What If I Get Into An Accident While Out of State?

Protecting yourself and your family can sometimes extend beyond the borders of Ohio. Often when we are planning a trip, we think about the fun activities, destinations, and routes ahead. Just as often, however, we forget to think about and plan for accidents that may result in injury to ourselves or our traveling companions.

Different States Have Different Laws

When it comes to pursuing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, each state has different rules and laws that impact your case. In most cases, the laws of the state where your accident occurred will determine what options are available to you and how your claim moves through the court system. Different states also have different statutes of limitations, which are deadlines for when you must file your case. As such, you need to be mindful and get the legal process started quickly – this can help ensure you have time to deal with unfamiliar laws.

Getting Started

If you’ve been in an out-of-state accident and want to pursue legal action, contacting an attorney in your home state is a good first step. Your local lawyer may be able to provide you with information regarding your claim and let you know if they can take you on as a client for that claim. If your local attorney cannot handle the case, they may be able to give you information on who to contact or even a direct referral to an attorney in the state where your accident happened. Getting an attorney referral is a good way to make sure the local lawyer you choose is well educated in the laws of the state and the local court system.

Our team at Plymale & Dingus can help you take this first step – simply call us at (614) 418-6460 or contact us online to get started.

Medical Treatment

If you or someone in your travel party has been injured, do not wait until you get home to seek your initial medical treatment. Initial treatment at an urgent care or emergency room allows a medical professional to evaluate your injuries and determine if it is safe for you to return home via your method of travel. Further treatment, such as visiting your primary care physician, specialists, chiropractor, or physical therapist, can be done once you return home, but make sure to start any follow-up treatment as soon as possible after you get home.

Injury during vacation or travel does not mean you have to end your trip immediately, but you should keep track of any alterations in your plans or activities, and you should collect any evidence showing these changes so your attorney can relate to the insurance company how the incident has impacted both your trip and overall quality of life.

Please remember, being away from home means it is more important than ever to collect the evidence you may need at the scene of the incident. If you would like more information on how to appropriately gather evidence for a motor vehicle collision claim, then please read our previous blog, “Collecting Evidence to Protect Your Interests.”

Being involved in an accident can be scary and upsetting, especially if the incident happens while you are out of state, but you should handle yourself and your next steps the same way you would at home. Make sure to get medical attention immediately, gather insurance information, take photos if it is safe to do so, and gather any additional evidence that you are able to while still at the scene of the accident. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be for your attorney to help make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Stay safe Ohio!

Understanding Damages in a Personal Injury Case

After an accident, you may be wondering how to move forward. Filing a personal injury claim can help. This is because successful personal injury cases yield damages. “Damages” is an interesting legal term because it can refer not only to the injuries and losses you suffered due to your accident but also the compensation you recover to account for them.

In terms of compensation, damages can be broken down into both “economic” and “non-economic” damages, collectively called “compensatory damages.”

Economic Damages

Economic damages are designed to compensate you for your measurable losses and accident-associated expenses, such as:

  • Present and future medical bills
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Prescriptions
  • Transportation
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Counseling and mental health services
  • Missed wages
  • Lost future income
  • Property damage
  • Funerary and burial expenses
  • And more

Typically, economic damages can be paired with bills, receipts from out-of-pocket expenses, or missing paychecks. In some cases, your attorney will use existing documentation to help you estimate the financial effects your accident will have on you moving forward.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are meant to compensate you for less tangible losses, like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • And more

No one can truly measure the impact an accident has on your life, but we can ascribe value to some of the ways your injury affects you. These damages can be subjective, so having our skilled attorneys on your side can help you make fair appraisals, estimates, and demands.

Punitive Damages

If your case involved recklessness, criminal behavior, or extreme negligence, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Also called exemplary damages, this compensation is designed to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behavior in the future. In Ohio, punitive damages cannot exceed twice the amount of compensatory damages (the term for combined economic and non-economic damages) or 10% of the defendant’s net worth (whichever is higher).

Unlike some other states, in which punitive damages go into a special fund, the court awards punitive damages to the plaintiff (or the person filing the lawsuit). In this way, punitive damages can provide you with additional financial comfort and allow you to move forward from your accident and injuries with a sense of justice and economic security.

What Is My Case Worth?

We cannot estimate what your case is worth without knowing all the details. If you come in for a free initial consultation, however, we can help you understand your legal rights and manage your expectations.

When you choose Plymale & Dingus, you put over 80 years of collective legal experience on your side. You also get a legal team that will fight for your rights and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.

We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients, and we want to recover for you, too.

