What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
There is a chance that you will suffer an injury at some point in your life. When someone causes the incident that ends in damage to your body, he or she may be liable for your care. Take a closer look at what a personal injury lawsuit is all about and the steps involved in a case.
What Does ‘Personal Injury’ Mean?
A personal injury under the law occurs when one person’s negligence leads to the harm of another. The trauma must be emotional, mental or physical, and proven by medical evidence. There must be conclusive evidence that the person who caused the damage either broke the law or failed to exercise a common standard of care for others. To fall under personal injury, the at-fault individual must have:
- Known that a duty to protect or care for others exists
- Recklessly and purposely disregarded this duty
- Directly caused harm to another as a result of the breach
As a result of these three actions, the injured individual may file a personal injury suit against the responsible party.
Examples of Personal Injury Claims
Some personal injury claims are more common than others. However, almost any incident that ends with a physical or mental injury could qualify, depending on the circumstances.
Mistakes happen in every profession. However, when an avoidable error occurs in the medical field, the results may be deadly. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider is negligent in caring for a patient and does further harm. Negligence in medical malpractice happens due to a provider’s action or failure to act. Common examples of medical malpractice by a provider include:
- Failure to diagnose
- Wrong diagnosis
- Operating on the wrong body part
- Delaying diagnosis
A hospital or clinic may also be sued for mistakes made by those who work there. Hospitals find themselves in the hot seat when it comes to:
- Charting mistakes
- Dispensing the wrong medication or dosage
- Infection rates
- Delaying medical intervention
The most common personal injury lawsuits involve motor vehicle accidents. If you have been unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash, then you may know how damaging they can be. When a driver is irresponsible behind the wheel and causes an accident, those harmed have the right to file a personal injury suit for damages. The auto insurance provider and the driver may both be named as defendants. In crashes that result in particularly severe injuries, the court may award punitive damages to punish the responsible party.
A slip or trip and fall may not seem like a big deal at the time, but after the embarrassment wears off, the injuries sustained may require medical attention. When a person files a slip-and-fall personal injury suit, it means that there was some underlying condition that caused the incident. In many cases, it means that the conditions were preventable, and had the owner of the property acted appropriately, the fall would not have happened.
A stop at the local park should not result in a trip to the emergency room, but if you have experienced a dog bite, you may find yourself there. When a dog bites a person without provocation, the canine’s owner is responsible for the injuries inflicted. If the dog is known to behave aggressively and is not adequately restrained by the owner, you may file a personal injury suit. The owner knew or should have known that the dog may harm you, yet failed to keep the dog properly restrained.
Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Once you determine that you wish to proceed forward with a personal injury action, there are certain steps you can expect to happen. Since tort law hinges on procedures and timelines, have a lawyer dedicated to your case.
First and foremost, you need to prove that the person responsible for your injury was negligent. While this may appear easy on the surface, remember that the court requires proof and not just supposition. Before they file a lawsuit, your legal team will gather evidence of the negligent action or inaction. Some cases of negligence may be easier to prove than others. For example, it may be easier to prove a drunk driver caused a crash. On the other hand, demonstrating a doctor missed a diagnosis may take more effort.
The Court Process
A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed with the court and served on the defendant. The complaint alleges your assertion as the plaintiff that the defendant’s negligent behavior resulted in damage to your body or mental state. As the process proceeds forward, you may have to go through depositions, independent medical evaluations and document production. This discovery process is lengthy and ends in either settlement or a court appearance.
If your personal injury lawsuit goes before a judge or jury, your legal team will be ready with a request for damages. In personal injury cases, there are three types of damage awards a court may order the defendant to pay to compensate you for the damage he or she inflicted.
Special compensatory damages reimburse you for the money you lost from the time the defendant committed the negligent act until the court process. The total award includes things such as lost income, medical bills and insurance deductibles. You submit receipts proving these losses.
General compensatory damages are subjective. If you receive special compensatory damages, you may also collect general damages. If your injury was particularly painful, you might request that the judge order the defendant compensate you for the pain and anguish.
Punitive damages are the most rarely awarded. The judge or jury may determine that the defendant’s negligence was particularly heinous and the resulting injury to you was equally horrific. A punitive award amount is entirely up to the court, but it is usually far above other damages. Punitive awards punish the defendant financially.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
A personal injury lawsuit is never something you want to leave to chance. You should consider seeking the assistance of an attorney with the appropriate expertise and experience. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!