While getting hurt is the last thing anybody wants, it’s important to be prepared in case of an accident or some other type of injury-causing event. Depending on the situation, you may feel the need to look into what legal rights and options you have. For some, a personal injury lawsuit may be something to pursue in order to receive some level of financial compensation after the injury.
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What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action that is brought by an injured person against another party, whether that’s an individual or an entity, which claims the other party is responsible for their injuries. This type of lawsuit can allow a person to receive compensation for factors such as lost wages, any medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Winning a personal injury lawsuit isn’t just about identifying another party as being responsible for your injuries. A person will need to prove beyond doubt that a defendant is liable for the injuries due to their own fault or negligence. If this is proved, a court will determine how much you should be awarded.
Common Examples of Qualifying Personal Injuries
There’s really no limit to what may qualify as a personal injury lawsuit, but it traditionally stems from injuries caused by:
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Car accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workplace accidents
It’s important to acknowledge that you shouldn’t file a personal injury lawsuit when the fault is completely your own. For example, if you get into a car accident because you weren’t paying attention to the road and rear-ended somebody, suing the other driver is a poor idea.
On that topic, the type of personal injury lawsuit that a person files will be completely dependent on their accident. If there were not proper guardrails at your place of work and you fell, the lawsuit would be against your employer. Whereas in the case of a car accident, you may sue another driver or even a vehicle manufacturer.
What Must Be Proved in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In the majority of states, the number of cases that actually reach a trial are underneath 30%, meaning they are settled outside of the courtroom. However, if a personal injury lawsuit does go to court because the other party disagrees on certain aspects of the case, the plaintiff will need to start by proving negligence of the defendant. For a personal injury case, this means proving:
- There was a duty of care owed to you by the defendant
- That duty was breached
If the breach of their duty caused your injuries, then negligence can be confirmed. However, this isn’t as easy to prove as it sounds. For example, if you were injured by a defective product then you may need to prove that there was a legitimate problem with the product manufacturing. Additionally, if you were in a car accident then you will need to prove the other party was speeding or driving in a way that endangered you.
Be aware that when you take a defendant to court, the court may decide that you are partially at fault for your own accident. There are two paths a court can take when determining this: contributory negligence and comparative negligence.
Contributory negligence states that a plaintiff cannot recover damages if they had partial fault for their own injuries. There is a doctrine known as Last Clear Chance that a judge can use to overrule contributory negligence, which states that if the defendant had the last clear chance to stop the accident then they could still be held responsible.
Comparative negligence, on the other hand, says that financial compensation for a plaintiff will simply be reduced by their portion of the fault in the accident. Say you were rushing to cross the street and didn’t make it across by the time the walk sign turned off, then you were hit by a car turning right. A court may decide that you were 20% responsible and only award you 80% in damages.
The Statute of Limitations
Be aware that most personal injury cases have a statute of limitations. This is a deadline for filing a lawsuit. If a lawsuit is not filed by the time the deadline passes, the legal claim isn’t valid. Certain things have no statute of limitations, such as murder or manslaughter, but personal injury claims do.
This statute of limitations will vary on a state-by-state basis, but two years from the time of accident is a commonly seen deadline. Consult with a lawyer from your state to determine how long you have to file a civil suit.
Collect what you’re owed in the event of an accident
Being in an accident and working through injuries is never a good thing. However, don’t leave money on the table if the cause of the accident was someone else’s negligence. Reach out to a qualified civil suit attorney in your area to discuss what options you may have regarding your accident.