Unlike the loss of or damage to your property, a personal injury involves harm to your body, emotions, or reputation.
Accidents are common. But that does not detract from the pain and emotional stress that can result when one happens to you or your loved one. A personal injury case requires a detailed understanding of the facts, the processes, and the law.
This blog entry provides important information about different kinds of personal injuries, as well as what you need to know about seeking fair and complete compensation should you sustain one. FAQs include:
What is a personal injury?
Do I really need to sue after sustaining a personal injury?
What is the difference between a personal injury and a bodily injury?
What does the word “tort” mean?
What is “tort” law?
What is a civil wrong?
What are some examples of personal injury cases?
What kinds of damages are awarded to personal injury victims?
How are personal injury cases settled?
What is “ambiguous liability?”
How do I know if the insurance company’s offer-to-settle is fair?
What is a personal injury lawyer?
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
Do I really need a personal injury lawyer?
How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?
1. What is a personal injury?
Personal injury involves harm to your body, emotions, or reputation, as opposed to loss of or damage to your property. There are three grounds for which personal injury claims can be made:
Negligence. This is the most common. It arises from a failure to behave in a situation as carefully as would someone exhibiting ordinary prudence. The behavior commonly involves actions (e.g. running a red light), but it can also involve omissions (i.e. when there is a duty to act).
Strict Liability. This holds a person liable for an action irrespective of his or her intent or mental state at the time it occurred. In the case of a company or some other entity, a manufacturer (for example) is held responsible for injuries caused by a defective product or service, even though it did not act negligently or intend to cause harm.
Intentional Wrongs. These result from an intentional act by someone. E.g. battery, assault, false imprisonment, trespass to land, trespass to chattels, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (see source).
2. Do I really need to sue after sustaining a personal injury?
It is natural to think that somehow it is “wrong” to sue for an injury you sustained through the negligence of some other person or party. But you need to weigh that feeling against the stark reality that your injury might have long-term or even lifelong consequences.
The day after an accident, the swelling on your knee that now seems minor might be the beginning signs of a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage that will require long-term physical therapy, medical appliances (e.g. knee braces), surgical repair—and even forever impact your lifestyle.
So, although the idea of suing might make you uncomfortable, someone is going to have to pay the sizable costs for your long-term injuries, and if you do not sue to obtain adequate compensation for them, then that person will be you, which is not fair.
3. What is the difference between a personal injury and a bodily injury?
The term “bodily injury” is usually associated with criminal law, whereas “personal injury” has to do with civil tort law. For example, in a criminal case, someone who was the victim of a violent crime would be said to have suffered bodily injuries from it—not personal injuries.
Bear in mind that “bodily injury” is a wide-ranging term that is used to describe physical injuries to someone. And in the world of insurance, “bodily injury” is a kind of policy that you can buy to compensate accident victims, should you be deemed at fault. So do not be confused.
4. What does the word “tort” mean?
The word “tort” is an Old French word that came into English centuries ago. Its root meaning is “twisted,” the opposite of “straight.” And as being “straight” with someone means being fair and just, the word “tort” has come to mean the opposite, i.e. unfair and unjust, which is to say: wrong. And if you have been “wronged” by the behavior of a person, company, or some other entity, “tort law” is there to help you seek fair and just compensation (see source). Simply put, a tort is a wrongful act or infringement of a right (other than a contract) leading to civil liability.
5. What is “tort” law?
A legal tort is a behavior on the part of a person, company, or some other entity that causes injury to you, and thereby amounts to a civil wrong, and for which a court imposes a monetary liability paid to you. The person, company, or entity is the “defendant” in a personal injury case. You are the “plaintiff.”
The “behavior” is something the defendant did (i.e. an act), or something the defendant did not do but should of (i.e. an omission). “Injury” refers to the denial of one of your legal rights, and “harm” to the loss or detriment that you have suffered, both as might be attributable to the defendant’s behavior.
The primary aim of tort law is to compensate you for the injury and harm caused by the defendant; to impose liability on the defendant, and to deter the defendant and others from behaving similarly in a situation such as yours (see source).
6. What is a civil wrong?
Probably the best way to understand what is a “civil wrong” is to contrast it with a criminal one. Consider:
Criminal wrongs are behaviors that are an offense against the public, society, or the state—even if the victim is an individual. E.g. murder, assault, theft, and driving while impaired. Only the federal or state government can initiate a criminal case. Punishment is often imprisonment and/or a fine paid to the government.
Civil wrongs are behaviors that cause injuries to a person, company, or some other entity. E.g. libel, slander, breach of contract, negligence resulting in injury or death, and/or property damage. Civil cases are initiated by private parties, commonly decided by a judge, and punishment almost always consists of a monetary award to the injured party bringing the suit (see source).
