We recently had an opportunity to speak with Attorney Daniel E. Kleiner of the Philadelphia personal injury law practice of Metzger & Kleiner. A graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law, Mr. Kleiner has established a strong reputation for being a hands-on attorney who represents people from all walks of life regardless of their socio-economic status. Committed to helping people recover compensation proportional to the actual scope of their injuries, Mr. Kleiner emphasizes the merits of each case, regardless of the financial or personal circumstances surrounding the person injured.
Get Legal: Thanks for taking a moment to speak with us today, Mr. Kleiner. You have a reputation for being a very hands-on, effective personal injury attorney. What, in your mind, has made you and your practice so successful?
Daniel Kleiner: If I had to focus in on one thing, I’d have to say the ability to find a way to recover compensation for our clients, regardless of whether the negligent party is insured, uninsured or underinsured.
Get Legal: But aren’t negligent people financially responsible for injuries they cause? In other words, if I hit someone while driving drunk, I’m responsible regardless of whether I have insurance, right?
Daniel Kleiner: Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that because you might not have any insurance or assets to pay damages awarded to the person you’ve injured. For example, I represented the family of a 24-year old mother who was killed by a drunk driver. Sadly, she left behind two children who went to live with their grandparents after their mother’s death. Come to find out, the drunk driver was underinsured. Additionally, after conducting an investigation on my own, there were good reasons to believe the bar that served the drunk driver was liable as well under Pennsylvania’s dram shop law.
Get Legal: What exactly is a dram shop law?
Daniel Kleiner: Basically, it’s a law that says bars, restaurants, liquor stores, even people who throw private parties where minors are served, can be held responsible for injuries resulting from a drunk driving accident if it can be proven that the drunk driver was visibly intoxicated when served. In other words, if you came into my bar slurring your speech and having difficulty walking and I served you alcohol, I could be liable for any injuries or fatalities you cause while driving drunk afterwards.
Get Legal: Okay, so in this particular case you were able to recover damages for the survivors of your client under the dram shop law?
Daniel Kleiner: Yes, in addition to recovering compensation from the underinsured coverage of the mother’s original motor vehicle insurance policy. Here, if a driver has underinsured / uninsured coverage, we can recover all or a portion of the damages involved under the terms of the injured party’s own policy. In cases where negligent driver has umbrella coverage, we can recover damages under that policy as well.
So, let’s assume you were driving drunk and seriously injured my client. One of the first things I’ll do is determine what available sources there are from which we can recover money damages for my client. After all, my client may have serious head injuries where he won’t work again, can’t interact with his family and is in need of extensive rehabilitation or around-the-clock care. Now, we’re talking about millions of dollars over the lifetime of my client. So –
Get Legal: Millions – sorry to interrupt – but how do you know it’s millions of dollars?
Daniel Kleiner: We’ll use an economist or life care planner, you know, an expert who can quantify the actual costs of our client’s injuries. We will also consult medical experts to determine the nature of our client’s injuries. In any case, after we’ve established what our client is looking at in terms of future costs, we make our case to the jury if it goes to trial.
Get Legal: And if it doesn’t go to trial?
Daniel Kleiner: Ah – good question. Here’s another strength of our practice. Insurers know we’re effective, and we have the resources to challenge their experts and the way in which they use a computer software program called Colossus to calculate claims. I understand the shortcomings of Colossus and am prepared to demonstrate to juries how Colossus does not take into consideration the pain and suffering of our clients. As a result, insurers – once they see what they’re up against – are often willing to discuss a settlement without even going to trial.
Get Legal: Doesn’t this mean you have to accept a lower amount of compensation in order to avoid a trial?
Daniel Kleiner: Oh, not at all. In fact, in Pennsylvania, with the exception of government entities, there is no cap on what juries can award an injured person for their pain and suffering. This acts as a big incentive for insurers to think before they try to take a case to trial. And that’s another strength of ours – we’re first and foremost advocates for our clients. We recognize it’s their life, it’s their future, and we have every responsibility to recover as much as possible for the well-being of their family and them. If an insurer wants to settle, we make sure the offer is acceptable to our client first and do everything we can to maximize the compensation offered.
So, going back to something you said earlier, if your injuries are in the millions of dollars, we turn over every rock – so to speak – to find resources we can tap into in order to maximize the recovery of damages for you. If that means tapping into the umbrella coverage of a drunk or negligent driver, that’s what we’ll do.
Get Legal: I can see how this works in the case of car, truck, or motorcycle accidents, but is this the approach you use in other kinds of personal injury cases?
Daniel Kleiner: Sure – the specifics may be different but the central idea is the same. In fact, I represented a woman who was sexually assaulted by her doctor in his office during a post-op consultation. In this case, the victim had been abused as a young child and the emotional and psychological trauma suffered as a result only intensified the pain and suffering she experienced at the hands of her doctor. I provided thorough documentation regarding my client’s psychological state, given her previous victimization. As a result, I was successful in recovering substantial compensation for her pain and suffering.
Of course, this brings up a topic that is rarely considered by personal injury attorneys – assault and battery in either an institutional or medical setting. In this case, my client’s injuries were due to assault and battery and not medical malpractice. Even so, that doesn’t mean doctors can’t be held financially responsible for their actions. This means doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, teachers, let alone corrections officers and the police, can be held financially responsible for injuries they cause to those they are supposed to care for or watch over. In fact, a police officer in Texas was recently charged with sexual assault for conducting a body cavity search of two suspects during a roadside stop. One of the women alleged she suffered bodily injury as a result.
These kinds of cases are particularly important to me because, quite frankly, most of the victims here are people that don’t have the kind of financial or social status that would otherwise shield them from degrading, shameful behavior on the part of doctors, police, teachers, etc. In other words, I think there’s an assumption in institutional settings that mislead people who work within them to assume they can victimize their wards, and they won’t be able to do anything about it. I’m here to tell them differently.
Get Legal: I take it the approach here is to look for multiple sources for the recovery of damages?
Daniel Kleiner: Absolutely. There may be professional insurance in the case of a doctor or teacher, liability insurance coverage for the institution, as well as insurance at the municipal or state level. Depending on the case, we will go after all insurance coverage.
Which reminds me – I represented an elderly man who suffered severe injuries after being attacked by a pit bull. He lived in a gated community where dogs were not allowed. How did a pit bull get into a gated community at all? Well, it turned out that the son of one of the other residents brought the dog with him. So, we sued the mother and son under Pennsylvania’s dog bite law and also sued the condominium association due to its negligence in failing to enforce the bylaws that would have protected our client from people bringing dogs onto the premises in the first place. We were able to recover damages for our client from both sources – that is, the home owner’s policy of the mother and the condominium association’s insurance coverage.
Get Legal: Interesting – do most people realize there are potentially multiple sources for recovering damages in a personal injury lawsuit?
Daniel Kleiner: The average person may not and that’s why it’s my job to make sure my clients understand what we can do for them in this regard. And this is another important aspect to how I approach my clients and their cases. When my clients call the law office, they talk to me – not an intern, not a paralegal, not an answering service, but to me. I work for them. I personally meet with my clients, we always call them back, and we offer free consultations. We look at the merits of the case, not whether someone is wealthy, has a job, is homeless, or is respectable in the eyes of society. If you’ve been injured and have a potential case, talk to us – we’re here to help.
Get Legal: Thank you Mr. Kleiner. It’s been a pleasure –
Daniel Kleiner: No problem – thank you.