I Was Injured. Can I File A Lawsuit Against The Party That Caused My Injury?

In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person's negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Iowa has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence meaning a claimant's action is barred if his negligence exceeds the combined negligence of all other parties. Otherwise, the claimant's recovery is diminished in proportion to his degree of fault.

Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premise liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

Iowa operates on a "fault" system, which determines liability based on a showing that one party was at fault because of negligence, which caused the accident. In other words, if the other driver is to blame for the accident, you can collect damages, and vice versa. Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident.

The other driver's insurance company is the liability carrier and will pay you, as a victim of the other driver's negligence, for your out of pocket damages and pain and suffering. The mandatory minimum liability coverage in Iowa is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for personal injury, and $15,000 for property damage. If the person who caused your injury has automobile liability insurance, an insurance adjuster will gather the pertinent records including medical records, medical bills, wage loss verification and the like in an effort to verify your damages. The insurance company may make you an offer to settle the claim. You may find the offer acceptable and once you accept it, the claim process is over. If you do not receive an acceptable offer, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit. Be careful when dealing with the other party's insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages. If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault or a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, the uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply if you have purchased such coverage. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a "hit and run" driver.

PREMISES LIABILITY

If you were injured at someone else's home or at a commercial establishment, the person responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor. The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises. The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. Business owners typically have the highest responsibility to those who are invited onto their premises. Homeowners also have a duty to their guests. The standard of care owed to a trespasser is usually less than that owed to a person who has permission to be on the property.

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store. When a company designs and manufactures a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that anyone exercising reasonable care within the expected parameters of usage expected for the product will not be injured. An action can be based on negligence, breach of implied or express warranty, or strict liability.

Under a negligence theory, the claimant must prove the elements of duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate cause. As for the breach of warranty theory, a warranty is like a promise. An implied warranty exists whether or not you have a written "warranty". An implied warranty of merchantability means that the product sold conforms to the ordinary standards of care and are comparable to similar goods sold under similar circumstances. An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose exists when the retailer, distributor, or manufacturer has reason to know the particular purpose for which the goods are required, and that the buyer is relying on the skill and judgment of the seller to select and furnish suitable goods. If the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are breached, or the promise is broken, then the manufacturer, distributor, and/or seller of the product are liable or responsible for the consequences.

Under the newest theory of strict liability, you do not have to prove the manufacturer or designer was negligent. You must show that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous; the product was defective when it left the manufacturer; and the defect caused the injury. In general, a product is unreasonably dangerous or defective if it fails to perform in a manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function. There are three basic types of defects. First, a product may contain a manufacturing flaw. Second, the product may be defectively designed. Third, the product may not have adequate warnings, directions, or instructions.

A retailer, distributor or seller of a product is immune form any suit based on strict liability or breach of implied warranty of merchantability which arises solely form an alleged defect in the original design or manufacture of the product. An action based on any of these theories must be commenced within fifteen years after the product was first purchased unless expressly warranted for a longer period. This time period does not apply to the time period to discover a disease that is latent and caused by exposure to a harmful material. Be aware that there are other limits to product liability law such as when the consumer was careless in using the product, when the defective condition was obvious, or when the product was altered.

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

When a health care provider causes injury due to his or her failure to meet the accepted standards of care for that particular field of expertise, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. A claim can be brought against physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacists among others. Some examples of medical malpractice include incorrect diagnosis, failure to treat, improper treatment, delay in treatment, prescription errors, surgical errors, rendition of services without informed consent, etc. Medical malpractice claims are some of the most difficult to prevail in and are quite costly due to the need for qualified expert review and testimony.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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