Personal injury claims arise when an individual suffers harm as a result of an injury or accident and another individual is legally responsible for causing their injury due to an act or a failure to act by the defendant, or responsible party. The plaintiff, or injured party, must have suffered an injury, which may be physical, mental, or both.
An individual may have the legal right to be compensated for the injuries which were caused by another individual. In addition, an individual may be able to receive different types of compensation.
In many personal injury cases, the court will award the plaintiff compensatory damages for personal injury.
What Kind of Injury Does a Personal Injury Claim Involve?
Personal injuries may damage the plaintiff’s physical health, emotional health, or both. Physical injuries may include injuries to any part of the anatomy, including organs and limbs.
Mental health injuries may include the emotional pain and anguish which was caused by the accident or injury. It is important to note that injuries sustained in personal injury claims are not required to manifest instantly and they may develop over time.
What Kinds of Acts Form the Basis of a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injuries may occur intentionally, for example, when the defendant deliberately causes injury to the plaintiff or if the defendant intends to commit an act which results in an injury. In addition, personal injuries may occur unintentionally.
If an unintentional injury results from another individual’s negligence, a plaintiff may be able to file a lawsuit based on that negligent behavior. Examples of possible negligence cases include:
How are Personal Injury Claims Resolved?
There are two main ways a personal injury claim may be resolved, including through an informal settlement or through a formal lawsuit. It is common for parties to attempt to resolve their personal injury case using an informal settlement prior to considering filing a lawsuit.
Informal settlements involve:
- The parties affected by the dispute;
- The insurers of the parties; and
- The attorneys who represent both sides.
The majority of personal injury cases are resolved using an informal early settlement. Settlements usually involve some form of negotiation as well as written agreements which provide that both sides will forgo any actions, including lawsuits, and will instead resolve the issue by one party paying the other party an amount of money which is agreed upon.
A personal injury case begins when a private individual files a civil lawsuit, or complaint, alleging that their injury or accident was caused by the carelessness or irresponsibility of:
- Another individual;
- A business;
- A corporation; or
- A government agency.
It is important to note that a plaintiff has a limited time frame in which to file their lawsuit because of the statute of limitations. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date which the plaintiff was injured or discovered their injury.
The statute of limitations may vary by state, by claim, and by the type of injury. In many cases, a personal injury claim may be resolved by writing a demand letter and informing the party that caused the injury of the individual’s intent to file a lawsuit while providing them a chance to remedy the issue.
What is Negligence?
The majority of personal injury claims that arise from injuries and accidents are failed based on the legal theory of negligence. The principle of negligence may apply whenever an individual or an organization acts in a careless manner which, in turn, causes injury or harm to another individual.
A plaintiff is required to prove the four elements of negligence in order to prevail in a negligence claim, which include:
- Duty of care;
- Breach of the duty of care;
- Causation; and
The duty of care means that, under the circumstances of the case, the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff. A duty of care may be based on various factors, including the type of relationship which existed between the parties and the situation.
For example, when an individual is operating a motor vehicle, they are expected to operate it safely and exercise a certain level of due care so no harm or injury comes to other individuals. Similarly, the relationship between doctors and patients creates a legal duty to provide the patients with competent medical care.
If a party breached their duty of care, it means that they did not act or refrain from acting as they should have. In order to determine whether a defendant breached their duty, the reasonable and prudent person standard is used.
This means that the defendant’s actions or failure to act will be compared to how an average individual who is in a similar situation would act in the same or a similar situation. If the average individual would have behaved differently than the defendant to avoid causing harm, the defendant may be found liable.
Causation means that the defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the harm or injury to the plaintiff. In other words, a cause-and-effect relationship exists between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries.
When determining causation, it is important to examine whether the harm or injury was foreseeable. In other words, whether the harm or injury reasonably likely to result from the action or inaction of the defendant.
A plaintiff is required to show that they were injured and measurable damages exist. Calculations will be made based on quantifiable items, such as medical bills and therapy bills in addition to possible compensation for mental suffering.
What Can You Recover for Your Injuries?
A plaintiff may be able to recover different categories of losses related to their injuries, including:
- Economic losses, which include lost wages due to the loss of ability to function at work as well as medical bills because of the injury;
- Pain and suffering, which includes any serious and ongoing pain or discomfort that the individual is experiencing because of the injuries;
- This is often difficult to calculate, as it means the plaintiff is required to put a dollar amount on their suffering;
- Emotional distress: If an accident results in a major psychological impact, the plaintiff can recover for the emotional harm which they sustained;
- Loss of enjoyment of life: If an individual’s injuries are preventing them from experiencing life as they did previously, then they can include loss of enjoyment of life as a part of their claim; and
- Property loss: If the accident led to any loss of an individual’s personal property or real property such as land, then they may be entitled to be reimbursed for the amount of loss that they sustained.
It is important to note that the different categories of losses require, for the most part, concrete examples of the damages sustained. For example, emotional distress may be calculated if an individual has to attend therapy or requires treatment because of the trauma by examining the cost of therapy.
Therefore, the loss of enjoyment of life will be harder to prove than economic loss or property loss. It is important for a plaintiff to be able to put a dollar amount of their damages and be able to demonstrate the reason for that amount.
Although a court may change the final amount of damages awarded, if the plaintiff does not request the damages, the court will not grant them.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you or your loved one has been injured due to the actions of someone else, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who will advocate for your rights and assist you with recovering damages for your injuries.
Personal injury cases, especially those involving injury, are complex. A lawyer will be best equipped to present your case to the court or jury and can also assist you in negotiating a settlement prior to filing a lawsuit.