The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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Who can be held liable for the costs of a car accident?
After a car accident, victims are often overwhelmed by medical bills and unexpected costs, and often they’re unable to work following the accident. While injury victims have a number of options when it comes to getting payment for their medical treatment and property damage, the amount they can collect will depend on the specifics of their case.
Potential Sources of Compensation After a Crash
To determine how much you could be owed for car accident losses, you need to know who is responsible for the accident and how much compensation is available through insurance. Rhode Island law requires all drivers to purchase at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage and $25,000 property damage coverage. If the negligent driver purchased only minimum coverage and you sustained severe injuries, $25,000 may not be enough to compensate you for all of your losses.
However, you may be able to get additional payment for your car accident costs from:
- Other forms of insurance. If you purchased enhancements to your own auto insurance such as personal injury protection (PIP), insured motorist (UIM) coverage, or MedPay, you may be able to obtain compensation from them. Your own health insurance may also be used to offset the medical costs of your injury.
- A defective auto parts manufacturer. If your accident was caused by a tire blowout, malfunctioning airbag, defective seatbelt, or other faulty auto part, the manufacturer may be liable for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
- The at-fault driver’s employer. If you were struck by a commercial trucker, delivery driver, or someone else driving a company vehicle, the driver’s employer could be held liable for your injury costs.
- A negligent third party. Rhode Island’s dram shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to file lawsuits against an establishment that over-served alcohol to the driver. A social host can also be liable for the damages that ensue after he gives or serves alcohol to a minor.
Our attorneys can examine the facts of your case and the limits of relevant insurance policies to determine what compensation is available to you. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost.
How much is my car accident case worth?
Crash victims are often eager to know if the financial compensation will be worth the time and effort required to file an accident lawsuit. The answer is different for every injury client, but there are ways to estimate the amount of damages that a victim could receive by taking legal action against an at-fault driver.
Factors That Affect Damages in a Car Accident Case
In Rhode Island, car accident compensation follows a fault-based system. Instead of each driver filing a claim with his own insurer, the person who is legally at fault for the accident is liable for paying injury costs. It is the at-fault driver’s insurance company who must pay for damages, but the provider may be unwilling to pay for the full extent of your suffering. In this case, you may need to file a lawsuit to get what you are owed.
The amount you could receive in your injury case will depend on:
- The direct costs of the crash. The first step in estimating your case’s value is the amount of economic losses you have suffered. Economic damages compensate a victim for the direct financial costs of the accident, including hospital stays, emergency care, physical therapy, medications, follow-up care, and property damage to a vehicle. In addition to recouping the full amount of medical expenses, victims are owed full payment for the wages they lost while they were injured. If victims are no longer able to continue working at their current job, they may be owed an amount for their reduced earning capacity.
- How much you have suffered due to the crash. Pain and suffering damages are awarded by a jury and are not subject to the same limits as economic damages. If the accident caused you prolonged trauma, lost quality of life, or permanent limitations or disfigurement, you may be entitled to this additional compensation.
- Your percentage of fault for the accident. Rhode Island negligence laws allow a car accident victim to file a lawsuit even if the other driver was just one percent at fault. However, the damages the victim receives will be reduced in proportion to his percentage of negligence.
- Whether the case goes to trial. Your attorney may be able to secure a fair payment for your injuries by negotiating with the insurance company. However, if you and the insurer cannot agree on a settlement amount, you can take the case to court and fight for a verdict at trial. While going to trial often yields higher payment for victims, it is a long and expensive process—and there is always the chance that you will lose.
If an insurance company is refusing to pay for the costs of your crash, our attorneys can work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
What is a property settlement agreement?
A property settlement agreement (PSA), sometimes called a marital settlement agreement, is the document that itemizes what each spouse will receive when a divorce is final. The document is customized to the needs of the divorcing couple, and it can include a division of furniture, property, savings accounts, trusts, and/or life insurance proceeds. It also outlines each spouse’s financial responsibilities in a divorce such as paying shared debts or alimony obligations.
What Should Be Included in a Property Settlement Agreement?
