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Olson & Sons – A Law Corporation

What is Considered a Personal Injury in Hawaii?

If you or a loved one was injured because of someone else’s negligence, Hawaii’s personal injury law usually applies. As outlined below, negligence is generally a lack of ordinary or statutory care.

Car crashes, medical malpractice, and other such injuries are not “accidents.” People accidentally leave the water on. They do not accidentally drive drunk and cause car crashes. They certainly do not accidentally misdiagnose their patients.

That being said, personal injuries are usually unintentional. Some people might call them “mistakes.” We all make mistakes, and we all must accept responsibility for our mistakes. In this context, that responsibility means paying compensation for damages. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Vehicle Collisions

Car crashes are one of the leading causes of injury-related death in the United States. Driver impairment causes about half of these wrecks. Some specific kinds of impairment include:

  • Alcohol/Drugs: These substances impair motor skills and judgement ability. This impairment usually begins with the first sip of alcohol, the first pill, or the first puff.
  • Fatigue: Drowsiness and alcohol have roughly the same effect on the body and brain. Driving after eighteen awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Additionally, most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, no matter how much rest they had the night before.
  • Distraction: Hand-held cell phones are not the only source of distracted driving. Other sources include hands-free cell phones, eating while driving, and drinking while driving.

Impaired driving is generally a lack of ordinary care. The duty of reasonable care requires non-commercial drivers to concentrate on the road and be physically fit enough to safely operate a motor vehicle. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) breached the duty of care and that breach substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor is liable for damages.

Traffic violations, mostly speeding and making an illegal turn or lane change, also cause a number of vehicle collisions. Legally, these claims work differently, because of the negligence per se doctrine. In Hawaii, tortfeasors who violate safety laws and cause wrecks are presumptively liable for damages. So, it is easier for a Kona personal injury attorney to obtain compensation in these cases.

Falls Leading to Personal Injuries in Hawaii

Many fall injuries occur away from home. These incidents are especially common in nursing homes. Other away-from-home falls occur in grocery stores and hotels. Property owners are liable for fall-related damages if:

  • Legal Duty: Many jurisdictions draw duty distinctions based on the relationship between the owner and victim. But in Hawaii, most property owners have a duty of care to protect most visitors from injury. This duty also includes a responsibility to conduct periodic safety inspections.
  • Knowledge of Hazard: Owners are only liable for damages if they knew or should have known about the hazard that resulted in the fall. This evidence can be direct, like a restroom cleaning report which indicates a spill was on the floor, or circumstantial.

Common defenses in fall injury claims include the “open and obvious” defense and assumption of the risk. Owners are not liable if an open and obvious hazard, like a grocery store aisle display, caused the fall. Assumption of the risk usually involves a “Caution: Wet Floor” or other sign. The insurance company has the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these matters.

Fall injuries are the most common type of premises liability negligence claim. Other claims include dog bites, third-party assaults due to inadequate security, and swimming pool drownings. The same basic principles discussed above apply in all premises liability claims.

Medical Negligence

Property owners and vehicle operators have a duty of reasonable care. Because of their education and experience, doctors have a higher duty of care with regard to their patients. Most physicians have a fiduciary duty. That’s the highest level of legal responsibility in Hawaii law.

As mentioned above, misdiagnosis is one of the most common forms of medical negligence. Some commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

  • Head Injuries: Many head injury victims show no serious symptoms, other than disorientation and nausea. As a result, doctors frequently misdiagnose car crash-related head injuries as shock from the accident or early onset dementia.
  • Cancer: General and specific misdiagnosis is common in these situations. Since many doctors consider cancer a lifestyle or genetic disease, they do not consider cancer unless the patient fits a certain profile. Specific misdiagnosis means the doctor mistakes an aggressive form of cancer, like mesothelioma, for a non-aggressive form, like non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Heart Disease: Many heart patients do not exhibit signature symptoms. For example, female heart attack victims often do not experience severe chest pains. As a result, doctors often mistake heart disease for something simple, like indigestion.

The higher duty of care makes it easier for a Kona personal injury attorney to establish negligence in these situations. The higher duty of care also raises the possibility of additional punitive damages. These damages are available if the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Connect with Seasoned Kona Personal Injury Attorneys

Personal injuries can occur at any time. We understand that victims of personal injuries need physical and emotional support to move forward with their lives. If you or your loved one has been hurt in a car crash, slip-and-fall, misdiagnosis, or other serious accident caused due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to fight for justice and claim fair compensation. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Kona personal injury lawyer, contact Olson & Sons, L.C. at 808-331-3113 . We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.