Injuries and accidents are always tragic, painful parts of life. But in some situations, the tragedy could have been prevented – if not for the fault of another. If you find yourself in one of these circumstances, you may choose to pursue a personal injury claim against those responsible.
Standing up to a big corporation, an insurance company, an employer or any at-fault party can be daunting and complicated. When you contact us, we will give you a true sense of whether a lawsuit is merited, then guide you through each step along the way. Many personal injury lawsuits end in settlement, and an expert lawyer can ensure that you receive the maximum possible compensation. In a situation where a trial is necessary, we are ready to fight for you.
As one of the largest firms in Siouxland, we have the ability and resources to handle any personal injury case including the following:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Boating Accidents
- Dog Bites
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Worker’s Compensation
- Wrongful Death
- Drunk Driving Accidents
- Pedestrian/Bicycling Accidents
- Injuries to Children
“Do I have a case?”
Every personal injury case is different. We know that you need all the details to truly decide if pursuing a lawsuit is the best course of action. We also know that your injury has already caused you great pain, and we want to hear your story so you can make a decision concerning legal action as you heal. Finally, we know that time is of the essence.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to start somewhere simple. Have a look at the questions below. If you find that most of them apply to you, you may wish to discuss your case further with a qualified attorney.
Please note that this self-evaluation is not offered as legal counsel, and its conclusions are neither an endorsement nor a discouragement of your case. To get clear answers and honest advice, contact one of our attorneys.
1. Has there been clearly defined harm?
If you can point to a specific injury or other harm you’ve suffered, it will make pursuing a case more feasible.
Some types of injury are easy to prove: accidents from falling materials on construction sites, for example. Emotional and mental harm can be more difficult to “prove” than other types of injuries, but their effects are just as real.
No matter the circumstances, we can help you define them such that a court will recognize the harm you’ve suffered.
2. Have you recovered fully, or do you believe you fully understand the ramifications of the harm you’ve suffered?
When you settle a personal injury lawsuit or pursue it successfully through trial, you will receive compensation proportionate to the harm you’ve already suffered and in consideration of the future impact it may have on your life. Once the case concludes, you will never be able to bring the matter up in court again. If you later realize something else that you could have sued for, you will not be able to go back for an adjustment.
It isn’t always immediately obvious how far an injury will reach, and it can be wiser to wait (with consideration of legal limitations on time) until you at least understand the scope of what has happened to you.
If circumstances come to light after your suit that reveal new and unconsidered harm done to you, you can pursue another case connected with these new aspects.
Those who are injured do not always pursue their case themselves. For example, if your child was injured by a doctor’s error during delivery, then you can pursue a case on his or her behalf.
In some cases, the person who suffered the harm is killed by it. These kinds of suits – wrongful death lawsuits – are also a kind of personal injury lawsuit, and they are pursued by the executor of the deceased person’s estate. The same time limits apply, starting from the time of death or from the recognition of the harm behind the death.
3. Did the harm occur within the last two to four years, or did something identifiable change so that you recognized harm you’d already suffered?
Statutes of limitations govern how long you have to sue after you realize the harm you’ve suffered. Sometimes, the realization is immediate and complete. In other cases, years may pass before you learn what has harmed you. As long as your filing falls within the given timeframe after you probably learned about your injury, you can sue.
The statute of limitations on personal injury cases varies between U.S. states. In Iowa, you have two years to file your case. In South Dakota, you have three. In Nebraska, you have four. The state laws that affect you will depend, in most cases, on the state in which you were injured.
Combined with the considerations that the previous question presents, legal counsel is needed to select the ideal time to pursue a case. Generally, it is wise to speak with an attorney as soon as possible; information and evidence will be freshest immediately after your injury. Your attorney can help you to begin collecting it, even if you intend to pursue your claim later.
4. Is there a specific person or entity you wish to sue?
You will need to identify whoever you feel is responsible for your injury. This does not need to be a person; it can also be a company, an organization, an employer, a manufacturer, a government agency, a hospital, a public entity or any combination thereof.
Multiple parties can share responsibility for your injury, and different parties can be held responsible for different elements of the overall harm you suffered.
5. Does the person or entity you wish to sue have a duty to you?
The legal idea behind this duty is straightforward: is it someone’s fault that you were injured? This last consideration is one of the most important. It is natural to be angry whenever tragedy strikes, but it is not always within anyone’s control. In order to have grounds for a lawsuit, the person or entity must have had a duty to you, and by acting or by choosing not to act, that person or entity caused you harm.
When we say that a person or entity is “at fault” for your personal injury, we mean that the person or entity promised to help keep you safe because of the existing relationship you had. Common examples include a doctor’s duty to make reasonable medical choices in his or her patients’ treatment and an employer’s duty to provide employees with training, proper equipment and a safe workspace.
It isn’t always so explicit an agreement; drivers, for example, all have a responsibility to drive with care and concern for the other drivers on the road. By getting behind the wheel and driving, drivers commit to that responsibility without ever signing a contract.
Under all of the above circumstances, true accidents can still occur. In these situations, everyone behaved according to their duty to one another, but you were injured because of uncontrollable circumstances that affected them. In cases like these, the person or entity that harmed you cannot be held liable. In order to know for sure, you need to contact a qualified personal injury attorney.
- $1.2 million for person struck by semi-tractor
- $6.719 million for family of person killed in an air ambulance/helicopter crash
- $1.8 million for persons injured in chemical plant explosion
- $1.8 million for family of person killed in semi-tractor fire due to defective parts
- $900,000 for person injured during hunting accident
- $50,000 for family of person killed in semi-truck accident after colliding with car and catching on fire
- $180,000 for family of individual killed by large piece of farm equipment
- $100,000 for injured passenger in a single vehicle accident
- $170,000 for person driving vehicle that was struck by train at an uncontrolled railroad crossing
Daniel L. Hartnett
Dan Hartnett is the chair of the firm’s Litigation Department and practices in the areas of personal injury, insurance defense, business litigation, employment litigation and construction litigation. Dan is a member of the State Bars of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He is a past board member of the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys and current member of the Iowa State Bar Association Board of Governors.
Michael P. Schmiedt
Mike is a lifelong resident of South Sioux City, Nebraska. A 1991 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Law, he received his undergraduate degree from Wayne State College in 1985. Prior to joining the firm, Mike served as a Deputy Dakota County Attorney and a probation officer for the State of Nebraska. Mike is a shareholder and serves on the firm’s management committee. Mike’s practice includes insurance defense, corporate municipal law, personal injury, and wrongful death. He also handles all aspects of business litigation and other disputes.
Marci L. Iseminger
Marci L. Iseminger is a shareholder with Crary Huff. Marci was admitted to practice law in Colorado in 1992 and in Iowa in 1999. Her general practice includes, but is not limited to, employment, subrogation, real estate foreclosure, bank collections, insurance, personal injury and trial law.
Sabrina L. Sayler
Sabrina LaFleur-Sayler is a Partner in the Litigation Team at Crary Huff Law Firm specializing in Domestic Relations and Family Law cases and Civil Litigation cases. She practices primarily out of our South Dakota office and works tirelessly to ensure her clients understand at the outset how their case will progress and continues to keep them informed every step of the way. She believes regular and open communication is the key to her client’s success.
David’s civil litigation practice consists of representing plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury cases, collection actions, business litigation, property disputes, and many others. David’s criminal practice consists of representing people accused of crimes in state court in Iowa and Nebraska. David has successfully defended cases ranging from traffic tickets to felonies. David also practices municipal law and provides legal services to municipalities in Iowa and Nebraska.