Under Rhode Island law, PSAs are considered a contract between the divorcing spouses. This means, the court may not be able to modify portions of the agreement, including those regarding alimony and property division. For this reason, it is important to be thorough when creating a PSA, since any oversights or vague language can cause legal disputes in the future.
A property settlement agreement should provide clear information on:
- Distribution of assets. The PSA should clearly indicate how much each party will receive of all marital funds, real estate, trust funds, and personal property.
- Division of debt. The document should divide shared debt (for example, credit cards and car payments) and assign each debt to the spouse who will be responsible for paying it.
- Alimony. The document should state how much a spouse will receive in support payments and the length of the obligation. If there will be no spousal support, the PSA should acknowledge that the support has been waived.
- Insurance concerns. A PSA should address who will be covered under each spouse’s health insurance, as well as who will remove proceeds from life insurance claims.
- Tax payments. Each spouse may be assigned a portion of federal and state taxes on property that will be divided or dissolved during the divorce.
- Retirement accounts. Spouses may be entitled to a portion of a partner’s pension, 401k, or other retirement account distributions.
Our family law attorneys can draft a property settlement agreement that will provide for you and your family for years to come. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to learn more about your options.
What is the statute of limitations to file a car accident lawsuit in Rhode Island?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, you should understand the basic laws that govern your case, so you can protect your legal rights. These include the types of compensation you are entitled to, what you need to prove the other driver’s negligence, and how your own partial fault in causing the wreck could impact your case. Another crucial law to know is the statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Civil Lawsuit After a Car Crash
The statute of limitations is the deadline you have to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. In Rhode Island, the rules are:
- A personal injury lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.
- If a victim died as a result of the wreck, a wrongful death action must be filed within three years of the person’s death.
Failing to comply with the statute of limitations deadline can have harsh consequences for your claim. You will be most likely barred from pursuing your lawsuit, and your complaint would be dismissed by the judge.
Don’t Wait to Retain an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Even though you have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit, it would be a mistake to wait before contacting an experienced car accident attorney. Ideally, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible after your collision. This will allow him to obtain evidence that may be lost if you wait too long, including third-party witness statements and surveillance video that may have recorded your crash. In addition, he can handle all your communications with the insurance adjuster and help you avoid common mistakes that victims often make when they delay hiring a lawyer.
You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the negligent driver who caused your injuries. Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Call our office today to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Can a parent be liable for the costs of an accident caused by a teenager?
Rhode Island is a “fault” state in car accident cases. This mean, the person who is legally at fault for the accident is responsible and must pay for damages or injuries resulting from the crash. But if the person who caused the crash is under 18 years old, who is responsible for paying for medical bills and vehicle damage?
Parents May Be Liable for the Cost of a Teen’s Car Crash
Under Rhode Island parental responsibility laws, parents can be held financially responsible for injuries or damages caused by minor children. While the state sets the age of majority at 18, teenagers may be granted full licenses when they are 17 years old and six months. If the accident occurs in the months before the teenager’s 18th birthday, victims could potentially sue the parents of a child responsible for the crash.
A parent may be forced to pay the costs for a teenager’s accident due to:
- Malicious acts. Rhode Island General Laws Section 9-1-3 provides that parents can be liable if their unemancipated minor “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to a person or property. As long as it is established that the minor would be liable for the accident if he had been an adult, the parents can assume that liability. However, parental liability is capped at $1,500 for any single act.
- Insurance coverage. The car insurance required by Rhode Island law may be in a parent’s name with the teenager as a “named insured,” forcing the parent’s insurer to pay for the costs of the crash. This may be in addition to collecting the $1,500 under Section 9-1-3.
- Claims against the minor. Under the law, parents are jointly and severally liable with their child for causing harm and property damage, so a victim can seek damages from the parent and child collectively, as well as individually. Victims can file a claim again the minor for any unpaid losses not covered by insurance or the claim against the parents. In many cases, minors do not have the funds to cover these costs, forcing the parents to assume liability.
If you were in an accident with an at-fault, underage driver, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.
