Accidents occur every day. Unfortunately, injuries caused by these accidents can lead to painful conditions and financial loss. Many people are left wondering, “What can I do to get help with my medical and financial hardships?”
A personal injury claim may be the difference between securing your family’s future or falling on hard times. Of course, not every accident warrants a personal injury lawsuit. Before investing the time and effort into seeking compensation for your injury, you should know a few things.
Firstly, how do you know if you have a solid case on your hands? What types of personal injuries are eligible for compensation? And, what are the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit?
For many, navigating the legal aspects of a personal injury claim can be overwhelming. You must file all the paperwork correctly, communicate with the insurance company, and present the facts in a convincing manner. This becomes especially important if you’re spending time in and out of the doctor’s office or dealing with pain.
Consulting with a personal injury attorney may be the best way to understand if your accident qualifies you for reimbursement. Of course, if you have that DIY spirit and want to learn more before calling an attorney, this guide can help you understand what qualifies as a personal injury claim.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
According to the American Bar Association, a personal injury claim involves two basic components. Before even considering filing a claim, ask yourself these questions:
- Was the other party liable for the damages I sustained?
- What is the nature and extent of my physical, mental, and emotional injuries?
If the other party was liable for your injuries, you may be able to file a claim or personal injury lawsuit.
As a result, you become the plaintiff of the case. The individual who caused your injuries is considered the defendant. In most cases, attorneys will gather the facts, question key witnesses, and review any necessary paperwork—like police reports or medical records. In addition, you may have to answer some basic questions under oath. This is known as a deposition.
Many cases are settled long before you go to trial. For example, if you were involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, the insurance company may offer you a settlement. Sometimes, however, the insurance company will offer you less than you actually deserve. This is why it is important to have a lawyer handle your claim.
Types of Personal Injury Claims
Many personal injury claims involve automobile accidents. Given the vast amount of accidents occurring on the road each day, this is no surprise. Especially when one driver is typically at-fault. Other situations can arise, however, that may present eligibility for a claim. These include:
- Slip & fall accidents: Property owners or employees have a legal duty to keep their premises safe and free of hazards. Not cleaning up spills, uneven flooring, or dangerous staircases can lead to serious slip and fall accidents. Of course, not every slip and fall warrants a case. The legal obligation of a property owner depends on the exact situation and the state’s premises liability laws.
- Medical malpractice: When a doctor or other healthcare provider fails to provide competent care, it may result in an injury. This category may include birth injuries, errors with anesthesia, misdiagnosis, or errors during surgery. These cases involve complex legal and medical issues and require the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
- Libel & slander: Intentional defamation of character occurs when a person says or publishes untrue or negative statements. You must be able to prove the untrue statement caused your injury (usually in the form of financial loss).
- Product liability: When a defective product causes you injury—e.g. an electronic product causes a fire in your house—you may be able to obtain compensation. However, you must prove that you used the product according to manufacturer’s guidelines and that it had an unexpected defect or danger. Like premises liability legislation, product liability laws vary by state.
Common Types of Personal Injuries
Once you prove the negligence of the other party, you need to establish the extent of your injuries. This can include physical, mental, emotional, or financial losses. A personal injury lawsuit can help you recover losses, including:
- Medical expenses: Healthcare is expensive. Especially when you suffer a major injury like a slipped disc, spinal cord injury, or traumatic brain injury. The costs associated with a specific injury—such as hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and therapy—can be recovered if you meet the criteria.
- Pain and suffering: In addition to medical bills, the physical and mental anguish associated with your injury may result in a bigger settlement. Of course, proving pain and suffering can be difficult to do on your own. A personal injury attorney can help you calculate how much compensation you deserve for physical discomfort and emotional distress.
- Loss of earnings or earnings capacity: If your injuries prevent you from performing your job, you can also sue to recover lost wages. In addition, if your injury disrupts your ability to earn promotions or improve your income, you may receive added compensation.
- Loss of consortium or enjoyment: When your personal injury directly affects your spouse, the spouse can be named as an additional plaintiff. They may earn compensation for loss of marital benefits, childcare, and enjoyment of life due to your injuries.
- Wrongful death: Unfortunately, not everyone survives a bad accident. When an accident victim dies, it can place undue hardship on the surviving family members. This can include funeral expenses and lost income for the family.
Proving Your Case: What You Should Know
Unless you’ve been to law school, navigating the legal system can be very confusing. If you want to successfully settle a claim, you need to make sure all your ducks are in a row.
How do you go about successfully settling a personal injury claim? For example, let’s take a car accident. If you were injured in a car accident, you need to prove that the other party was at fault. A police report, witness statements, and evidence found at the accident scene may be helpful. If you can prove that your injuries are directly related to the car accident, you have an excellent chance of settling your claim successfully.
But what if you had pre-existing conditions? For example, maybe you were dealing with back pain prior to the accident. The accident may have worsened your condition but didn’t cause all of your problems. Obviously, the insurance company will make a big point of this so that they can settle for less. A personal injury attorney can, however, investigate the accident to determine how much the event affected your injury.
Some states, like Florida, also have “no-fault” motor vehicle laws. This means that regardless of who is at fault, your insurance company will pay a portion of the medical bills, lost wages, and replacement services costs. This information is described in your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. If the costs of your injuries exceed the PIP coverage, you can sue the other party for additional damages.
Some states also have comparative negligence laws—formerly known as contributory negligence. This means, if it is determined that you were at least partly at fault, you may not get the full amount of your settlement. The amount of fault is usually described as a percentage. For example, if you sue the party and it is determined that you were 20% at-fault, a claim for $10,000 may only yield $8,000 in compensation.
If you were deemed to be at 50% or more at fault, you have little chance of settling a successful claim. A personal injury lawyer can make sure—using all the information about your accident and injury—your percentage is fair and accurate.
Statute of Limitations
The law limits the amount of time that you have to file a personal injury claim. Each state has its own set of laws. Florida, for example, gives you four years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit. If you miss filing during this timeframe, you still may have a chance to initiate a lawsuit. It is, of course, pretty rare to find out that an accident caused your injuries more than four years after the event occurred. This will not look good in court.
While a four-year statute of limitations applies to most personal injury cases, there may be exceptions. For example, in Florida, you must start a medical malpractice claim two years after discovering an injury or four years from when the malpractice occurred. If the healthcare provider covered up their negligence, however, you may have up to seven years to file.
Be sure to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn the statute of limitations for your case.
Think You May Have A Successful Personal Injury Claim? We Can Help.
The Ward Law Group is dedicated to helping individuals and families who were devastated by personal injury. Our bilingual team has secured millions for our English- and Spanish-speaking clients.
Handling a personal injury lawsuit can be tricky. But, we have the experience to handle any mediation and negotiation so that you can get the compensation you deserve. Set up a consultation today to find out how The Ward Law Group can help.