In Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must prove several elements in order to prove their case. One of the elements that a plaintiff must establish is that the care rendered by the defendant medical provider fell “below that which would have been taken by a reasonably prudent physician.”

Prison YardThe idea behind this requirement is that the law does not require doctors to be perfect and always obtain the best results. However, when the care the doctor provides falls below the generally accepted standard of care, the doctor can be held legally responsible for any harm suffered by the patient.

In order to establish the applicable standard of care, and to show that the defendant’s care fell below that level, a Washington, D.C. plaintiff must present an expert witness. An expert witness is usually a doctor who specializes in the same field as the defendant doctor, or who possesses some specialized knowledge in that area of medicine. A plaintiff’s failure to present an expert witness may result in a case’s premature dismissal. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s case was dismissed based on a failure to include an expert’s affidavit supporting his claim.

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When someone is injured or killed due to the negligent act of another party, the injured party or their family may seek compensation for their injury or loss through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. While there are some differences between these two types of claims, they both require that a plaintiff be able to establish that the named defendant’s actions caused the accident that resulted in the injury or death.

HighwayThe element of causation is one of the most contested elements in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases. In part, this is because the underlying legal doctrine is complex, and each case must be considered on its specific facts. Additionally, even if a defendant is found to have begun a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the injury or death, the defendant can avoid liability by showing that an intervening act “severed” the causative chain. A recent case illustrates how another party’s actions can be deemed an intervening cause, preventing a defendant from being held liable.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young man who was admitted to the defendant hospital after he started to hear voices and hallucinate. The doctors at the defendant hospital diagnosed the plaintiffs’ son with obsessive-compulsive disorder and planned on discharging the young man later that day. The plaintiffs, concerned about their son’s wellbeing, asked if there was anything else that they could do. The doctors told them that they should make an appointment at a mental health facility.

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Landowners in Washington, D.C. have a duty to those whom they invite onto their land to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. When someone is injured on another party’s property in Washington, D.C., they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

RiverIn order to prove a premises liability case, a plaintiff will need to establish certain elements. For example, a plaintiff must establish that they were not aware of the hazard on the defendant’s property that caused their injuries. Similarly, the plaintiff must also establish that the harm the plaintiff suffered was foreseeable to the defendant. A recent appellate opinion filed in a premises liability case illustrates the type of analysis courts conduct in these lawsuits.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the parent of a child who wandered away from a party that was held on the defendant’s property and tragically drowned in the nearby Mississippi River. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff and her son were at a family member’s home for a party. It was a hot day, and the plaintiff’s son went swimming in the river with several adults and several children.

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Earlier this week, an appellate court in New Hampshire issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit alleging that a town was liable for injuries sustained by the plaintiff while playing near a lake that was owned by the town. The case presents relevant issues for Washington, D.C. personal injury victims insofar as it discusses the state’s recreational use statute, which bears a close resemblance to other recreational use statutes in states like neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

Rope SwingThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was playing with a group of friends in a lake that was owned and maintained by the town where the lake was located. The plaintiff’s son was waiting near the water while his friend used a rope swing to fling himself into the water. The plaintiff’s son was attempting to slap the feet of his friend before he reached the water, when the two boys collided, causing the plaintiff’s son to sustain serious injuries.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the town, claiming that it was negligent in allowing the presence of the rope swing and in failing to place warning signs. The town responded by asserting recreational use immunity. Recreational use statutes apply to landowners who open up their property for the general enjoyment of others, and they confer immunity from some personal injury lawsuits that occur as a result of the use of the property.

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Property owners have a duty to maintain a safe location for those whom they invite onto their land. When a private landowner or business fails to safely maintain their property, and a visitor is injured as a result, the injured visitor may be able to pursue compensation for their injuries through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

RollerbladingGovernment entities also have a similar duty to maintain safe premises. However, recovering compensation for injuries that occur on government-owned land can be more difficult, since issues of immunity may prevent a case from proceeding as it would against a private party.

A recent case illustrates how an accident victim may be prevented from bringing a case against a government entity. While the case is a good example of a situation in which liability was found not to be appropriate, accident victims should not be discouraged and should individually consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss their case and any potential claims.

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After any Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, the injured party is entitled to pursue a claim for compensation against the party they believe to be responsible for their injuries. These Washington, D.C. premises liability claims must be brought within the timeframe set forth in D.C. Code § 12-301(8), which is three years from the date of the injury. If an accident victim fails to file their complaint on time, the court will dismiss the claim without reviewing it on the merits. This almost always results in the victim being completely prevented from recovering compensation for their injuries.

