Your Quick Guide to Personal Injury Law
Accidents by their very nature are unexpected, leaving victims unprepared. Out of necessity, you have to make critical decisions with lasting consequences quickly. It can be difficult to make the right choices when you are suffering injury as a result of an accident. It is a good idea to always be prepared and know your rights, because the more you understand, the better your decisions will be.
In this guide, we will answer common questions about personal injury law and what you should do in the event of an accident. While we provide information and answers to commonly asked questions, this is only a reference — not a substitute for advice from an attorney about your unique situation. To contact us and discuss personal injury representation, please call us toll-free (800) 509-1011 or request a free consultation.
Table of Contents
What Is Considered a Personal Injury?
Personal injury is defined as an “injury not to property, but to the body, mind or emotions.” Economic loss alone is not considered personal injury. For example, if you are in an accident and injured your back and your sunglasses were damaged, a personal injury claim refers only to the back injury and would not include the broken glasses.
Commonly, personal injuries occur as a result of an accident or a slip and fall and may include injury to the back, legs or other areas of the body. Sometimes an accident, for example, will cause psychological injury like post-traumatic stress disorder. Emotional distress without the presence of physical injury may be enough for a personal injury case.
Accidents can be life-changing events. One moment you feel healthy and in control, and the next moment you are lying in a hospital bed. Soon, you find yourself dealing with sky-high medical bills, you’re missing work, and you no longer have transportation. This is time you can not get back.
If you believe someone should be held liable for your suffering, you should contact a personal injury lawyer.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INJURY LAW?
Personal injury law allows the injured person to seek compensation for the harm that was caused to them. To do this, they need to prove that the accused, or the defendant, is liable for the damage. If the defendant is proven guilty, they must compensate the plaintiff for the injury. It is vital that you collect evidence immediately after an accident to help your case if you are physically well enough to do so.
Sometimes a personal injury case will lead to a lawsuit, while other times it may be settled by negotiation. Personal injury claims are different than criminal charges pressed by the government.
In many personal injury cases, the defendant is accused of negligence. As a society, all of us are required to avoid putting others at risk. For example, if someone drives drunk, they are neglecting their responsibility as a citizen because they are putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk. If someone has a dog who tends to act aggressively towards strangers, and they let their dog walk around without a leash, they are being careless. If the dog bites someone, the dog’s owner will be held responsible because of negligence.
Businesses can also be held liable for personal injuries. For example, if a product is hazardous and is not labeled correctly, the manufacturer may be held responsible for the harm the product caused.
Other actions that lead to personal injury cases may be intentional, such as assault or theft.
Personal injury law has existed for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, attorneys accompanied citizens in court to help them with their case and win compensation. Personal injury law has and likely always will make sense.
WHAT TYPE OF LAW IS PERSONAL INJURY?
Personal injury law is a type of tort law. The word “tort” is defined as an act or a failure to act, which causes injury or harm to another person. The goal of tort law is to provide relief to the injured party, place liability on the person who is responsible for the injury and discourage others from performing harmful acts.
Torts fall under three categories: intentional, negligent or strict liability. As mentioned above, intentional actions, or torts, are harmful acts that the defendant knew would cause harm, such as assault. Negligent torts refer to acts that are unreasonably unsafe, and strict liability torts refer to liability without fault. A person who is harmed due to a product defect, for example, may be able to recover compensation based on strict liability.
What Are the Types of Personal Injury Cases?
If you slip and fall or were in a car accident, you may or may not have a personal injury case. Most personal injury claims arise as a result of someone’s negligence. To determine negligence, the following four elements are needed:
- Duty: The defendant legally owed a duty to the victim. For example, employers have a responsibility to their workplaces hazard-free. If someone is injured due to an employer’s failure to keep the work area safe, there may be a case.
- Breach: The defendant breached or violated their duty. The defendant must have failed to do everything in their power to keep an accident from happening. For example, if you fall outside of a store because you tripped over your own feet, the store is not responsible for your fall. However, if you slipped on ice as a result of the store owner’s failure to clear the sidewalk, you may have a case.
- Causation: The breach must have caused the injury. If there was something else that could have caused the injury or if too much time has passed since the injury occurred, there will not be a case.
- Damages: The victim was injured due to the breach. The victim must be able to prove that they experienced harm as a result of the breach, whether that be physical or emotional damage.
Without all of these elements, you will not have a personal injury case. Also, you will need evidence, such as medical bills or eyewitness accounts, to prove the above elements exist.
As the plaintiff, you can seek compensation for your injury either by filing a civil lawsuit against the defendant or reaching a settlement early on. However, once you accept a settlement, the case is closed, so it might be best to consult a lawyer first.
Injury can occur in a variety of scenarios, and no personal injury case is the same. A claim that involves physical or emotional injury caused by another person or entity could be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Some common personal injury cases include:
Common premises liabilities include but are not limited to:
Product liability is the result of a defective product. Medical malpractice is when a doctor fails to take action or acts unreasonably causing harm to a patient.
