Personal Injury/Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice
Criminal Defense/DUI Defense
Personal Injury/Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice
1. What is the first thing I should do if I’m involved in an accident?
Regardless of whether you are injured as the result of a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, dog bite, etc. the first and most important step is to make sure you seek the appropriate medical care. The kind of medical care you may require will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries. Sometimes, your injuries will be obvious right away, and you will be brought to the hospital by ambulance. Other times, such as if you sustain a neck or low back sprain, you may not realize you are injured until several days after the accident.
If you are injured in an accident, but do not have health insurance (or have high deductibles/co-pays) you may be hesitant to seek medical care. In some situations, your attorney may be able to find a doctor to treat you on a “letter of protection.” Under this agreement, the doctor agrees to hold off on collecting payment until after your case resolves, and will be repaid out of your recovery.
2. How long do I have to bring an injury case?
In Connecticut, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to bring a personal injury or medical malpractice action against the person or entity that causes you harm. This means that you must have filed a lawsuit against the defendant(s) or resolved your case within 2 years from the date of the accident. There are certain exceptions to this general rule, such as the one year time limitation to bring a Dram Shop claim (i.e. a claim against a bar or restaurant for over-serving someone who has caused you harm as a result of their intoxication). In certain situations, you may need to provide written notice to a defendant of your intention to bring a claim within a much shorter time period. For instance, you must provide written notice to a town or city within 90 days for a sidewalk defect case. Likewise, if you must provide written notice to a bar or restaurant within 120 days in order to bring a Dram Shop claim. These notice letters must meet very strict requirements as set forth by the Connecticut legislature, and should therefore be crafted by an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Unfortunately, if you miss these time deadlines, you will almost certainly be barred from recovering from the person or entity that caused you harm. To ensure that you do not miss any necessary deadlines, we highly recommend that you consult with a lawyer within a few weeks once you sustain your injuries. <
3. What if the person who injured me has no insurance?
If you are injured in a car accident that was caused by a person with no car insurance, or with an insufficient amount of insurance coverage, you may still be able to recover compensation for your injuries through your own car insurance company. If you have car insurance, you have something called uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. This coverage is in place specifically for situations where you are injured at the hands of a driver with either no car insurance or not enough car insurance to fairly compensate you for your injuries. UM/UIM motorist coverage is a protection that all of us pay for in our monthly premiums, and your car insurance company cannot legally raise your rates in retaliation for bringing a UM/UIM claim. Even if you don’t own a car, you may be able to pursue a UM/UIM claim if you reside with a family member who does.”
4. Can I recover compensation for my injuries without actually filing a lawsuit?
In some cases, yes. Once you have finished treatment for your injuries, the defendant and/or their insurance company may express an interest in resolving the case without formal litigation. Cases that settle without litigation may resolve for a smaller total sum than would be achieved settling on the eve of trial, but may also lead to a greater net recovery for the client because the costs of litigation are avoided. Furthermore, clients are spared a long and drawn-out case where they may be subject to the discovery and deposition process. Car accident cases where one party was clearly at fault are most often the cases that can settle without a lawsuit.
In certain situations, such as medical malpractice cases or cases involving serious injuries with disputed liability, it may make sense to file a lawsuit immediately rather than waste time trying to resolve the case without litigation. When to file a lawsuit depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.
5. What is my personal injury case worth?
In a personal injury case, the injury victim is entitled to be compensated for both their “economic damages” and “non-economic damages”
Economic damages are essentially those financial losses which incurred because of an injury. Economic damages include:
- Past Medical Bills- You are entitled to be compensated for the past medical bills you have incurred as a result of your accident.
- Future Medical Bills- In addition to past medical bills, you are entitled to compensation for any future medical bills that you will likely incur as a result of your personal injuries.
- Past Lost Wages- You are entitled to all of the lost pay you incurred as a result of your injuries. Unbeknownst to most clients, personal injury claimants are entitled to be paid a full day’s salary even for those days where they were paid with sick or vacation time.
- Future Loss of future earning capacity- In some unfortunate situations, a person’s injuries may be so severe that they will prevent that person from earning a living in the future. This is common among those who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or paralysis. When someone suffers a loss of future earning capacity, they are entitled to all of the money they would have earned from working had they not been injured
- Other past/future out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages, also known as “pain and suffering”, are those losses which do not have a set monetary value. Quantifying non-economic damages can be extremely difficult, and often injured parties and the opposing defendants will have vastly different opinions as to how to value a person’s non-economic damages. For this reason, it is extremely important to have competent and knowledgeable representation for an injury case.