Plymale & Dingus Obtain $3,925,000 Verdict on Behalf of Client; Ohio Legislature Will Cause Verdict to Be Reduced by About 90%

Six years ago, 59-year-old May Hicks was struck by a vehicle as she walked out of Scioto Downs Casino and Racetrack in Southern Columbus. In addition to a shattered lower leg and ankle, May sustained head injuries and partial hearing loss. She was hospitalized for eight days, then confined to bed for four months, and for the remainder of her days she will need a cane to aid in walking. Her ankle will never function normally again. The Casino/Raceway refused to pay. Claiming they had done nothing wrong, they offered to pay only $15,000 to May for her injuries and medical bills.

In October 2019, Shawn Dingus and Mike Guluzian represented May in a jury trial against the driver and Scioto Downs. After four days of testimony, the jury found both the driver and Scioto Downs responsible for causing May’s injuries and awarded her the sum of $3,925,000 in damages. The jury found the driver negligent for failing to yield the right-of-way to May and found Scioto Downs responsible for failing to protect its customers, from whom it makes millions of dollars each year. Specifically, the evidence showed that Scioto Downs funneled pedestrians to a dangerous area leading away from the casino to its parking lot, failing to erect any signs warning drivers they were approaching a crosswalk or to take other actions to protect its customers once they left the casino. Compounding these failures, the casino also chose to park a shuttle bus on the roadway that partially obstructed the view of both drivers and pedestrians. These failures played a significant role in the events that would forever change May’s life.

Unfortunately, Ohio law will prevent May from receiving what a jury of eight Ohio citizens determined she deserved. In the end, May will likely receive only one tenth the of the actual verdict amount.

Why? Tort reform.

You may have heard it mentioned in the news once or twice. It sounds like something an older British gentleman wearing a powdered wig might declare in Parliament.

In reality, it’s a very American issue, and it’s costing deserving Ohioans like May Hicks millions in rightful compensation. Which is why at Plymale & Dingus we call it “tort deform.”

Tort reform is politician talk, worded to convince you, the public, that substantial jury verdicts for serious injuries need to be reined in. So, legislation was passed by the Ohio legislature in 2005 which limits the amount of damages an injured person can receive to $250,000 in most cases, up to an absolute maximum of $350,000 where the injured person’s medical expenses exceed $120,000.

It’s a win for large businesses like Scioto Downs and insurance companies that go to trial knowing they can’t be held liable for more than $350,000—a drop in the bucket compared to what they should be accountable for.

It’s a loss for May Hicks, a beloved figure in her community who runs a small market that’s a favorite for local fireman, police, and veterans.

And it’s a loss for democracy. Trial by jury is an essential part of our democratic system and, in fact, that right is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Trial by jury does not always yield a just result, but experience teaches us that citizen participation in the process of administering justice is part of the glue that keeps us on the pathway of democracy. The Legislature’s so called “Tort Reform” nullifies the jury’s verdict and renders this and many such jury verdicts nearly meaningless, essentially saying that juries can’t be trusted to decide how to compensate injured victims. Of course, the Ohio “tort reform” says nothing about very low or inadequate jury verdicts. It addresses and greatly reduces only verdicts for the most severely injured. Those citizens who are most deserving of substantial money damages are now, by law, limited in the recovery of those damages. In our opinion, in passing this law, the Ohio legislature has catered to the desires of big business and sent the message that Ohio citizens are too dumb to be trusted with deciding what is just and fair. Instead, the legislature has declared that they are superior to those who voted them into office. Moreover, the imposed limits on damage recovery apply to all jury verdicts without the legislators having heard one word of the evidence in the case. In doing so, our legislature has also sent another message to Ohio citizens: that the bottom line of big businesses is of more importance to them than the safety and welfare of its own citizens.

Tort reform affects every liability case in Ohio, save only the most extreme cases (paraplegia, loss of a limb, death, etc.) and it has been enacted and enabled by legislators in the Ohio statehouse who have failed to amend it in any serious manner over the last 14 years.

Thanks to this law and the legislators who refuse to abandon this incursion on our right to trial by jury, injured Ohioans, like May Hicks, are not only being deprived of millions of dollars, they are also being deprived of their Constitutional right to trial by jury. Instead, as in many autocratic countries, this part of our Constitutionally protected “Right to Trial by Jury” is no longer “inviolate.”

If You are the Victim of an Animal Attack, Do You Need an Attorney?

Animal injury cases can be complicated. If you are the victim of an animal attack, your legal rights and options may be affected by the actions you take immediately following the attack. For the best course of action, follow these steps and then contact an attorney who has experience with animal attacks.

What to Do If You Are Attacked by an Animal

Victims of animal attacks may be able to recover damages for their injuries, as well as medical and psychological expenses, loss of income, and, in some cases, punitive damages.

If you are attacked by an animal, follow these steps to protect your legal rights:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of the injury.
  • Keep track of your medical providers and medical expenses.
  • Get the owner’s information (name, address, and phone number).
  • If there were any witnesses to the attack, get their information as well.
  • Ask for proof of rabies vaccination or have the animal tested for rabies.
  • Contact an attorney with experience in animal attacks before signing or agreeing to anything.