Any time you are injured or suffer as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, you might have a personal injury case whether you experienced one of the common situations above or your circumstances are unique.
What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
If you suffered an injury and someone is at fault for it, you will want to take steps towards getting justice right away. The longer you wait, the more you risk violating a statute of limitation.
A statute of limitation denies claims made after a certain period of time has passed. The period depends on the jurisdiction. Simply put, you have a deadline when it comes to filing a claim. If you miss the deadline, the case may be dismissed.
If you suffered an injury in an accident, take the following steps:
- Seek medical help and contact a lawyer: In a serious accident, you may not have the time or be able to collect evidence. Your priority will be to get the medical attention you need. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to help you with the next steps.
- Collect evidence: Immediately after an accident or injury, take notes, and get pictures. You want to collect evidence and record as much as possible. That way, you will have more than just your memory to rely on when you need proof. You will want to take notes about the days after the injury too, describing the pains you are experiencing and conversations you have had. Make sure to label your records with dates and times.
- Return to the scene: Go back to the scene the next day to take photographs or collect additional pieces of evidence. Take pictures from various angles.
- Identify and locate witnesses: Witnesses can make or break a case. You will want to locate witnesses as quickly as possible before their memories fade. Get witness information immediately after an accident. If you were unable to do this, contact a lawyer to help you find witnesses.
- Give notice: Notify the person you intend to file a claim against as soon as you can. It is not necessary to give them other details. In the case of a slip and fall, you will want to notify the property manager immediately after the fall.
After insurance parties and defendants have received notification of your injury, you may have the option to accept a settlement, or you may proceed to court. It is your choice whether you want to settle or sue. At this point, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer if you haven’t already.
A lawyer will help you determine if you have a case or not and make sure you take the best course of action. If you are wondering if you should sue, just remember that you are the victim. You have a right to receive compensation for the harm caused to you.
If you do not agree to the settlement, a lawyer will ensure your lawsuit is filed correctly and will pursue the case until you reach a settlement or schedule a trial. Once the lawsuit is filed, you just need to be patient, take care of your health and keep a record of all accident-related expenses. Your lawyer will do the rest of the work for you.
How long will a case take to resolve? That depends on your condition. It is best to wait until you are medically stable before negotiating a settlement. You do not want to settle too quickly and then find out months later that you are still unable to work due to an injury.
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF PERSONAL INJURY CASES GO TO TRIAL?
Only a small percentage of personal injury cases go to trial. Most are settled outside of the courtroom. Settling means you, your lawyer and the other party will likely reach an agreement for the compensation owed to you, and you will not need to go to trial. A personal injury lawyer would ensure you reach a fair settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer will help you go to trial and fight for you in court.
How Much Will I Get?
The point of a personal injury settlement is to receive compensation for all of the losses that accrued as a result of the injury. This might include medical bills, time missed from work and compensation for pain and suffering. It can be hard to put a dollar amount on pain and suffering or the emotional or physical distress resulting from an injury. It is up to the judge to decide on a fair payment amount.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF WINNING A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT?
Your chance of winning a personal injury lawsuit depends on several factors. First, you need to be able to prove that someone else caused your injuries. It is critical you seek medical assistance immediately after the injury to take care of your health and to obtain proof of the harm caused. Your medical documentation can help you win your case.
It is also important to collect as much evidence as possible, such as photos and labeled notes. Your lawyer will help you gather the evidence you need and will ensure you take the right steps to build your case.
WHEN SHOULD I HIRE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER?
Personal injury law is a complicated subject. A lawyer can help you understand insurance claim settlements, your rights as a victim and the laws that apply to your unique situation. Another good reason to hire a lawyer is to make sure you do not miss the deadline to file a claim.
Suffering an injury is not easy and often involves a lot of emotional stress. It is hard enough to stay on top of a personal injury case and make sure you are doing all the right things. It is much more difficult to handle a case if you are not feeling well.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can do the work for you while you take the time you need to recover. A good lawyer will fight for the compensation you deserve and will not settle for less.
Often, accident victims will settle for the first number insurance companies offer them, so they do not have to deal with them anymore. We understand that you want to move on with your life. However, settling right away can be a huge mistake.
What if you find out months down the road that you need expensive surgery because of the accident, but you already settled? A personal injury lawyer will make sure you do not make a move you will later regret. They will also help you determine if you should receive compensation for injuries like pain and suffering.
If you are a victim of an accident, you should not have to experience any further suffering. You deserve fair compensation, and a lawyer can drastically increase your chances of winning your case. In such a crucial time, making the wrong decision can have lifelong consequences. Do not make an unfortunate mistake. Contact KBG Injury Law today for a free consultation and get an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.