7. What are some examples of personal injury cases?
The most common kinds of personal injury cases in the U. S. are:
Auto accidents. If you have suffered an injury as a result of a car accident and were not at fault, you should seek compensation. You will need to have medical documentation detailing the injuries you have incurred, insurance information, and a detailed account the accident.
Medical malpractice. These cases arise from a physician’s negligence or inappropriate treatment. You must be able to prove that your doctor broke a rule or took incorrect, negligent, or inappropriate actions while treating you.
Product defect. If you have been injured because a product you were using was defective, you should seek compensation. Note that injuries sustained while using “unavoidably dangerous” products are not litigable in this context. (E.g. perms, bleaches, and dyes for hair; dry-cleaning solvent, industrial-strength cleaners, acetone, and benzene.)
Slip-and-fall accidents. If you slip and fall on public or private property, you should seek compensation for any injury you might sustain. These cases usually turn on the safety of the environment, so your case will be stronger if the property was unreasonably or unexpectedly dangerous at the time you were injured.
Wrongful death. These claims involve the death of a person due to the negligence of some other person, party, or entity. For example, if your loved one died in an accident that was the result of an unmarked construction site, then you and/or your family should seek compensation.
8. What kinds of damages are awarded to personal injury victims?
If your personal injury claim is successful, you will be awarded money damages for your injuries. Damages for personal injury might include but are not necessarily limited to:
Mental and emotional distress
Pain and suffering
9. How are personal injury cases settled?
Informal early settlement. Most personal injury cases are resolved this way. The disputing parties, their insurers, and their attorneys conduct negotiations that result in a written agreement to resolve the matter by payment of an agreed-upon sum to you, and both you and the defendant forgo any further action (e.g. a lawsuit).
Formal Lawsuit. If you file a lawsuit instead of settling, lawyers for both sides will start by exchanging pertinent documents and gathering facts (i.e. “discovery”). They will pose written questions to you, the defendant, and possibly others (i.e. “interrogatories”) They might also ask questions in person to be answered under oath (i.e. “depositions”).
Many cases get settled instead of tried after discovery is conducted. Only a small percentage of personal injury cases ever go to trial (see source).
10. What is “ambiguous liability?”
Blame might be spread across multiple parties in some personal injury cases. For example, you might need to file a claim against both the physician and the hospital in a medical malpractice case. Or in the case of a car-truck accident, you might need to seek damages from both the truck driver and his or her employer while simultaneously asserting your own complete innocence (see source).
In such cases, it is crucial to retain a personal injury attorney who can identify the at-fault parties while simultaneously establishing your innocence. This requires gathering evidence. In the case of a car wreck, for example, your personal injury lawyer will obtain, organize, and present accident photos, police records, the official accident report, any eyewitness testimony, and the applicable medical records—all in accordance with tort law.
11. How do I know if the insurance company’s offer-to-settle is fair?
Insurance adjusters are savvy at convincing you that a lowball offer is a generous one. This is something to which you might be susceptible because, amidst the pain, suffering, and life disruption that is the aftermath of your injuries, you might just “want it to all be over.”
Unless you have made a hobby out of studying tort law, you need legal counsel to know what is a fair offer to settlement. Remember that no matter how friendly, agreeable, and sympathetic an insurance adjuster might overtly appear, he or she works for the insurance company, not for you, and is thereby motivated to do whatever it takes within the law to limit your compensation.
If you opt to go it alone—and you are not an attorney yourself—the insurance adjuster will assuredly have an advantage over you. He or she knows the law—and that you do not.
12. What is a personal injury lawyer?
As do all lawyers, personal injury attorneys begin by earning a college degree. They most commonly “major” in political science, social science, history, or English. They then attend law school to receive a JD, and they must subsequently pass their state’s bar exam.
Many personal injury attorneys also take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). This test is constructed to measure how well an attorney understands the subtleties relative to professional contempt, censure, or criminal wrongdoings. It is required in many states.
Some lawyers further their professional studies with a master’s degree specifically dedicated to personal injury law (LLM).
13. How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
If you miss your state’s “statute of limitations” for filing, your case will be summarily dismissed. These time limits can be as little as one year in some states. The period of time dictated by a statute of limitations generally begins the day you were injured or discovered your injury (see source).
14. Do I really need a personal injury lawyer?
Tort law is not for amateurs. It is a complex process by which you pursue fair and just compensation for your injuries and suffering in the aftermath of an accident that was caused by another party’s negligence. Except if you are a lawyer yourself, an insurance adjuster will undoubtedly have an enormous advantage over you if you try to negotiate without legal counsel.
15. How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?
Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the settlement we’re able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
Remember, when it comes to a personal injury claim, you are not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss
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