In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff asserts that they have sustained an injury due to an act or a failure to act by the defendant. Personal injuries may be mental, physical, or both.
If a plaintiff’s claim is successful, the plaintiff may be awarded money damages for personal injury. Mental health injuries may include things such as the emotional pain and anguish that is associated with an accident.
Physical injuries may include injuries sustained to limbs, organs, or other parts of the plaintiff’s anatomy. The injury that is experienced by a plaintiff is not required to manifest immediately.
This means that even if an injury develops over time, it may still be considered the basis for a claim as long as it falls within the statute of limitations for that jurisdiction. Personal injuries may be inflicted intentionally, such as when the defendant injured the plaintiff deliberately or when they intended to commit an act that resulted in injury.
Intentional injuries occur when one individual’s deliberate act or intent to commit an act injures another individual. This may occur in cases where a defendant commits:
Personal injuries may also occur unintentionally. If an injury that is unintentional results from an individual’s negligence, a plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on that negligent behavior.
Common examples of cases that involve negligence include:
The legal theory of negligence asserts that the defendant injured the plaintiff as a result of breaching the duty of care that they owed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant’s breach caused the injury that resulted in damages, the plaintiff may succeed in their negligence claim.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits are initiated when the plaintiff files a complaint with a court against the defendant who allegedly caused their injuries. A trial may be necessary to give the plaintiff and the defendant the opportunity to present their cases before a court or jury determines liability.
In some situations, the case is settled prior to the trial commencing.
What are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
As noted above, a personal injury claim is a legal action resulting from an individual suffering physical, mental, emotional injuries or property damages. If the injured party, or plaintiff, files a lawsuit, they usually request some type of financial compensation from the party responsible for their injuries.
This compensation is called compensatory damages. These damages are compensating the plaintiff for the injuries they suffered.
When are You Awarded Compensatory Damages?
As previously noted, compensatory damages are awarded to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in before the harm or loss occurred. In general, there are two categories of compensatory damages, including special damages and general damages.
Special damages are awarded to restore the injured party to the position they were in prior to the injury or harm. This typically includes damages that can be calculated, for example:
- Medical expenses;
- Property damage;
- Loss of wages or earnings; and
- Other quantifiable losses.
General damages are awarded for losses that are not as easily calculated, for example:
State laws governing compensatory damages may vary. There are some states that place limits on the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff can receive, especially general damages.
What is a Settlement?
A settlement is a way for the parties to a lawsuit to resolve their case without going to trial. Settlements typically involve money.
Settlements may be formal or informal. Formal settlements are negotiated during settlement conferences, where the parties meet in a formal setting, such as a courthouse, to resolve their differences.
Settlement agreements are legal contracts that resolve the dispute between the parties. These agreements are legal documents wherein all of the parties to the civil case agree to an outcome of any judgment being made in advance.
Typically, when a settlement agreement is reached, there is no need for a trial. This saves all of the parties time and money.
Some settlement agreements may be reached through the process of mediation. In these cases, the court will make the decision regarding whether or not to approve the settlement.
It is important to note that there are requirements for these types of contracts. In general, for a settlement agreement to be valid, it is required to be in writing and must contain the following elements:
- An offer, of what one party promises to do;
- The acceptance of the terms of the first party’s offer by the other party;
- There must be valid consideration provided by both parties;
- This may be be any tangible item of value or intangible benefit, so long as it is reasonable and offered without coercion;
- There must be mutual assent among the parties. This means that both parties agree to the terms without coercion; and
- The contract must have a legal purpose.
The parties would need to confirm these regulations with the current local state laws to ensure that the terms of the agreement are in compliance and the agreement is valid and enforceable.
What is an Informal Settlement?
Informal settlements typically occur early in a court case. They often occur outside of court.
For example, one of the parties may present a settlement offer to the other side. The other party may agree to the offer or may present a counteroffer.
This is typically the starting point for the negotiations between the parties.
What is a Settlement Offer?
A settlement offer is an agreement to reimburse or to be reimbursed by a monetary payment for a certain loss or injury. A plaintiff may submit an offer to the defendant based on expenses such as their lost wages and medical bills.
The defendant may submit an offer to the plaintiff to settle the case.
Do I Have to Accept an Informal Settlement Offer?
No, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant is required to accept an informal settlement offer. As noted above, it may serve as the beginning of negotiations between the parties.
What Happens if I Agree to the Informal Settlement Offer?
Once the parties agree to the informal settlement offer, a written settlement agreement will be drafted and signed by both parties. In order for the plaintiff to receive payment, they are typically required to give up all rights to sue later for any present or future injuries related to the accident.
The lawsuit is then withdrawn.
Do I Need to Talk to an Attorney about an Informal Settlement?
Yes, if you are involved in a civil lawsuit as either a plaintiff or a defendant, it is important to discuss any informal settlement offers or counteroffers with a personal injury attorney. If you are the plaintiff, it is important to determine whether the settlement offer is fair compensation for your injuries.
Your lawyer can explain the laws in your jurisdiction as well as discuss the consequences of accepting the defendant’s offer. If you are the defendant, your attorney can advise you regarding whether the plaintiff is requesting a fair amount of compensation for their injuries.
Having an attorney during settlement negotiations can help ensure that the process is completed efficiently and fairly. They can also make sure that the settlement agreement between the parties will meet the requirements of the jurisdiction.