A personal injury claim arises when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else is legally liable for causing that damage. You may have the legal right to be reimbursed for injuries caused by someone else, and you may be able to obtain different kinds of compensation.
How Are Personal Injury Claims Resolved?
The two primary ways of settling a personal injury claim are through informal settlement or a formal lawsuit are:
It is quite common for the parties to try to settle a personal injury claim through an informal settlement before considering filing a lawsuit. An informal settlement involves the parties affected by the conflict, their insurers, and lawyers representing both sides.
Most personal injury cases are resolved through early informal settlement. A settlement generally involves negotiation and a written agreement that states that both parties will forgo any action such as a lawsuit and will instead settle the issue by paying an agreeable amount of money.
A typical personal injury case begins when a private individual files a civil complaint against another person, business, corporation, or government agency, alleging that they caused the accident or injury by acting carelessly or irresponsibly.
It is essential to mention that plaintiffs have a narrow time to file a lawsuit because of the statute of limitations. Generally, the time established by the statute of limitations starts when the plaintiff is injured or discovers the injury. The statute of limitations differs depending on the state, and they also often differ by the kind of injury.
Many personal injury claims are settled by writing a demand letter and notifying them of your intention to file suit but still giving them a chance to fix the problem. Out of the total number of personal injury claims, many are resolved before they get to the courtroom (an estimated 1 in 20 are settled).
What Is Negligence?
For most personal injury cases that arise from accidents and injuries, an individual or organization is held responsible based on the “negligence” theory.
This legal principle can apply whenever an individual or organization acts carelessly, which in turn causes harm or injury to someone else. To have a successful negligence claim against the defendant, the plaintiff has to establish the following four elements:
Duty of Care
This means that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances. The duty of care can be based on various factors, such as the kind of situation or relationship. For instance, when operating a motor vehicle, the person is expected to use it safely and exercise a certain level of due care so that there is no damage or injury to other people. Likewise, a doctor-patient relationship creates a legal obligation to provide the patient with skilled medical care.
Breach of that Duty
This means that the defendant breached their legal duty by acting or not acting in a particular way. The “reasonably prudent person” standard is used to decide whether the defendant breached their duty, which represents how an average person would responsibly act in a given situation. The defendant may be found liable if the average individual had acted differently than the defendant to avoid causing harm.
Causation/Defendant’s Breach Caused the Injury
This means a cause-and-effect relationship between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries. An essential element in causation is resolving whether it was “foreseeable” or reasonably likely that the defendant’s actions would cause the plaintiff’s injuries.
Damages/Plaintiff is Injured
This is the last element of a negligence claim, and it demands that the plaintiff be compensated for the injuries, usually through monetary payment.
Each element must exist to demonstrate a personal injury claim.
What Can You Recover for Your Injuries?
The plaintiff can recover for different types of losses such as:
- Economic Losses: This includes lost wages because of the loss of capacity to function at work and medical bills because of the injury.
- Pain and Suffering: This includes any severe and ongoing discomfort or distress that the person is experiencing because of the injuries. This can be challenging to estimate, as it means the plaintiff needs to put a dollar amount on their suffering.
- Emotional Distress: If an accident leads to a significant psychological effect, the plaintiff can recover for the emotional damage they sustained.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If your injuries prevent you from experiencing life as you did earlier, you can include loss of enjoyment of life as part of your claim.
- Property Loss: If the accident led to any loss to your personal property or real property, such as land, you might be entitled to be reimbursed for the amount of loss sustained.
Keep in mind that the various kinds of losses require, for the most part, a tangible example of the damages. Emotional distress can be calculated if the individual needs to go to therapy (cost of the therapist) or requires treatment due to the trauma.
Comparatively, loss of enjoyment of life is more challenging to establish than property loss or economic loss. It’s vital that you can put a dollar amount on damages, and you’ll need to be able to break down the logic for the amount. While the court can change the final amount, if you don’t request the damages, the court will not grant them.
Is it Hard to Sue for Emotional Distress?
As noted above, emotional distress cases are tricky due to having to establish an injury that you cannot physically see (like chronic anxiety versus a broken leg). Therefore, cases in which emotional distress damages are asserted must be supported by solid documentation that will demonstrate to the court that you have suffered actual damages.
This may mean a therapist, physician, or psychologist diagnosing you with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), or other mental health conditions. This means that an expert witness is often required to help demonstrate to a court that you both suffered an actual injury and the number of damages that resulted from that injury. Because of the use of expert witnesses, suing for emotional distress is often very pricey.
However, suppose you have a valid claim for severe emotional distress. In that case, a personal injury attorney may take your case on a contingency fee basis, saving you from paying high case fees yourself.
In addition to the numerous amount of evidence you must have to establish damages, you must also be able to demonstrate the other elements of an emotional distress claim. This means you must ascertain that the incident that caused the emotional distress was due to the intentional or reckless acts of a person who acted with extreme or outrageous conduct. It resulted in your suffering severe emotional distress.
Outrageous conduct means more than insults, threats, annoyances, or petty oppressions. For instance, someone shouting at you that they hope you die would not result in a proper claim of emotional distress, but someone falsely telling you that your kid or a close family member had been killed may.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Suppose you or someone you know has been injured because of someone else’s actions. In that case, it is essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advocate for your rights and help you recover damages for your injuries.