Criminal Defense/DUI Defense
1. What happens immediately after I am arrested?
Once you are arrested, your bail will be set at the police station where you are processed. You will have the opportunity to post bail, or utilize the services of a bail bondsman, who can post the full amount of the bond in exchange for a fee. Bail can range from a “Promise to Appear” (PTA) to several million dollars. Bail can be classified as either “surety” (i.e. you or a bondsman must actually put up the money before you are released), or “non-surety” (putting up the necessary is not required).
The first court date after the arrest is referred to as the “Arraignment”. At the arraignment, the judge will review the bail amount set by the police department. The judge will have the opportunity to hear from the defendant or his attorney, the prosecutor and the bail commissioner regarding each parties’ thoughts as. The judge may also decide to institute a protection order barring the defendant and victim from contacting one another.
2. How long will my criminal case take?
Criminal cases can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. Most criminal cases do not get resolved on the first court date. After the defendant has been advised of the charges, the defendant or his/her attorney will have the opportunity to try to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor assigned to the case. In some situations, the prosecutor and the defense attorney may be able to reach a resolution that is favorable to the defendant. For the least serious cases, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss or “Nolle” the case in exchange for a donation to charity or community service.
In some situations, however, the defense attorney and the prosecutor may not be able to reach an agreement and the case will be assigned for a judicial pretrial. At this pretrial, the defense attorney and the prosecutor will have the opportunity to discuss the various aspects of the case in front of a judge. The judge will take into consideration the egregiousness of the alleged conduct, the defendant’s prior record, the detriment to the victim, the quality of the evidence against the defendant and try to bring the two attorneys to a resolution that is fair to the defendant.
If the defense attorney and prosecutor cannot reach an agreement after one or more pretrials, the case will be set down for a trial. Trials usually occur several years after the initial arrest, but the exact time frame will vary from case to case.
3. If I get arrested, will I have a criminal record?
For any criminal defense attorney, the primary objective is to get their client’s charges either dismissed or “Nolle’d” (a decision by the State’s Attorney’s office not to prosecute the case which will be formally dismissed after 13 months). Sometimes, the prosecutor may condition a Nolle on a donation to charity or community service. Sometimes the prosecutor may have the defendant plead guilty to an infraction, which will not show up on a criminal record. For all but the least serious criminal charges, a prosecutor will decline to Nolle or dismiss the case.
In some situations, such as for a first-time DUI, the defendant may be eligible to apply for a “pre-trial diversionary program” in order to escape a criminal conviction and keep his or her record clean. These diversionary programs are designed to allow otherwise good people. Connecticut diversionary programs include Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (AR), Alcohol Education Program (“AEP”), Drug Education Program (DEP), and Family Violence Education Program. In order to qualify for a particular diversionary program, a defendant must meet strict criteria, including no prior applications into that program. If a defendant successfully completes the probationary period after being accepted into the program, the charges against him or her will be dismissed.
4. What happens if I am arrested for DUI?
An arrest for Driving under the Influence (DUI) follows the same progression as a normal criminal case. Being arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can be a difficult and embarrassing experience. DUI defendants are usually good people who make a stupid mistake which they sincerely regret. Sometimes, the accused has been wrongly arrested for DUI, perhaps as the result of an error by a police officer or the officer’s alcohol-testing equipment.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney throughout your case. Whenever possible, we will seek to have the charges against you dropped and your case dismissed. Even when a dismissal is not possible at the outset of a case, we will strive to keep your criminal record clean by filing an application on your behalf to the Alcohol Education Program (AEP) when appropriate. The AEP is a pretrial diversionary program offered by the State of Connecticut, and is available to some first-time DUI offenders. Those accepted into the AEP face a two year probationary period where they must meet fulfill certain conditions– including attending alcohol education classes and not getting arrested. Upon successful completion of the AEP the DUI charges will be dropped and your case will be dismissed. If you are arrested for DUI, but not eligible for the AEP due to a previous DUI arrest, we will seek to minimize your exposure to the extent possible.
In addition to criminal charges, DUI defendants often also face driver’s license suspensions from the Department of Motor Vehicles. While in many situations a license suspension is unavoidable, there are certain times when a DUI arrest will not necessarily lead to a license suspension. License suspensions often last for months, and driving with a license suspended due to a DUI arrest can lead to jail time, so it is important to have an experienced attorney review your DUI case to determine if a license suspension can be defeated.
5. If I plead guilty to a crime, does that mean I am going to jail?
Sometimes, it may be in the defendant’s best interest to plead guilty to a charge rather than risk a trial. Criminal charges are classified into various levels of misdemeanors (which carry up to a year in jail) and felonies (which carry over a year in jail). Often, prosecutors will offer the defendant a chance to plead guilty to reduced charges and suggest more lenient sentencing in exchange for waiving a jury trial.