Will I still get child support from my first spouse if I remarry?
While alimony payments to a spouse are unlikely to continue after a supported spouse’s remarriage, the same is not true of child support payments. Under Rhode Island law, a former spouse must continue his financial obligation to his children whether or not either spouse has remarried. However, there are instances when remarriage could change the amount of these payments.
Courts May Modify Child Support Orders Based on Remarriage
The Rhode Island family courts use certain guidelines to determine how much child support a parent must pay, but they are allowed to order a different amount of support based on all relevant factors in a case. Remarriage may be considered relevant to a support order, especially if the new marriage includes:
- The birth of new children. In the past, children in a new marriage were not considered a valid reason for changing a support order for children from a prior relationship. Today, Rhode Island courts may consider the increased costs of new children when deciding on an amount of child support.
- Increased expenses. Marriage can increase a couple’s income, but it can also increase their expenses. A parent who remarries and takes on shared debts (such as house and car payments) or provides care for a new spouse with a disability may see a change in the amount of income available for child support.
- A new spouse’s income. Although Rhode Island courts agree that a new spouse has no duty to support children from a prior relationship, they have ruled that a new spouse’s income may be considered in some cases. For example, if a parent paying child support remarries, the new spouse is likely contributing financially to household bills, utilities, and groceries. This essentially causes an increase in income for the parent and leaves more of his income available for child support.
In order to change the amount of child support after remarriage, a parent must petition the court for a modification of the order. It’s up to the court to decide whether remarriage has resulted in a significant change in circumstances needed to make the modification. If you need help with your divorce, custody, or child support order, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Will my alimony payments continue if I remarry?
Although it is possible for spousal support payments to continue after remarriage, it is extremely rare. Unlike child support payments, spousal support may be discontinued for any number of reasons, including the recipient’s reliance on a new spouse. In most cases, the best option for divorcing spouses is to secure an amount during the separation that will last the rest of their lives, whether they decide to remarry or not.
Collecting Alimony Payments After Remarriage
Alimony is supposed to provide rehabilitative payments to a spouse who may not have the ability to earn a sustainable living. These payments are meant to offer temporary support, allowing a spouse to get a degree, search for a job, or otherwise become self-sufficient. As a result, Rhode Island law states that a spouse’s obligation to pay alimony terminates when a recipient spouse remarries, since the new spouse would presumably be able to offer financial support.
While a property settlement agreement created during a divorce may allow alimony to continue after remarriage, this can create further difficulties, including:
- Tax considerations. Alimony is taxed differently than other payments received from a former spouse. After remarriage, spousal support payments do not qualify as “alimony” and are no longer eligible for federal tax benefits.
- Ability to pay. If an ex-spouse loses the financial ability to continue to provide alimony, a court may find that the obligation is not necessary and discontinue payments.
- Other concessions. A provision in the property settlement agreement securing future alimony after remarriage may come at a cost such as relinquishing family heirlooms, investment accounts, or other items of value.
Since alimony payments depend on so many unpredictable factors, the most effective method of protecting your future is to make provisions during the divorce that end your reliance on your former spouse. If you need help determining how much you are owed or drafting a fair property settlement agreement, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Is it legal to ride in a truck bed in Rhode Island?
Federal laws have standards in place to protect people from injuries in a car crash—seat belts, crumple zones, head rests, and air bags. However, those laws do not apply to cargo areas such as beds of pickup trucks. If a person is riding in a cargo area unrestrained, he may be thrown from the vehicle even at low speeds. In order to ensure safety, states have their own laws governing where and how people must be restrained while traveling in a vehicle.
Rhode Island Laws: Riding in Truck Beds and Cargo Areas
Under Rhode Island law, seat belts are required to be worn by all drivers and passengers age 18 and older. However, there are circumstances when a person may ride in a truck bed, delivery van, or other area of a vehicle that was designed to carry cargo.
Riding in the cargo area of a truck is permitted in the state for:
- People over 16. People may only ride in the back of a pickup truck if they are over age 16. In addition, passengers are restricted to the cargo area itself and are prohibited from riding on hoods, roofs, fenders, or other parts of the vehicle not designed for passengers.
