May 25, 2018 - Personal Injury

What Can You Do if a Defendant Does Not Respond to a Legal Complaint or Summons?

In Pennsylvania, if you’ve suffered injuries in an accident that was caused due to another person’s fault, you may be entitled to damages.  In some cases, however, the potentially liable defendant may attempt to avoid civil liability by remaining unresponsive to your legal complaint against them, or by failing to appear for a court hearing. For example, you might file a legitimate lawsuit against the defendant for injuries suffered in a car accident, and serve proper notice upon them (in accordance with Pennsylvania law), but the defendant does not respond to your complaint within the applicable deadline period. Fortunately, plaintiffs have the right to obtain a default judgment in circumstances where the defendant is unavailable or is otherwise attempting to avoid the dispute altogether.  Assuming that service was properly made, you may request that the court enter a default judgment in your favor. Default judgments are actually quite beneficial for injured plaintiffs.  In fact, default judgments are “automatic wins,” so to speak.  As the defendant has not responded to the complaint or summons, they cannot dispute your arguments. Requesting Entry of Default In Pennsylvania, if you have effected proper service of a complaint or summons upon the defendant at-issue, and the defendant fails to answer within the applicable deadline, then you may request an entry of default.  Pennsylvania courts will not grant you an award of damages without proof, however.  You will have to present evidence that supports your claim for damages, and the evidence must be sufficiently specific and […]

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May 18, 2018 - Personal Injury

Catastrophic Injuries and Loss of Enjoyment of Life Damages

In Pennsylvania, if you have been injured in an accident (due to another’s fault) and those injuries are sufficiently severe that your ability to enjoy life has been affected, then you may be entitled to recover “loss of enjoyment of life” (LEL) damages.  Unfortunately, many injured plaintiffs are not aware of LEL damages, and do not realize that they can recover for such losses. What are LEL Damages? LEL damages are sometimes referred to as “hedonic damages,” and they are rather suitably named — LEL damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the limitations imposed on their normal enjoyment of life as a result of their injuries.  In other words, if the ability of the plaintiff to engage in pleasurable activities has been negatively affected by their injuries, they may be entitled to LEL damages under Pennsylvania law. It’s worth noting that LEL damages in Pennsylvania are not considered a separate and independent element of damages — instead, they fall under the broader category of pain and suffering damages.  Given that LEL damages are already noneconomic in nature, and are therefore inherently subjective, the fact that they must be claimed as a component of pain and suffering can make LEL damages appear even cloudier and more easily disputable than it would otherwise be. Applicability of LEL Damages LEL damages are generally applicable in situations involving a subsequent inability to engage in recreational, social, and other pleasurable activities, such as hobbies.  The degree of loss is highly dependent on the […]

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May 11, 2018 - Personal Injury

Can You Recover Damages if There Was an Intervening Cause?

Causation is a critical element in every personal injury lawsuit, from motor vehicle accidents to slip-and-fall accidents — if you cannot show that the defendant’s conduct caused your injuries, then you cannot recover damages pursuant to Pennsylvania law.  In some situations, the defendant may be clearly negligent, but their negligent conduct may not actually lead step-by-step to the suffered injuries.  Instead, an intervening cause (i.e., some unforeseeable event) may break the “chain of causation” and absolve the defendant of liability. Fortunately, the bar that Pennsylvania defendants must reach in order to avoid liability (by establishing that there was an intervening cause) is rather high.  If you can show that the chain of causation did not “break,” then you can still sue and recover damages from the negligent defendant at-issue. The Chain of Causation in the Personal Injury Cases In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, courts evaluate the chain of causation that connects a defendant’s negligent conduct with the particular harm at-issue.  The chain of causation is essentially a sequence of events — if the sequence is unbroken, then liability may attach to the defendant. This can be rather confusing for the layperson, so let’s clarify the “chain of causation” concept with a quick example. Suppose that you are injured in a trip-and-fall accident on a sidewalk.  You tripped on a kid’s toy that a child was playing with nearby.  At the time, you were being hassled by a street salesman to purchase various knick-knacks.  Your argument may be that the defendant salesman […]

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Apr 27, 2018 - Product Defects