Old GarageWhile it may seem simple to determine what the applicable statute of limitations is, that is not always the case. In some situations, a plaintiff believes that their claims are subject to a longer statute of limitations, only to find out that a shorter time period applies. This was the case in a recent Georgia appellate court opinion.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who was injured while the family was living in a rental property owned by the defendant. One day, the plaintiffs’ son leaned up against a brick wall and the wall collapsed, resulting in the boy sustaining serious injuries. He was hospitalized as a result and incurred significant medical expenses.

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The courts in Washington, D.C. deal with a heavy caseload. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a Washington, D.C. personal injury case to take months, if not years, to reach trial. In most cases, some delay is expected while the parties conduct their investigation, exchange discoverable materials, and prepare their case. However, if a court determines that a plaintiff is not pursuing their case dutifully, the court has the power to dismiss the plaintiff’s case.

CalendarWhile dismissal for a plaintiff’s failure to prosecute a case is a rare sanction that is not often imposed, a recent appellate decision illustrates when courts are willing to impose sanctions on a party who is not diligently pursuing their claim.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant in 2005. However, since the plaintiff failed to attach a required expert affidavit, the case was voluntarily withdrawn without prejudice in 2007. The next day, the plaintiff filed another lawsuit against the same defendants; however, that case was withdrawn the next year under similar circumstances. The plaintiff’s third lawsuit was filed the very next day.

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One of the first steps that any Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiff must take after filing a lawsuit is serving the named defendants. The law requires that all defendants be served so that they know the allegations they are facing and how they can respond to them. This is a critical step, and if a plaintiff does not effectuate proper service, their case may be dismissed. A recent opinion in a wrongful death case illustrates the serious repercussions that a plaintiff can face if a defendant is not properly served.

StopwatchThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was a patient in the defendant hospital. According to the court’s written opinion, on the day before his death, the plaintiff’s husband was admitted to the hospital with sharp chest pain. The attending physician on duty diagnosed him with gastritis and sent him home. On the following day, the plaintiff’s husband was again admitted to the hospital, this time while in cardiac arrest. He remained in the hospital for a short time longer before he was transported to another hospital, where he ultimately passed away.

About a year later, the hospital closed. Shortly after that, the plaintiff filed a timely wrongful death case against the hospital, claiming that the physician’s negligence in failing to diagnose her husband’s cardiac arrest led to his death. The plaintiff served a former member of the board, who was the hospital’s legal counsel. The hospital responded that service was not proper, and the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew her lawsuit so that she could effectuate proper service.

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Being involved in a Washington, D.C. car accident can be a traumatic experience. Aside from the obvious concerns of physical injuries and emotional distress, car accident victims often find themselves in financial hardship. Thankfully, car accident victims are often able to pursue financial compensation from those responsible for the accident through a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit.

Pizza BoxDetermining which parties to name in a lawsuit is not necessarily as easy as naming the other drivers involved in the accident. In fact, naming only the other drivers can be a major mistake. For example, in many cases, third parties can also be named in a lawsuit, not only increasing the chances of a favorable verdict but also increasing the chances of being fully compensated for any injuries sustained.

The doctrine of vicarious liability permits accident victims to name third parties in some situations. Essentially, vicarious liability allows a plaintiff to hold one person or entity responsible for another person’s actions. A common example is when an employee is involved in an accident while on the clock. In some cases, the employer can also be liable for any injuries sustained. However, as a recent case illustrates, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the relationship between the employee and the employer is sufficient to impose liability on the employer.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion that will be of interest to those considering filing a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether a lower court was proper to enter judgment in favor of the plaintiff under the specific facts present in the case. Ultimately, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff did present sufficient evidence to warrant a finding in her favor. As a result, the defendant hospital’s appeal was dismissed.

Rough SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting a family member at the defendant hospital. After her visit, the plaintiff was walking out of the hospital when she stubbed her toe on a piece of broken pavement on the sidewalk. The plaintiff fell to the ground, and it was later determined that she had broken her toe in the accident. She also suffered lower back pain as a result of the fall.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital was negligent in safely maintaining the sidewalk area and that the hospital’s failure to do so resulted in her injuries. The parties opted to have the case decided by a judge, rather than by a jury, and after hearing the evidence, the court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were approximately $180,000; however, since the court also determined that the plaintiff was 40% responsible for her injuries, the award was reduced by that percentage to a total award amount of approximately $108,000.

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