- People under 16. People under age 16 may only ride in a truck bed if they are secured by a passenger restraint.
- Pets and animals. Rhode Island law specifically prohibits carrying animals in the cargo space of an open-air motor vehicle unless the animal is in an enclosed area, is under the direct physical control of a person other than the driver of the vehicle, or is safely restrained and harnessed using a method other than a neck restraint. Violating this law is cause for a fine of $50 to $100, which increases to $200 for each subsequent offense.
If you need help understanding your rights after a car accident or injury, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.
Is there a time limit for filing an injury case in Rhode Island?
All states set specific time limits for filing different types of lawsuits to ensure all evidence and witness testimonies in the case remain as reliable as possible. In Rhode Island, injury victims have up to three years after the date the injury occurred to file a lawsuit against the negligent party.
After this time limit—called the statute of limitations—expires, the victim forever loses the right to file a case related to the accident. However, there's an important exception to the time limit on Rhode Island injury laws known as the "discovery of harm" rule.
How the Discovery Rule Affects a Rhode Island Injury Case
In most injury cases, the victim’s suffering can be traced back to one specific date—for example, the date of a car crash or slip and fall accident. However, some injuries manifest slowly over time, and victims may be unaware of the progression until years after the causal event.
Under the discovery of harm rule, the statute of limitations “clock” for a victim who was unaware of the injury at the time of the accident starts on the date that the victim became aware of the injury.
Cases involving discovery of harm have their own unique challenges, including:
- Length of time between event and injury. The longer the time between the onset of injury and the lawsuit, the more likely evidence will be lost or no longer reliable.
- Evidence of knowledge. The discovery rule allows that a victim can bring a delayed lawsuit if he or she knew or “should have known” about the injury. The “should have” language is important, since any evidence that points toward a victim’s knowledge—such as a recorded statement after an injury—can be used against the victim.
- Reasons for delay. Even if a delay in discovery occurs, the reason for the delay must be understandable under the circumstances. If a person suffers back problems for years after a slip and fall accident but refuses to go to the doctor, the person will likely not be justified in bringing a case against the property owner after the back injury is finally diagnosed.
As you only have a limited window to bring an injury case, it's a good idea to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
What actions should I take after a slip and fall accident?
If you’ve suffered an injury due to a slip and fall, there are many things you may do that result in underpayment for your injuries and even outright denial of accident compensation. It’s important to know how to avoid missteps in your injury claim.
Protect Your Case After a Slip and Fall
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Not only does seeing a doctor help to identify severe injuries, it allows juries and insurers to see that you were acting responsibly and took your injury seriously. It also creates a medical record immediately after the incident, establishing that your injuries were a direct result of the fall.
Even if you went to the emergency room and follow your doctor’s orders, your injury claim could still be at significant risk if you:
- Fail to report the accident. It is vital that you report the accident to the property owner as soon as possible after the accident. The owner (or an employee) will likely ask you to complete an incident report with the date, time, and location of the fall. While you are advised to report the fall, you should never discuss details of the accident with anyone or speculate on what might have caused your fall.
- Post on social media. It may seem easier to tell your friends and family about the accident by posting on Twitter or Facebook. However, anything you post can be used as evidence against you. Even a simple assurance such as “I’m fine” can cause an insurer to undervalue your claim, since it implies that you were not seriously injured.
- Give a recorded statement. You must notify your insurance company of the accident if you are planning on making a claim for your injury. But insurance company representatives for the responsible party often call victims to “clarify” details of an accident in a recorded statement. Anything you say in these conversations can be used against you, so it is best to decline giving a statement.
- Accept a settlement. Victims are often eager to move on after an accident, and insurance companies know this. They may pressure a victim into accepting a low settlement quickly, making it impossible for the victim to recover additional damages later. If you have been offered a settlement, you should always consult with an attorney before you accept.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, we can gather surveillance video, witness statements, and other vital evidence to maximize your compensation. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.