Defective Products: Injured Individuals May Recover Damages

Everyday, we interact with dozens, if not hundreds of products that are designed and manufactured to perform certain functions.  When these products fail to perform their functions in a reasonably safe manner, or when they otherwise expose others to a heightened risk of injury, then the injury victims may be entitled — under Pennsylvania law — to sue and recover damages from the manufacturer. If you’d like to determine whether your product defect claim is worth pursuing, make sure to speak with an experienced Bethlehem product defect attorney here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC.  We will evaluate your claims and develop a step-by-step plan for securing damages given the facts of your case. Product defect claims are not as simple as one might assume.  In many cases, the circumstances can be somewhat complex, and are not fully revealed until a more thorough investigation is conducted. For example, suppose that you are injured due to a defective blender product, which shattered upon normal use, thus flinging shards of plastic into your face.  You purchased the blender from a small local shop.  The case seems straightforward — the manufacturer either defectively designed or manufactured the product, and this led to your injuries. In reality, however, you may find out that the manufacturer isn’t liable at all.  In fact, it could be that the local retailer significantly modified the product, which is what led to the malfunction (and subsequent injuries).  You may still be entitled to recover damages, but against the retailer […]

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Apr 20, 2018 - Personal Injury

Personal Injury Liability: It Only Attaches if the Defendant Caused Your Injuries

In Pennsylvania, as in other states, personal injury claims may be defeated in a number of different ways — oftentimes, the defendant will attempt to undermine and potentially overcome the plaintiff’s claims by arguing that their actions (even if negligent, reckless, or intentional in nature) did not actually “cause” the plaintiff to suffer injuries. Causation is a fundamental element of all personal injury claims.  If you cannot link the defendant’s wrongful acts to your injuries, then you are not entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania law.  As such, it’s critical that you understand how causation works, and how you can effectively counter the defendant’s arguments. Let’s start with the basics. Causation is Required for Successful Recovery Personal injury claims require that you — the plaintiff — prove that the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct proximately caused your injuries.  Establishing proximate causation requires proof that an unbroken sequence of reasonably foreseeable events resulted from the defendant’s conduct, and led to your injuries.  Further, you must be able to show that you would not have suffered injuries were it not for the defendant’s negligent or otherwise wrongful conduct. Suppose, for example, that you are driving on the highway and lose control, crashing your vehicle and suffering injuries as a result.  You sue another driver on the basis that they were speeding, and were therefore operating their vehicle negligently.  The court is likely to dismiss your case because — despite the fact that the defendant may have been negligently operating their vehicle — […]

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Apr 13, 2018 - Medical Malpractice

A Brief Look at Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Pennsylvania

In many states, medical malpractice damages are statutorily limited so as to discourage injured plaintiffs from pursuing litigation against healthcare professionals — in the state of California, for example, there is a $250,000 cap placed on compensatory damages (the primary form of damages).  Damage cap limitations can have a significant effect on the cost-benefit analysis for an injured plaintiff.  If there is a set maximum on recovery, then the plaintiff might not only be prevented from being adequately compensated for their injuries, but they might also find that it simply isn’t worth going through the process of litigation. Medical malpractice damages have been capped in a very limited manner in Pennsylvania.  The cap is specific enough that it does not generally act as a barrier-to-entry for medical malpractice litigation.  If you have suffered legitimate and provable losses due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, then it is almost certainly worth bringing a lawsuit against the defendant for damages (or at the very least, having your claim evaluated by a qualified medical malpractice attorney). Pennsylvania Does Not Cap Compensatory Damages Compensatory damages account for the economic and non-economic losses sustained by the plaintiff, and are intended to “compensate” them for their various injuries — in other words, compensatory damages are intended to put the plaintiff in a position that approximates their status had they not been injured by the defendant. In a medical malpractice lawsuit (as in other injury-based lawsuits), these damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional […]

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Apr 13, 2018 - Articles

Seeing, But Not Perceiving: Why Other Drivers Don’t See Motorcycles- an Injury Lawyer Perspective

As a personal injury lawyer serving residents in and around Allentown, Doylestown, Bethlehem, Easton and Stroudsburg, with warmer weather upon us, we see motorcyclists getting back out on the road again. Unfortunately, with this increase, comes an increase in calls from motorcycle riders who were seriously injured; or from family members who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved one — all due to another motor vehicle operator’s negligence. As a motorcycle accident lawyer, when we review police reports, we frequently read that the other driver told the investigating police officer, “I never saw him.” Sometimes, the insinuation is that because the other driver never observed the motorcycle, the motorcyclist “must” have been speeding. The reality is that the operator of the car or truck “saw” the motorcycle and its operator, but the human eye failed to “perceive” the motorcyclist. In his interesting article in Road and Track magazine entitled, “Why You Don’t ‘See’ Motorcycles on the Road”, cyclist and author, Jack Baruth, explores the biological workings of the human eye, relative to the phenomena of failing to observe motorcycles and their riders. Baruth asserts that when things are small enough and move quickly enough, our mind does not always “perceive” them, even though our eyes “see” them. In particular, since our eyes are only looking at a relatively small area, a motorcycle approaching head-on from a distance, occupies a very small part of a driver’s vision. If you don’t expect to see a motorcycle and you are only “looking” for cars, your […]