What Should I do After an Auto Accident?

When an accident occurs, the people involved usually feel rattled and shaken. The scene of an auto accident is often chaotic and confusing. From assessing the damage done to your vehicle, to making sure that you obtain the other driver’s information, the actions you take following a collision can significantly impact your accident claim. In this blog, we explain what to do after you have been in a car accident.

Don’t Apologize for the Accident

Often, people will feel obligated to apologize to other drivers or witnesses for an accident. Even when the accident isn’t their fault, social conventions seem to force these people to say sorry for the inconvenience. Although our society values politeness, apologizing for an accident can hurt you’re your claim to damages. Any form of apology can be taken as an admission of fault by an insurance adjuster. Although you might feel rude, it’s important that you avoid apologizing at all costs. Don’t say statements like:

  • “I didn’t see you.”
  • “I wasn’t paying attention.”
  • “I’m sorry about that.”
  • “I’m fine.”
  • “I’m okay.”

Each of these statements can potentially harm your accident claim

Take Pictures of the Accident Scene

After an auto accident, you should make sure that all parties involved are safe. Call 911 to report any injuries. After you have made sure that everyone is safe, you can start taking pictures of the accident scene.

The pictures you take should clearly show the progression of the accident. Get quality images of any evidence that can be used to establish property damage or injuries from the accident. This can be very useful later on. Remember, the quality of your pictures will matter in court, so take the best pictures that you can. Avoid taking blurry or pixelated photos that do not make for good evidence.

Filing an Insurance Claim after an Auto Accident

After a car accident, your insurance company may make you an offer, however, it is very important to remember that insurance companies usually have their own best interest at heart, not yours. Often when an insurance company makes an offer, it is not as much as they are truly willing to pay, unfortunately, however, after an offer is accepted you will not be eligible to pursue further compensation from them. This is why it is so important to contact a member of our team for a FREE consultation. Call today and learn what your case may be worth.

U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Constitutionality of Ban on Same Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in four same sex marriage cases this April. The justices will decide whether to uphold bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The court had previously declined to decide the issue because the circuit courts that had previously issued rulings all ruled against the ban. With the 6th Circuit’s decision, the federal appellate courts are no longer unanimous in their decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear these cases comes on the heels of Florida’s recent January 6th recognition of same sex marriage, the 36th such state to do so, and the critical questioning of state bans in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

If the ban on same sex marriage is lifted, insurance companies will likely be required to extend insurance benefits to same sex spouses. The decision, however, will likely have no effect on the ability of self-insured plans to implement a plan-specific definition of “spouse.” While employers may use their own terms to define spouse, enacting a definition of spouse that is at odds with state and federal law may expose those companies to lawsuits under the state and federal anti-discriminatory statutes. Many expect a decision by June of this year.

Alabama set to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

Alabama has become the 37th state to support legalizing gay marriage as an Alabama Federal District Court has ordered the issuance of marriage licenses for same sex couples on Monday, despite heavy opposition from the state’s chief judge, Roy S. Moore. This comes following his eleven-hour effort to order local judges to disregard the ruling legalizing gay marriage within the state. “Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with [state law],”Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore said in an order.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Alabama’s request to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples as the District Court ruled last month that the state must issue marriage licenses starting Monday, February 9th. Moore wrote the order alleging that the ruling violates the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions. However, the move drew quick condemnation among legal experts and human rights activists alike as the Federal Court’s decision superseded the state court decision and Moore was in no position to disregard the order. This move drew comparisons to the state’s decision to block the implementation of a federal order to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963.

Court of appeals orders new trial after woman breaks neck and is awarded only $2,114.11

In March of 2011, Plaintiff Gerri Thomas, a licensed practical nurse, was injured in an automobile collision when a truck driven by Defendant Nicholas Pisoni struck her while she traveled at approximately 40 mph. At the scene of the accident, she was placed in a neck collar and backboard for immobilization and transported to the hospital. Once there, it was discovered that the force of the collision broke the Plaintiff’s neck at the C-6 vertebrae. Plaintiff’s doctors ordered that she wear a hard cervical collar to allow the bones to heal. Unfortunately, Plaintiff experienced increasing pain and was first treated with steroid injections but eventually required surgery. Due to the injury, Plaintiff testified that she lost wages totaling over $9,400.00, out-of-pocket medical expenses of $4,467.00, and incurred medical bills of approximately $37,000.00.

After hearing all of the evidence, a Stark County jury awarded Plaintiff just $2,114.11. Of this amount, $700.00 was for lost wages, $214.11 was reimbursement for her cervical collar, and $1,200.00 was for pain and suffering. Plaintiff requested a new trial arguing that jury’s verdict was inadequate and contrary to both the law and the facts presented at trial. This request was initially denied but was later granted on appeal by the 5th District Court of Appeals.

