in the face of anxiety, scarcity, and fear that gratitude is the key to being joyful.

When I get to work, I try very hard to begin my workday by thinking about what I’m grateful for in my practice. It helps. It really does. If I could go back to the day the water came through the ceiling, I’d tell myself to practice gratitude.

If you come to me with an injury case, don’t be surprised if we talk about Brene Brown. Practicing gratitude may be a piece of your recovery puzzle.

Driver Who Caused Accident Has No Insurance

Yesterday, I wrote about what happens when a driver has a low insurance policy.

The only worse than a low insurance policy is when the person who hits you has no insurance. You are driving along. Following the rules of the road. And then BAM. Through no fault of your own your life has changed on a dime. It’s not right.

Joe Biden’s car?

What are you going to do?

Your only option is likely to make a claim against your own policy. This is known as an underinsured motorist claim. Your insurance acts as if it was the person’s who hit you. Your liability limits are the amount of coverage available to you.

Do I need a lawyer?

Most likely. Insurance companies have thousands of lawyers. They act to protect their money at all costs. And at the time you were in the accident you went from their customer to an adversary. They are going to try to pay you as little as possible.

What will your lawyer do? Your lawyer will make a claim against your insurance policy the exact same way a claim would have been made against the person who hit you.  Your lawyer will also evaluate a claim to see if the person who hits you has any assets that you can recover. Mostly people without insurance have nothing to attach. But your lawyer needs to explore this.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, contact me. I’m happy to answer your questions.