Protecting Your Financial And Physical Health
For better or worse we live in a capitalist society that encourages corporations, hospital systems, insurance companies and businesses in general to place profit margins above anything else. In a world where “for profit” education is booming and huge government contracts are distributed to corporations responsible for residential and “at home” treatment of disabled children and adults there exists substantial motivation to cut corners and provide a substandard product or service in order to experience more profit. Whether it is through the hiring of unqualified “cheap” labor or through the use or substandard products and services, corners are being cut and more often than not the victims of the corner cutting are the most vulnerable members of society; children, the disabled, the elderly, immigrants and the poor.
The team at GSW works to protect you and your family from becoming a victim of corporate greed and preventable negligence. The “bean counting” philosophy has become standard operating procedure at too many businesses across our region and nothing will change without victims and lawyers working together for civil justice. We at GSW are proud of the work we do and believe we help make businesses, schools and facilities safer for the community.
I. Personal Injury
If you or a loved one is injured by the negligence of another we will review your case to determine if we can represent you on a contingent fee basis. A contingent fee means that your lawyer does not get paid for his or her time unless they are able to recover financial damages in your case. The standard rate charged is 33.3%, meaning that if there is a recovery of $100,000 the lawyers fee, regardless of the amount of time that went into the case, would be $33,333. If the recovery is $0 you pay $0. This fee arrangement assures that our interests are aligned, and you don’t have to worry about getting an enormous bill from your lawyer without a positive result.
In order to determine if you have a viable case we assess if the injury that occurred was foreseeable and could have been prevented had the standard of care in the industry been followed. You must have both. For example, if a child was injured on the playground during recess when they had a collision with another child, we certainly would have a foreseeable injury, but accidents happen when kids play. There would need to be facts that indicate that if proper care was used the accident would have been prevented. For example if a jungle gym was set on concrete instead of soft flooring or if a special needs child so without facts that suggest indicating an action beneath the standard of the care you would not have a case. In order to maintain credibility with courts and defense lawyers GSW will only bring cases to court that show clear liability of a defendant. Now if your child was injured on a playground at recess when they fell from an apparatus on to solid concrete we would be looking at a much different situation because in that set of facts there is an element that was beneath the standard of case. The concrete base for a playground would clearly represent a foreseeable injury that could have been prevented with reasonable “standard” care, i.e. placing woodchips or turf at the base of the apparatus.
After sustaining an injury that was the result of someone else’s negligence, it is imperative to protect you and your loved ones from the insurance companies whose only interest is limiting their exposure to a personal injury claim. How can you protect yourself and ensure you receive full compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost work, and all other damages caused by the car accident?
The team at GSW implements a system for organizing a case that allows you as the client to be involved in your case without an overly complex set of instructions. Through the adaptation of modern secure technologies our team will share a folder with you on the cloud that will allow you to simply upload all the documents and photos you have with just a couple clicks of the mouse.
The systematic organization of your file is essential for our team to follow the money in your case. It also allows you, the client, to follow along with your case and see the progress being made. In order to ensure that our clients are compensated for all of their damages we work with them to collect the documents that show the following:
- Past and future lost income or economic harmfrom missing work due to short-term injuries or permanent disabilities.
- Current and future medical costs, including surgery, physical therapy, medications, or other treatment.
- Property damage,including damage to your automobile or anything else other than a person, such as a building or a fence.
- Pain and suffering that is physical, mental, or emotional.
- Loss of enjoyment of life or loss of support due to wrongful death.
To determine whether or not you have a case contact our office for an evaluation and do so BEFORE you talk to a representative from an insurance company or the entity where the injury occurred.
II. Abuse and Neglect
The GSW team specializes in cases where the victim of preventable negligence is a child, a disabled person or elderly. These three very vulnerable groups are often unable to communicate what has happened to them or they simply do not know that they were a victim of preventable negligence. These cases often involve a residential facility, a school or other type of care that is provided without a witness. Unpacking and proving these cases presents significant challenges. Here are a few steps we recommend to protect your loved ones and/or determine if they have suffered harm.
First and foremost, if you notice a significant behavioral or health change that should be looked at immediately. As we all know many things can bring upon a behavioral change in someone, most of which do not involve the negligence of a caregiver or caretaker. When you start to notice behavioral changes keep a journal and record your observations. Review the medication and activity logs for changes or abnormal activity. Determine if there are certain people or situations that seem to make the behavior more pronounced.
If you determine that there may be a basis to suspect negligence, abuse or neglect, contact us, but do not mention to the provider that you have contacted a lawyer. It is imperative that we are able to collect evidence before it disappears.
Often the best way to determine what, if anything, has occurred is to have the child or disabled adult independently evaluated by a psychologist that specializes in the pertinent field. Throughout the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas we are fortunate to have many very skilled and specialized psychologists that our office can connect you with.
