Everything You Need to Know About Filing a Work Accident-Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
The following legal article is provided by the work accident lawyers at the Philadelphia law firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent. Our lawyers pride themselves in helping injured workers obtain maximum compensation for their work injuries.
Pennsylvania’s civil justice system can help injured workers get the justice they deserve through financial compensation for their pain and suffering. In addition, injured workers can obtain compensation for economic damages such as past and future medical expenses and past and future lost earnings. This is in addition to any workers’ compensation claim. In other words, injured workers can bring both a civil lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim.
In addition, Pennsylvania law also allows for punitive damages, or damages designed to punish behavior and deter others from similar conduct. This type of claim may be made when the defendant acts or fails to act in such a way that it shows conscious disregard or reckless indifference for the safety of others. In some injured workers’ cases, there will be facts to support such a claim.
Many injured workers have never been involved in a civil lawsuit before. It is common for injured workers and their families to have questions about the process and what is involved, etc. Below is a discussion of what’s involved in a civil lawsuit for a work accident in Pennsylvania.
It is imperative that a workplace accident injury attorney conduct a careful and thorough investigation into the accident and circumstances, particularly, what caused the accident to happen. In many situations, a workplace accident occurs not only because of the actions of one defendant. Other parties often bear legal responsibility for the accident, such as a machine manufacturer. For example, in a construction accident case involving heavy equipment like a crane or forklift, the equipment manufacturer may be liable; this would be a defective product injury claim.
The parties to a lawsuit are the plaintiff and the defendant(s). Injured workers, their estates, and family members can be the plaintiff. Defendants can include those whose actions or inactions contributed to the accident, such as general contractors or subcontractors.
Initiating a Lawsuit
A lawsuit is usually initiated by filing a complaint with the county court, the Court of Common Pleas, i.e., the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Trial Division. A complaint is a formal document that lays out the parties and the facts, accusing the defendant(s) of some action or inaction which led to the plaintiff’s accident and injuries.
The discovery process begins after the lawsuit is filed and the defendant(s) has been served with the complaint. The parties will exchange information and documents by answering documents known as Interrogatories and Requests for Production. These are basically questions about the case and requests for any document or things related to the case. After the plaintiff receives initial discovery from the defendant(s), additional discovery may be necessary. For instance, the plaintiff’s attorney may subpoena documents from non-parties, such as government agencies, businesses or individuals.
Depositions are held in attorneys’ offices, not in courtrooms. The only persons present are the attorneys for the parties, the parties themselves, and a court reporter. At a deposition, the person being deposed is known as the deponent. The deponent will testify under oath and answer questions about their knowledge of the facts related to the case.
Generally the only depositions needed are those of the parties and in the case of contractors, their designees. Depending on the case, it may be necessary to take depositions of witnesses and other persons such as police officers and medical providers.
Cases are often won or lost in depositions. Therefore, it is vital to have an experienced work accident and injury attorney who will adequately prepare the case for depositions and depose the necessary parties and witnesses.
The majority of civil cases settle prior to trial. Taking a case to trial is increasingly costly and can range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on the case. These costs include substantial expert fees, preparation of evidence, use of videographers, etc. Before scheduling a trial, Pennsylvania courts generally require a settlement conference or the parties can request one at any time. Some cases will settle at a settlement conference, which can be held before a judge or a special settlement master. Only the plaintiff can make the decision to accept a settlement offer from the defendant(s).
There are two kinds of trials, a jury trial or a court trial. In a jury trial, a jury decides the verdict. In a court trial the judge decides the verdict. In civil cases, the choice between a court trial and a jury trial is made by the parties. Either side can request a jury trial.
There are alternatives to trial such as arbitration or mediation. In an arbitration, the parties, their attorneys, and the court appointed arbitrator will be present. The arbitration is a mini-trial or abbreviated presentation of evidence before the arbitrator. The arbitrator will decide the case, just as a judge or jury would. Either side can appeal the decision and head to trial or attempt settlement at a later time. A mediation may also be appropriate, depending on the situation. At a mediation, the parties meet with a paid mediator who will try to negotiate a settlement.
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