The Appellate Court found that “[t]he jury’s award did not fully compensate [Plaintiff] and denied her justice.” Thomas v. Pisoni, 2015-Ohio-376, ¶ 35 (5th Dist. Stark). The court went on to state that the “jury’s verdict was inadequate because there was no evidence disputing the severity of the collision; no evidence, expert or otherwise, disputing the collision neither solely caused appellant’s fractured neck and subsequent surgery; nor disputing the collision resulted in limited life functions, pain and discomfort.” Id. The Court concluded that the damages award could not be reconciled with the “uncontroverted evidence” and was “against the manifest weight of the evidence.” Id. at ¶37. Let us hope that Ms. Thomas’ next trial fully and adequately compensates her for the injuries and delivers the justice she was denied at her first trial.

Attorneys Ron Plymale and Shawn Dingus named to Columbus CEO 2015 Top Lawyers

The staff at Plymale & Dingus would like to congratulate both Shawn Dingus and Ron Plymale for being named premier attorneys in the Central Ohio region by Columbus CEO magazine. Columbus CEO holds an annual rating feature based on a rating algorithm used by Avvo, one of the top attorney review sites in the nation, to determine its highly exclusive list.

This year’s top lawyers were rated at 8 and above on Avvo’s ten point scale and were subjected to only one or two primary practices for each lawyers based alphabetically. Both Shawn and Ron were selected for their work in representing clients for personal injury cases. Once again congratulations to Mr. Plymale and Mr. Dingus and we look forward to continuing success in 2015!

If You Have Case to Discuss, Contact Our Firm Today to Schedule a Free, Consultation.

Why is my Divorce Case Taking So Long?

Clients often ask me to explain the reason that contested divorce cases and contested custody actions take so long to resolve. While there is a myriad of reasons to explain the protracted duration of divorce and custody cases, the primary culprit is usually the contested nature of the case itself. While an agreement can usually be approved by the court within sixty days, disputed cases take much longer to reach a conclusion. Those reasons include the need to formally serve the other party with a copy of the lawsuit (called a complaint) and a summons, to which the other party has up to twenty-eight (28) days to respond, which can often take more than six weeks to complete.

Steps of a Contested Divorce or Custody

Next, at least one of the parties usually requests the court to issue temporary orders. That process requires an initial hearing, usually scheduled six to eight weeks after the filing of the complaint, at which the parties discuss the possible resolution of all disputed issues. If no agreement is reached, the assigned Magistrate will order the parties and their attorneys to submit sworn affidavits usually within two to three weeks following the hearing. If the case involves children, the court will usually also appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the children, and will often delay the submission of affidavits to allow the GAL an opportunity to conduct an investigation. After submission of the affidavits, the court usually issues temporary orders three to four weeks later. By that time, the case is already three months old, and usually older if a GAL is involved.

The parties then often elect to conduct discovery, which can come in the form of written questions to be answered by the other party, a request for the other party to produce documents (e.g. financial documents, photographs, correspondence, etc.), and the deposition of the parties (sworn testimony recorded by a stenographer) . This process can take three to six months to complete, depending on the complexity of the disputed issues. The parties may also need to hire expert witnesses to value assets (e.g. appraisers, accountants, etc.) or to provide expert testimony relating to the children (e.g. physicians, psychologists, etc.)

After all of these tasks are completed, including many others that I do not have the space to include in this article, the attorneys will need to prepare the case for trial, which will initially require scheduling time on the judge’s docket to actually try the case, which in turn will depend on the judge’s availability and the size of his/her docket. At any given time, most judges have hundreds of cases pending before them, many of which will have been pending longer than your case. The number of days scheduled by the court for trial depends on the nature and complexity of each case. The more complex the case, the longer it will take to complete.

Average Time a Custody Case Lasts

On average, a case involving custody will take at least three days to complete, oftentimes requiring seven days or more. To prepare for the trial, which is subject to the same rules as the trials you see on television, the attorneys will need to identify and prepare witnesses, gather and organize physical evidence (e.g. financial documents, photographs) prepare balance sheets of the parties assets and liabilities, prepare child support worksheets, and a host of other tasks that are too numerous to list here. At the end of the presentation of evidence, the judge will usually take the matter under advisement and issue a decision several weeks later.

As you can see, contested actions require a significant investment of time, designed to both protect the parties and to ensure that the court is provided with all relevant evidence to allow it to issue a decision. Of course, should the parties ultimately reach an agreement during the case, no trial is necessary and the case can be scheduled for an uncontested hearing.

If You Have Case to Discuss, Contact Our Firm Today to Schedule a Free, Consultation.