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Understanding Hawaii’s Personal Injury Laws: Insights from a Local Attorney

May 17, 2023

In the most extreme cases, any type of personal injury case may cause serious spinal cord, neck, and brain injuries, not to mention death. And when another person’s recklessness or negligent behavior has caused these injuries or fatalities, the victims and their loved ones have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault party.

Of course, that recompense is contingent on a number of variables, including the severity of a victim’s injuries and their long-term effects on the victim and their loved ones. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a Hawaii personal injury incident, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified attorney to learn more about your options moving forward.

In the meantime, read on to learn more about Hawaii’s personal injury laws and overall claim process.

Auto Accident Statistics in Hawaii

First, it’s important to keep in mind that auto accidents are, by far, the most common personal injury claim filed in our courts today. Per the latest data from the Hawaii Department of Transportation, around 80 to 100 victims are killed annually in vehicle accidents across Hawaii.

Sadly, around 95 people died in Hawaii motor vehicle accidents last year, a figure that topped the prior year’s rate. Moreover, alcohol was a contributing factor in over 30% of these incidents, while roughly 40% of these incidents were caused by excessive speed.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Hawaii

The statute of limitations in Hawaii stipulates how long you have to bring a case in the state’s civil court system after an accident. This time restriction is typically two years, and the clock starts on the date of the accident.

Remember that you also have two years to file a case against a municipal, county, or state government agency for personal injury.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Understanding Hawaii's Personal Injury Laws: Insights from a Local AttorneyOccasionally, you may file an insurance claim or court lawsuit against another person or business, only to have that person or entity assert that you were partially or wholly liable for the accident that caused your injuries. In these cases, Hawaii adopts a comparative negligence rule that lessens or eliminates damages based on the proportion of culpability ascribed to you.

For example, assume that you were involved in a rear-end crash as the lead driver (the motorist in front). It will likely be determined that the driver who hit you takes most of the fault for following too closely or failing to pay attention to their surroundings. However, you may be assigned a percentage of the fault if you stopped suddenly or didn’t use a turn signal. Your proportion of fault could be 10%, while other drivers’ share is determined to be 90%.

If your total damages amount to $1,000, the comparative fault rule will limit your compensation to $900, or $1,000 minus $100. (representing your 10% of the fault). If you are determined to be 50% or more at fault in an accident, however, your judgment will instantly be reduced to zero, and you will be unable to collect from any other party at fault.

Is Hawaii a No-Fault State?

Meanwhile, Hawaii is one of the few remaining states with a “no-fault” system for auto accidents and the use of insurance coverage to pay damages. Under Hawaii’s no-fault system for accidents, the first step for anyone injured in an automobile accident, no matter who caused the crash, is to submit a claim with their insurance coverage.

Until certain criteria are satisfied, those who have been injured in an automobile accident often cannot file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.

You may only file a lawsuit against an at-fault motorist in Hawaii if:

  • The accident resulted in over $5,000 in benefits paid (medical expenses or other damages) under the no-fault policy, or…
  • You sustained severe and permanent injuries as a result of the accident (loss of use of a body part or bodily function or severe and permanent disfigurement that results in extreme mental or emotional distress).

Other Types of Personal Injury

It probably goes without saying that there are other types of personal injury claims outside of car accidents, and different rules or stipulations may apply.

For example, if a dog bite or attack injures a victim, the dog’s owner may be partially shielded from liability in the case that the bite or attack is the first time the owner’s dog has injured someone, provided they had no cause to suspect the dog was dangerous.

This is often known as the “one bite” rule. Dog owners in Hawaii, however,  are deemed strictly responsible. In other words, the dog’s previous conduct or behavior doesn’t come into play because, under Hawaii law on dog attacks, the owner is responsible for any injuries and other damages caused by their pet.

Caps on Damages in Hawaii Injury Claims

In personal injury cases, damages are often capped or restricted. Each state has specific limits, defines the types of injuries they apply to, and the categories of capped damages.

In Hawaii, non-economic (also known as pain and suffering) damages are capped at $375,000. There are exceptions, including damages for mental trauma and emotional suffering. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that this restriction applies only to claims involving medical negligence or malpractice.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Honolulu

Our personal injury lawyers at Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner are always on call and prepared to represent clients who have been injured. If you have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of an accident that was caused by the carelessness of another party, our team will stop at nothing to ensure that you obtain the justice and fair settlement that you deserve.

Oftentimes, the emotional anguish and intense physical pain that result from these incidents only add insult to injury, on top of the astronomical expenditures associated with treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term care.

Thankfully, our personal injury attorneys in Honolulu are committed to helping our clients throughout the entirety of the claim process in their pursuit of justice and fair recompense for the damages they have sustained as a result of an accident. If you are interested in a free first consultation as well as a claim review with a member of our team, please do not hesitate to call us at 808-537-2525 right away.

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