Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

Court Orders Personal Injury Claimant to Give Facebook Access to Insurance Carrier

By Gary E. Adams

Monday, December 5th, 2011

A woman injured in an auto accident in Pennsylvania was ordered by the judge hearing her civil lawsuit for personal injuries to turn over her Facebook user name and password to the attorneys defending her personal injury claim.  The attorneys representing the insurance carrier for the defendant  discovered that the plaintiff had a Facebook account, and found pictures of her that they felt were inconsistent with her allegations in her personal injury claim.  The Judge’s ruling permitted the defendant to have access not only to her public profile, but to the private portion of her account.

The Court ruled, in the case of Largent v. Reed (Pa. Common Pleas Nov. 8, 2011) that the plaintiff had no expectation of privacy in her Facebook account, and that neither Federal or State law provided her with that right.

This case demonstrates the lengths to which insurance carriers will go to discourage claimants from pursuing their claims for injuries.  Surveillance, Index Bureaus containing a history of all claims ever filed by an individual and other methods of gathering personal information about claimants have long been in use.  Now, even areas of one’s life that were thought to be private are now fair game for insurance carriers, at least in Pennsylvania.

No doubt that enterprising defense lawyers in other states and in other types of claims (including workers’ compensation claims) will be using this case as a basis for obtaining this type of information.

New Jersey Firefighters’ Rule Has Been Abolished

By Gary E. Adams

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Now Emergency Responders injured on the job could be eligible for both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.

In a decision issued on March 13, 2007, the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that the common law doctrine prohibiting first responders from recovering damages from a property owner for a personal injury sustained while confronting an emergency on the owner’s premises, is no longer in effect.

The “Firefighters’ Rule” in New Jersey was created in a series of judicial decisions beginning in 1960. This doctrine prohibited emergency responders, such as police officers, firefighters and rescue squad members, from filing civil lawsuits against property owners for personal injuries they sustained while responding to emergencies, even if the property owner’s negligence caused the emergency responder’s injuries. This doctrine never precluded emergency responders, whether salaried or volunteer, from filing a workers’ compensation claim for an injury sustained during an emergency call. However, emergency responders were not allowed to seek compensation for their injuries from a property owner, even where the property owner’s carelessness caused injury.

Despite almost universal criticism of this rule, which sharply limited the ability of emergency responders to seek compensation for their injuries, this rule remained in place until the New Jersey State Legislature acted in 1993, when it passed a Statute revising the Firefighters’ Rule to allow emergency responders to file lawsuits for their injuries. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the clear language of the new law, insurance companies defending claims filed by first responders continued to argue that police officers, firefighters and rescue squad members were precluded from filing claims for their personal injuries.

The Supreme Court has now made it absolutely clear that the Firefighters’ Rule has been abolished. In the case of Ruiz v. Mero, the Court ruled that the intent of the Legislature was to completely do away with the Firefighters’ Rule. Now, emergency responders, without doubt, have the same right as all other citizens of this State to recover for personal injuries caused by the careless conduct of property owners.