Personal Injury is defined as injury to a person’s body, mind or emotions, as opposed to injury to property. Such cases involve legal disputes arising when a person suffers bodily harm or injury (including emotional distress) as a direct result of someone else’s actions.
A Personal Injury case may be filed in order to hold that person responsible and can be formalized through civil court proceedings via a court judgment. Alternatively, such disputes may also be resolved through informal settlements before any lawsuit is filed, which is a more common occurrence.
There are several types of personal injury claims that can be brought against an individual or entity. However, the more common ones include –
- Road traffic accidents
- Tripping accidents
- Assault claims
- Accidents at work
- Accidents at home
- Product defect accidents
- Holiday accidents (e.g. while on a cruise ship)
Negligence usually describes a situation when someone does something wrong, which causes someone else to get hurt. A person can be held liable for any damages they cause through their careless or ‘negligent’ behavior.
Negligence can include simple examples such as forgetting to lock your front gate and letting your dog run free and attack someone, or much more complex events that cause a series of events to take place.
What should I do when I’m in an accident?
If you’re in an accident, there is a list of things you need to keep in mind that include –
- Stay at the accident site – Never leave an accident site unless advised or if it is appropriate to do so. If you leave, especially when someone has sustained injuries or is killed during the accident, you could face serious criminal charges for being a hit-and-run driver.
- Check on all drivers and passengers – First ensure that everyone involved in the accident is okay (before assessing damage to property). Call for medical help, if required. Also, unless absolutely necessary, do not move a person if unconscious or suffering from neck/back pain.
- Call the police – In case of significant property damage, physical injury or death, you need to call the police. Ask for a police report to be filed and obtain the names and badge numbers of the responding officers.
- Talk to witnesses – ask every witness at the site and obtain their names and contact information, if possible.
- Obtain necessary information – Get the names, contact details, drivers’ license numbers, license plates and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. In case of passengers, obtain their contact information as well, if possible. However, you shouldn’t apologize for anything at the accident site since immediately after an accident.
- Inform your insurance company – Promptly inform your insurance company that you’ve been in an accident and provide them with all the facts. Do not withhold information or lie about anything since you could get into serious trouble, and may also possibly be denied coverage for the accident.
- Maintain records of your medical treatment – Keep records of all the medical treatment you receive since these medical reports and bills will help you prove your medical expenses later. Also keep an account of how your injuries may have impacted your daily life and routine activities.
- Take photographs – Click photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photographic evidence makes it easier for insurance companies to assess damages helping them determine how much you should be compensated for the damage.
- Get a property damage valuation done – Obtain your insurance company’s damage valuation. If you are not satisfied, there are other options you can pursue including mediation or consulting an attorney.
- Be careful when discussing the incident – Do not discuss the accident with anyone other than your lawyer, insurance company and the police. Always make sure you have either your attorney or insurance representative when talking about the incident.
- Watch out for early settlement offers – Be careful in case an insurance company reaches out to you with an early settlement offer. Don’t settle a claim until you’re convinced that you are being fully compensated for all your injuries. Always consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents!
- Consider hiring an attorney – In case anyone was injured in the accident, it would be best to consult an experienced attorney since a competent attorney can help you maximize your recovery if you’re injured or better defend you in case you’re at fault. Many accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only receive a fee if you are awarded any damages or a settlement.
When seeking reimbursement, it is common for people to face issues with insurance companies. If you’re facing trouble getting your medical bills paid, seek the counsel of a Personal Injury attorney. Attorneys have experience working with insurers and can get you the highest possible settlement.
They are also experienced in obtaining compensation for general damages that are usually difficult to determine such as pain and suffering, and mental anguish, which is in addition to the actual costs of your medical bills.
Statute of Limitations – Under local, state and federal law, you have a short period of time during which you need to file your claim in case you have been injured in an accident or have incurred property damage. This time limit is called the statue of limitations and varies by state. If you feel the need for an attorney to help you with your claim, contact one as soon as possible.
Personal Injury claims vary extensively based on the type of accident and injuries sustained, which can also be varied in nature. This is why it is virtually impossible to predict how long it will take for a claim to be settled or resolved.
The final amount is decided according to ‘damages’ incurred. These damages are based on procedures used to figure out what your injuries have cost you monetarily, physically and mentally. A figure can be agreed upon after a negotiated settlement involving the concerned parties, their insurance companies and their lawyers. Alternatively, they may be ordered by a judge or jury following a court trial.
Lawsuits involving personal injury claims can take months or in some cases, even years to reach a settlement agreement with the parties responsible for the injuries and other losses. Many settlement agreements are reached during the pre-trial period. However, if your case is complex, the entire process can take several months or even years to complete.
‘Slip and fall’ is a term used for personal injury cases where a person slips or trips and is injured on someone else’s property. These cases typically fall under a broader category of cases known as ‘premises liability’. Slip and fall accidents usually occur on property that is owned or maintained by someone else, and the property owner may be held legally liable.
Some examples of dangerous conditions that may cause slip and fall accidents include –
- Torn carpeting
- Changes in flooring
- Poor lighting
- Narrow stairs
- Wet floors
- Broken or cracked public sidewalks
- Outdoor accidents due to rain, ice, snow or hidden hazards such as potholes in the ground
In any event, it is important that the plaintiff must have suffered some kind of injury in order to be in a position to file a claim.
Wrongful Death claims can arise in situations where an entity or an individual engages in negligent activity, is careless or intentionally breaches his or her legal obligation, directly causing the death of a person. When a person dies or is killed as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another, including murder, the surviving members of the victim’s family may sue for ‘wrongful death’. It is important to note that a lawsuit for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
Some examples of situations that may lead to a wrongful death claim include –
- Medical malpractice (including misdiagnosis or botched surgery) resulting in the decedent’s death
- Car or airplane accident
- Occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances
- Fatal slip-and-fall
- Drowning accident in an unsecured swimming pool
- Fatal dog attack
- Malfunctioning of a defective product directly causing death
- Criminal behavior
- Death during supervised activities