A guilty plea does not necessarily mean jail time. Sometimes, a judge may impose a sentence which includes some combination of a fine, community service and/or probation. The judge may also impose a suspended sentence, which need not be served provided the defendant does not have any subsequent arrests.
1. How do I file for divorce?
The divorce process is started when a spouse or their attorney fills out a summons and a divorce complaint and has a state marshal serve these forms on the opposing spouse. Once the forms have been served on the opposing spouse, the party initiating the divorce must file these documents in the proper courthouse along with a document from the marshal certifying that the divorce forms were correctly served. The initial divorce forms must be filed in a courthouse within the judicial district where either one of the spouses resides. The courthouse where the case is filed will generally remain the courthouse where the divorce case is litigated, though there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Hiring an attorney to represent you during a divorce is advisable but not necessary. If you decide to retain a lawyer, he or she will usually take care of preparing the initial court documents and ensuring they are properly served. For those who wish to represent themselves in their divorce case, the Connecticut Judicial Website www.jud.ct.gov provides detailed instructions on how to initiate divorce proceedings without an attorney.
2. Should my fiancé and I get a prenuptial agreement?
Premarital agreements, also known as prenuptial agreements or “prenups,”, have become increasingly popular among couples considering marriage. Premarital agreements can encompass a wide variety of subjects, but usually focus on money, property, and retirement plans. For instance, a premarital agreement may stipulate that a spouse who solely owns a house prior to a marriage will continue to maintain sole ownership of the house throughout the marriage and in the event of a separation or divorce. Both parties signing a premarital agreement may also waive their future right to seek spousal support, also known as alimony, in the event of a divorce.
Because premarital agreements become enforceable once a couple has married, and can only be invalidated in certain specific situations, it is extremely important to consult a family attorney if you are considering entering into a premarital agreement. For instance, while the waiver of future spousal support may be advantageous to the spouse who works, it may be detrimental to the other spouse who gives up a career for the sake of the marriage. When deciding the terms of a premarital agreement, the parties may not even realize that they are putting themselves or their loved one in an unfair position.
3. What is alimony, and when will it be ordered in a family case?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is an allowance paid by one spouse to the other after the couple has divorced or legally separated. Alimony is designed to recognize the recipient spouse’s contribution to the marriage and is based on the premise that one spouse may have a continuing duty to financially support his or her former partner even after the marriage has ended. Alimony may be available to both male and female spouses depending
Alimony should not be confused with child support, which is money meant to be used for the benefit of a child rather than the benefit of the spouse. Alimony should also not be confused with the court’s division of the martial property between the spouses during the divorce proceedings.
Connecticut courts consider a number of different factors when determining whether to order alimony, and if so, the appropriate amount. Length of the marriage, the reason(s) for the divorce, and the health of each spouse are all taken into account when deciding questions related to alimony. Each spouse’s occupation, annual income, vocational skills and earning potential are also factors courts look to when awarding alimony.
4. How is custody of a child decided in Connecticut?
While the interests of both parents are considered by Connecticut courts when giving orders related to child custody, the court must ultimately make custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Courts will take into account a number of specific factors when determining the custody questions, such as the temperament and developmental needs of the child, the capacity of each parent to meet the needs of their child, and the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child. Courts will listen to each parent’s desires with respect to custody, and may also consider the wishes of the minor child or their older siblings, but these will be weighed against a number of other factors including those listed above.
Decisions regarding custody will vary depending on the factors of each specific case. In one case, the court may feel that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the sole custody of only one parent, though it may allow the other parent periodic visitation with the child. In another situation, the court may decide that it is in child’s best interest to award joint custody to both parents. In joint custody arrangements, the court has determined that both parents have legal custody of their minor child and will share physical custody of the child in such a way that ensures the child’s continuing contact with both parents. Under the joint custody arrangement, both parents retain joint decision-making power on behalf of the minor child.
5. How is child support calculated?
In Connecticut, child support is calculated according to the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines. The Guidelines use the combined income of the mother and father and number of children to set a child support amount. After child support is set, it can be later modified as the parent’s income level changes
Connecticut courts are extremely serious about enforcing child support obligations among parents. Because child support is for the benefit of the child, and not the opposing spouse, child support obligations cannot be waived by either parent. If you are a parent who fails to pay child support, your wages can be withheld, your driver’s and professional licenses can be suspended, and you can even be incarcerated until you satisfy your payment obligations.