Car accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, wrongful death. These incidents happen all the time, but their frequency does not diminish the injury, the pain and suffering, or the confusion that impacts the victim and their loved ones.
What is “Personal Injury?”
A proper personal injury case is a matter entailing one person suffering from an injury in an accident in which it is believed a third party is at fault. The law says that third party can be held responsible for the victim’s injury and all its complications.
The personal injury case is the legalized manner in which all parties come to an agreement as to what transpired, who is responsible and what compensation, if any, should be applied. A formalized civil court proceeding, these disputes are settled through jury or judge, mediation or, more commonly, via a settlement determined by both parties. A settlement frequently takes place before a lawsuit is ever filed.
Criminal cases are initiated by the state or federal government. Personal injury cases are typically filed by private citizens against another person, corporation, store or other entity. The citizen, or plaintiff, alleges the second party, the defendant, is responsible for an accident and injury that left the plaintiff victimized.
Whether the accident was the result of negligence, carelessness, irresponsibility or inaction, any person or entity can be held accountable for their connection to an injury or accident that caused harm.
Most personal injury cases are settled through informal early settlement. These negotiations usually involve plaintiffs, insurers and attorneys for both sides. The settlement ends with a written agreement, usually with the understanding there will be no further legal action taken, such as a lawsuit. There will be an agreed upon amount of money to be paid out.
Statute of Limitations
In the event of an accident, individuals have, by law, a limited time in which to file a lawsuit. This is the statute of limitations. In general, that period starts when the plaintiff is injured or becomes aware of the injury.
Statutes of limitations vary state-to-state and can even vary based on the type of injury. In the state of Illinois, personal injury matters have a limit of two years. The limit is five for damage to personal property. These guidelines are in place to ensure claims are made in a timely manner. They are also designed to eliminate the threat of a lawsuit being held against any party indefinitely.
Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
Duty to Act with Reasonable Care
The first element of a personal injury claim is satisfying the idea that the defendant did not act with reasonable care. In the case of an auto accident, the concept would apply if the defendant drove in a matter that caused an avoidable incident with others on the road. Everyone has a responsibility to use duty of care on the road, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. With slip and falls, duty of care applies to home and business owners who did not clear ice or other hazards on their property where pedestrians walk.
Failure to Perform with Reasonable Care
Another critical element of the case is proving there was a breach in exercising reasonable care. This can include a retailer not posting a sign that the floor is wet, or a drunk driver or sleeping trucker causing an accident. In personal injury cases, the accident does not have to be intentional. Liability is grounded in responsibility, not in intent.
Causation encompasses the concept that a lack of reasonable care resulted in an injury. The act itself does not have to be solely the blame. It simply has to be recognized as a contributor to the accident and the injury. In a lot of cases, all involved parties’s actions will be assessed. This could lead to the injured being held partly responsible for their injury and affecting what kind of compensation they would receive.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Attorneys with experience in personal injury have backgrounds with civil court, mediation and negotiation, insurance companies, and arguing before judges and juries. They know the worth of a case, taking not just the injury into account but mental anguish, pain and suffering. This can be difficult to quantify. Insurance companies and the defense will do everything in their legal power to downplay compensation. This is why it is best to have a lawyer. Besides dealing with stubborn insurers, they will pursue all your legal alternatives, including a lawsuit.
As you can see, personal injury cases can be extremely complex. The only real way to navigate them is with a lawyer experienced in these matters. If you or someone you know in the Phoenix, Chicago or Denver areas have been injured through no fault of their own, contact Lamber Goodnow.