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Mar 30, 2018 - Personal Injury

Defenses Frequently Used in Personal Injury Lawsuits

If you have never been involved in litigation before, then you may not be aware of the various arguments that can be put forth by defendants to avoid (or otherwise minimize) liability.  There are a number of defenses that you may encounter in personal injury litigation, though not all will be applicable to your case.  Whether a defense is used to avoid liability will largely depend on the particular circumstances of the case. For example, if you are bringing an action against a negligent defendant, and the defendant finds out that you suffered from a pre-existing physical condition before the accident, then they will almost certainly attempt to argue that you have no claim due to “no new injuries.” Defenses are frequently plead in the alternative.  Pleading in the alternative follows a fairly predictable format: “My client is not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because A.  Even if A is true, then my client is not liable for plaintiff’s injuries because B.  Even if B is true, then my client is not liable for plaintiff’s injuries because C,” and so forth.  Thus, defendants may chain together a variety of arguments to avoid liability.  Each of these will have to be overcome in order to successfully recover damages. Defendants are therefore incentivized to plead as many defenses as reasonably possible. Defenses Commonly Seen in Personal Injury Litigation The Statute of Limitations Deadline Has Passed In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, there is a statute of limitations that applies to personal injury claims.  The […]

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Mar 28, 2018 - Easton Car Accident Lawyer

Securing Compensation in a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Multiple Defendants

Popular media has created a perception of civil litigation as a one-on-one game, of sorts, in which you aggressively and exclusively pursue a single defendant.  This does not reflect the reality of litigation, however.  In many personal injury cases, there is more than one defendant who is responsible for your injuries (and who is therefore liable for damages). Suppose that you are injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Upon first impression, you may believe that the defendant-driver is the “lone defendant,” and is solely responsible for your injuries.  After the case has been more thoroughly investigated, however, you may discover that your own car was defectively designed and therefore contributed substantially to your injuries.  You would be entitled to sue both the manufacturer and the driver for damages. Multiple defendants necessarily complicate a lawsuit, but it’s worth noting that suing multiple defendants can be advantageous, too — not every defendant has sufficient assets or liability insurance coverage to pay your damages in full.  By introducing additional parties into the lawsuit, you might gain access to defendants who have the means to pay your damages, at least partially. Pennsylvania law on shared liability (and compensation) between defendants has changed dramatically in recent years.  If you’re bringing a lawsuit against multiple defendants in Pennsylvania, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the rules and how it may affect your recovery. The Old Compensation Rules in Pennsylvania In the past, Pennsylvania implemented pure “joint and several liability,” which heavily favored injured plaintiffs.  […]

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Mar 23, 2018 - Product Defects

How Strict Liability Gives You an Advantage in a Product Defect Lawsuit

Product defect lawsuits can be somewhat mystifying for those who do not have prior experience with such litigation, in part because the standards for establishing liability may be unclear to the average person.  Product defect liability — in Pennsylvania and in other jurisdictions throughout the country — essentially gives the injured party (plaintiff) a right of action against the manufacturer to obtain compensation for the losses they sustained due to the particular defective product at-issue. For example, if you were injured in a motor vehicle collision as the result of defective brakes, you would be entitled you to sue the manufacturer and recover damages pursuant to Pennsylvania product defect law. Simple, right?  Not quite. Product defect liability claims may be brought on the basis of strict liability or negligence, and there are multiple theories for liability, each of which plays out rather differently — for example, if you bring a claim against a manufacturer for a product where the defect is in the design of the product itself, you will have to make different arguments (i.e., that the design was not safe for its foreseeable uses) than if you bring a claim against a manufacturer for a product that was defectively produced. Given the unique challenges presented by product defect litigation, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney who has specific experience with such claims. In Pennsylvania, strict liability applies to product defect claims by default.  As a general rule, the application of strict liability favors the injured […]

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"He handled the insurance companies, and guided me through the legal proceedings and testifying in court. I am incredibly grateful for his patience and help throughout this process."
Posted By: Kimberly Griesel

Drake, Hileman & Davis

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