Lastly, pay close attention to any agreements about photography and video, it is almost universally disallowed to disseminate photos or videos of vulnerable populations, especially children.
When GSW determines that you have a case we will proceed in one of three ways. First and most common is with a 33.3% contingent fee (described above (link)) , second if there were statutory violations by the provider we would still operate on a contingent basis but instead of a percentage, we would collect our hourly rate from the defendant, and any damages would go 100% to the plaintiff. Lastly in some situations we may determine that the case presents too great of a risk to the firm and in order to take the case we would need the client to put up a retainer and pay us hourly. In that situation our pay would be limited to our hourly rate and any recovery would be 100% for the client.
Often with these cases the client is a child or has a diminished capacity that makes them unable to manage a large sum of money. Also, these clients often receive benefits from the state or federal government through Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security Disability. In order to protect those benefits we will create what is called a “structured settlement”. A structured settlement can be in the form of a trust or an annuity. There are pros and cons to both that need to be properly analyzed so that the recovery is available to significantly improve the life of the client. The GSW team works with lawyers that specialize in structed settlements and trusts to ensure that the recovery is managed, and the benefits are protected.
For a consultation on a potential case contact our office for an appointment.
III. Car Accidents
Each day, there are approximately 75 car accidents in the District of Columbia alone. That accounts for over 26,000 per year. Of those 26,000, over 6,000 result in injury to one or more persons involved. Suffering an injury from a car accident can cause a major disruption to your life. These disruptions include hospital stays, medical appointments, rehabilitation, short- and long-term disability, lost wages and in the most serious cases, catastrophic injury and death.
The first step for anyone suffering injuries from a car accident is to retain a lawyer experienced in litigating car accident claims with insurance companies. GSW will evaluate the liability and ensure that if you are not at fault in the accident you are able to recover from the available sources. Once liability has been established, we will determine your damages and provide a basis for how the accident caused the damages. More often than not the work up an experienced litigator does on damages is where you will see substantial value in your attorney. You will be an integral part of the process and our technology will make your role simple and straight forward.
What are the Common Injuries Sustained in Car Accidents?
Car accidents leave those involved physically injured and psychologically damaged. Depending on the severity of the accident, including the speed, the make and model of the vehicles involved and the other circumstances at impact, common car accident injuries include:
- Broken Bones
- Soft Tissue Injury
- Ligament Damage
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Back Injury
- Burns, Disfigurement and Scarring
- Internal Organ Damage
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What Should I do After a Car Accident?
Unless the accident is very minor and it is clear that no one involved is injured, the first thing that should be done after any accident is to call 911 to report the accident. Both the police and EMT will be notified and respond to the scene. This ensures that all parties are provided with immediate medical care if need be and the police can also begin gathering evidence surrounding the circumstances of the accident.
If you are injured, your primary focus should be on your health and well-being. Focus first and foremost on receiving any medical treatment you may need. Only after your health and well-being is addressed should you concern yourself with the accident.
If you are not injured or if you have received medical treatment and are able to do so, begin taking pictures of the aftermath. These photos would include pictures of the vehicle(s) involved, the road conditions, street signs, and any other relevant physical circumstances surrounding the crash. Next, make an effort to speak to and gather contact information for any witnesses to the accident you do not personally know. Although this is something the police should do, they often overlook even the most basic functions of an accident investigation. Gathering witness’s information is critical if the cause of the accident is disputed in the future.
If the police are on scene and investigating it is important to provide a calm and clear statement regarding the events that transpired.
Once you have attended to your physical health, taken pictures, gathered other information and provided a statement to the police you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer. Some people make the mistake of immediately engaging with the insurance companies. Do not do this! It can often take time to determine the full extent of your injuries and our team will make sure settlement does not occur until we are fully ready. Studies show that car accident settlements are 350% higher on average for individuals who hire a lawyer.
Why Choose Gowen Silva & Winograd?
If you search Google for “Car Accident Lawyer” you will be flooded with hundreds of links to every lawyer in the area who claims to be a “car accident specialist.” Unfortunately, a lot of predatory personal injuries “specialize” in car accidents because these cases are ripe to make a quick buck to the detriment of clients with little to no work by the lawyer.
GSW attorneys are not interested in making a “quick buck” by taking advantage of your difficult situation. We are going to treat every case and every client with the attention and respect required to obtain as large of a recovery as possible.
IV. Medical Malpractice
The basic truth in our country is that we have tremendous medical schools and training for young doctors who are exceptionally skilled, but the health system is so unbelievably flawed that preventable mistakes occur on a daily basis in our hospitals. Insurance companies and Hospital systems have taken over the practice of medicine from actual doctors and nurses. Patients today have very little ability to know if the decisions about their care are being made by a doctor or a bureaucrat. Unfortunately, our legislatures do not appear to be that concerned because instead of fixing the system they believe the answer is to make it more difficult to bring a lawsuit against a medical provider and they have.
