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What Does Personal Injury Mean?
After being hurt by someone else's wrongful actions or negligence, you deal with physical, emotional, and financial stress. You may not be able to go back to work anytime soon, and life as you once knew it is no longer enjoyable. With all of these different impacts from your injuries changing your life, what can you do? For many, hiring an attorney specializing in representing personal injury cases is the best decision they ever made.
But, what exactly is a personal injury, and what laws govern these types of claims?
What is a Personal Injury?
Generally, there are three primary forms of harm done to individuals recognized by law: damage to property, reputation, and personal injury. Cases where the plaintiff has suffered actual bodily or emotional harm typically qualify for compensation under the law if caused by another party's negligence, reckless, or malicious behavior.
Personal injury law is also known as tort law, and its purpose is to make those who were harmed by negligent acts whole again. These are civil matters and do not involve finding a defendant guilty or innocent. Typically, these actions are initiated by filing a personal injury lawsuit for the damages suffered by the plaintiff because of the defendant.
Common Accidents that Lead to Personal Injury Claims
Often, an accident's circumstances will better define what a personal injury means to the victim. Below are situations that frequently involve a negligent party hurting another, which requires compensation to be made:
When you get hurt after someone acts negligently, the resulting harm caused to you would be considered a personal injury. Typical accident situations that often meet these criteria include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Slip, trip, and falls
- Dog bites
At times, it isn't necessarily a single individual's actions that lead to personal injury claims. For example, in situations where a product, drug, mechanical component of a car, or other defect hurts someone, filing a suit against the manufacturer may be necessary.
Intentionally Causing Harm
Sadly, there are situations where someone knows what they are about to do will hurt another. Personal injury law applies in this situation, too, and could result in additional punitive damages for the harm caused.
It's important to remember that negligence must be proven when pursuing compensation for injuries caused by another party or entity. This can be complicated, and working with an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you do so successfully.
To prove the at-fault party was negligent, you must demonstrate the following:
- Defendant owed you a standard of care, and,
- They breached this standard, and,
- Their negligence caused your injuries, and,
- You have suffered financial damages because of your injuries.
For over 30 years, Morgan and Morgan have helped thousands of individuals and families around the United States to recover the personal injury compensation they deserve. If you were hurt because of another's actions, reach out to us and schedule a free initial consultation as soon as possible. We can review the circumstances of your case and provide additional information on your rights and the next best steps for your case.
What Types of Damages Can I Pursue for My Personal Injury?
Whether you have to take your case to trial or attempt to negotiate a settlement offer, it's crucial to make sure that all of your damages are accounted for in your award. This could include recouping any related medical expenses you received and lost wages from being unable to work while getting treated.
The type of damages you could potentially recover falls into three primary categories:
- Economic damages that encompass losses can easily have a monetary value assigned to them, such as medical costs, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages are losses that are subjective in nature and not as straightforward to assign value. These could include pain and suffering, disfigurement, and permanent disability.
- Punitive damages are a special category of compensation that is only awarded in cases involving egregious negligence. Typically, this category includes malicious intent and seeks to punish the defendant further.
Knowing which types of damages you qualify for can be challenging to ascertain since personal injury law can be complicated. In addition, personal injury claims are a lengthy process that requires good documentation and solid evidence supporting your compensation demand. There may even be injuries you didn't realize you suffered or counted as such, which makes speaking with a highly trained accident injury attorney a critical first step in the claim process.
The Basics of a Personal Injury Case
Since every accident is different and has its own unique circumstances, cases frequently follow a different path. Still, there are some standard steps that take place in every personal injury case. Below is a quick overview of this process:
Defendant causes injury to the plaintiff. Any reckless or negligent act that leads to you being hurt by another describes what a personal injury is. This can be any number of accident situations, including their driving drunk and causing an accident, or failing to repair a handrail that gave out and caused you to fall.
Your attorney determines the defendant breached the legal duty of care. Duty of care involves the defendant not taking action to avoid causing a dangerous situation that any other person would have.
Negotiating with the liable parties. In some cases, liability is immediately acknowledged by the liability parties involved. In this scenario, the insurer may opt to try and settle your claim outside of court. This can be tricky since the primary goal of any settlement offer is to pay as little as possible.
Should you accept the offer, you would agree not to pursue any further damage claims against the defendant, and the case ends. If you don't take the deal, and many times you shouldn't, the next step would be to file suit in civil court for your personal injury. Keep in mind that negotiations can continue until the jury has made a decision.
Going to Trial
Sometimes, the only way to get the personal injury compensation you deserve is to file a lawsuit and go to trial. This step may be necessary because the insurer refuses to negotiate, or your attorney knows a jury will award a significantly higher damage amount. Once both sides present evidence and submit to questioning, the jury will take this information and determine the amount of compensation you should receive.
What Doesn't Constitute a Personal Injury?
Most personal injuries involve some form of bodily or emotional harm as a direct result of an accident caused by a negligent individual. This can get complicated in cases where there is only emotional injury. For example, if a relative was in a car accident and you rush to the scene to help, you couldn't file a claim from witnessing the aftermath of the crash. However, if you were present when the accident took place, you may be able to pursue compensation for the emotional harm caused to you.
Another aspect to consider is your own liability in causing your injuries. At Morgan and Morgan, we represent injured individuals and their families in every state of the U.S. Depending on where you live and where the accident occurred, you may have a liability cap. If you exceed it, you could potentially be disqualified from demanding compensation for your personal injury.
Other states reduce your award by the percentage they find you liable. So even if you are 99% at fault for your injuries, you would still get that remaining 1%. To determine what liability laws could affect your personal injury suit, speak with the skilled attorneys of Morgan and Morgan to learn more.