GSW is highly selective in determining what types of medical malpractice cases it takes on and many involve providers that you may not typically consider as “medical”. Under DC law for example social workers, home health care aids, dentist, and even xxx qualify as a medical providers. Cases involving the neglect of a minor in a residential facility, abuse in a nursing home or negligence by a disabled person’s home health aid provide more avenues to protect the patient because sound regulations have been passed.
We constantly remind potential clients that bad outcomes happen regularly at hospitals and a bad outcome does not mean the provider was negligent. The human body is so complex that sometimes nothing can be done to prevent a bad outcome. However, when preventable mistakes occur they are often caused because of disorganization, not reading the patients medical history, rushing the patient out of the hospital and simply not listening to the patient. The team at GSW is ready to prove that case. We understand that when we decide to take a case we are making a decision that will cost us a fair amount so for that reason we consult with doctors in nurses before proceeding with a case.
What Am I Entitled to as the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
In a medical malpractice cases your damages may include:
- Past Medical Expenses
- Future Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Lost Future Earning Capacity
- Pain and Suffering
It is often difficult to value certain damages in medical negligence cases because they involve a level of complexity far surpassing what you typically see in a car accident or slip in fall. The client often has other medical issues, and we need to show that but for the negligence we are alleging in a specific case the damages we are claiming would have been prevented. Often cases involve a lifetime of damages that no matter how much money the client has can’t be reversed. When this occurs, we create a lifecare plan to properly value the cost of the clients future damages.
Sean Farrelly specializes in medical malpractice cases. Before joining the team at GSW he worked for an elite insurance defense firm on the side of the medical providers, he understands what cases the other side will fight and how they approach settlement in a case. His experience is invaluable and serves our clients well.
V. Consumer Protection
Consumer protection laws in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia forbid merchants from acting in an unfair, unsafe, deceptive, fraudulent, or prohibitive manner when they offer consumers products and services. Unfortunately, some merchants still perpetrate illegal scams and practices against consumers in contexts ranging from relatively small retail store purchases to more complex financial contracts. No matter the size of the injustice, the law protects you and provides remedies to right the wrongs including the defendant paying your attorney’s fees. GSW has successfully represented consumers in cases involving unlicensed contractors, mortgage loans, auto sales, credit reporting, education, harmful product defects, and other forms of injurious practices.
How do I know if I have a Consumer Protection Case?
Consumer protection laws apply to your case if you are a “consumer” in “consumer transaction” with a “merchant” or “seller”. This means that you purchased or leased the product or service for personal, family, or household purposes, and not for a business or for resale, and the person or entity selling the goods or service regularly engages in that type of commerce. Examples of transactions that are protected by consumer protection laws are as follows:
- Consumer Transactions
- John buys a TV for his home from a big box retailer.
- Jane purchases auto-detailing service for her personal car from the local car wash.
- Sara hires a contractor to redo the kitchen of her home
- Non-Consumer Transactions
- John buys a TV from a big box retailer to resale at his store. This is not a consumer transaction because the TV is for business purposes.
- Jane pays her nephew who is not in the detailing business to detail her car. Jane’s nephew is not a merchant because he does not regularly conduct such business.
- Sara’s business hires a contractor to remodel the kitchen at its office. Sara’s business is not a consumer.
How do I know if the Seller Violated the Law?
It is likely the seller broke the law in your transaction if they violated any of the explicitly prohibited practices in the laws, or engaged in unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices, which you relied upon in making your decision and resulted in you being harmed. Common examples of illegal behavior include, but are not limited to:
- mispresenting or concealing a material fact in your transaction to mislead you and that you relied upon;
- advertising or offering goods or services without the intent to sell them or without the intent to sell them as advertised or offered;
- Falsely stating that a service, replacement, or repair is needed, or mispresenting that repairs, alterations, modifications, or services have been performed or parts installed.
- Falsely representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model
If the seller engaged in any of these behaviors, you will next have to show that you relied upon the illegal behavior to go forward with the transaction. This could mean that you would not have purchased the car if you knew it had been in a wreck, or you would not have signed up for cable if you knew there were additional fees. Harm typically takes the form of overpaying for a product or service you didn’t receive or would not have purchased if not for the illegal behavior.
My case is for a small amount of money. Is it worth it to fight? How will I pay for it? What will I get?
The laws of Maryland, DC, and Virginia recognize that there is an inherent power imbalance between consumers and merchants and that it would not be affordable for most consumers to bring lawsuits. To combat this inequity, the consumer protection laws allow you to recover your attorneys’ fees, statutory damages of between $500-$1,500 per violation, your actual damages, and in extraordinary cases punitive or punish damages. This means that GSW may be able to represent you for little or no upfront fees because it can recover them from the Defendant at settlement or trial.