Injuries are an inevitable part of life. Recently, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported 55.4 million injuries in one year in the United States.
However, if your injuries happened due to another’s wrongdoing, you may be legally entitled to compensation with a personal injury lawsuit.
If you’ve suffered harm, you’re not alone. A personal injury attorney can help protect your rights and pursue fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Continue reading to better understand what a personal injury lawsuit is and what the process entails.
What is a Personal Injury?
Under the law, there are three types of harm done to an individual: bodily harm, harm to reputation, and property damage.
A personal injury involves harm to an individual’s body. In some cases, it can also include mental and emotional harm. While you cannot file a lawsuit for just any type of injury, if another person harmed you, it can be a personal injury.
Common Types of Injuries
Personal injury incidents can result in a variety of injuries. These injuries can be life-changing and may require medical treatment after the accident and in the future.
Injuries that may result from an accident or incident include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Amputation injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Facial injuries
- Certain illnesses
In the worst cases, an individual’s actions can result in the victim’s death. If the victim passes away, their family can file a wrongful death lawsuit or survival action claim to pursue compensation for the wrong done to their loved one.
Compensation Available for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Compensation for a personal injury should cover the injury-related losses you’ll face. However, the type of damages you’re eligible to receive will depend on the details of your case. Personal injury damages typically fall into economic, non-economic, and punitive categories.
Economic damages are easy to calculate,
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitative costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
Non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate because these losses are intangible and difficult to prove.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Permanent disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Some victims may receive punitive damages. A judge or jury can grant punitive damages in cases where a defendant’s actions go beyond negligence and are intentional, malicious, or egregious. These damages serve to punish and deter – punish the defendant for the actions and deter future actors from engaging in such behavior.
Calculating damages is one of the toughest parts of a personal injury case, especially if you’re unaware of the damages you’re eligible to receive. A personal injury attorney will examine the details of your case to determine how much you deserve and work diligently to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.
Factors Affecting Value of a Personal Injury Case
One of the biggest questions plaintiffs have is, “how much is my case worth?” There is no average settlement amount for personal injury cases—the value of your case depends on many factors.
The details that most affect the value of your personal injury lawsuit include:
- Your age and health
- The type and severity of injuries you sustain
- Medical and rehabilitative expenses
- The total amount of lost wages
- Who was liable for the accident and resulting injuries
- Whether you’ve suffered a disability
- Whether you’re also experiencing mental and emotional trauma
Your personal injury attorney or judge can review these and other factors when determining how much your case is truly worth.
The Personal Injury Claim Process
The personal injury process often follows similar procedures as other cases. Knowing the steps involved can give you a better idea of what you might expect.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
Be sure to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Your attorney will review your situation, ask the right questions, and help create a feasible legal strategy.
Speaking with an attorney will give you peace of mind, answer your most pressing questions, and get you started on your path to financial compensation.
First and foremost, your personal injury attorney will thoroughly examine the details of your case to familiarize themselves with your case. What they do subsequently depends on your case.
Depending on your case, your lawyer may start by sending the defendant’s insurance company a demand letter.
In this letter, they’ll provide certain information, including:
- Details of the accident
- Why their insured caused the accident
- The extent of your injuries
- Details regarding your losses
The letter will then propose a figure and make a settlement demand. The insurance company will then respond to the letter. If they do not respond, reject the demand, or refuse to engage in settlement negotiations, your lawyer can file a lawsuit.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If necessary, your lawyer will then file a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, your attorney may forgo the demand letter and go straight to filing a claim.
Initiating the lawsuit requires drafting and filing a complaint with the court detailing the specifics of your case, your losses, and the relief sought.
After filing the required documentation with the court, the opposing party will be served with copies, formally notifying them of the lawsuit.
The opposing party will have some time, usually about 30 days, to file their response with the court. If they fail to respond, your lawyer can pursue a default judgment, giving you the relief you requested in your complaint.
However, in most cases, the opposing party will respond, contesting the claims in the complaint. After the defendant files their response, the case can proceed.
The Discovery Process
The discovery phase allows both sides to obtain and review evidence while building their case.
The discovery process can include:
- Requests for admission
- Requests for production
Your attorney takes this time to build on the information they already have from reviewing the details of your case. The discovery phase allows your lawyer to gather what they need to build a strong case.
After the discovery phase has concluded and both sides have what they need, your attorney will attempt to engage in settlement negotiations once again.
Pre-trial negotiations are often successful, with about 95 percent of personal injury cases in the United States settling before trial.
A trial can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful for both parties. Therefore, defendants are usually more willing to settle before trial to help avoid the extra cost and time.
Frequently, the defense will agree to settle before going to court because:
- They know they don’t have a good likelihood of winning
- They think the plaintiff may get even more money at trial
- They want to resolve the case quickly
Settlement negotiations may require some time and plenty of back and forth, but your lawyer will try to get you the best possible settlement.
While most cases don’t make it to trial, some do.
If your personal injury attorney recommends you proceed to trial, it’s usually because:
- The other side is offering too little
- The defendant is not willing to negotiate at all
- Your attorney feels going to trial can be the best move
Never fear trial, as it can be the best decision for your case. Always ensure you hire a skilled litigator in case your case needs to go to court.
Building a Strong Personal Injury Case
You can fully trust your personal injury attorney to handle your case. However, there are certain steps you can take to help your chances of reaching a successful outcome.
Seek Medical Attention
As soon as possible after your accident or injury, get medical attention. If your injuries are severe enough, you may receive aid at the accident scene. Still, you should always follow up with a visit to the emergency room or your primary care physician.
A doctor can conduct a physical examination to determine the extent of your injuries. They’ll then provide recommendations for treatment to help get you on the road to physical recovery.
Follow Through with Medical Treatment
One of the most important things you can do is complete your medical treatment as prescribed. Many plaintiffs fail to follow through with their treatment, stopping mid-way. Even if you begin to feel better and think you don’t need to continue any further treatment, never stop before your doctor releases you.
Failing to complete medical treatment can make the opposing party question the severity of your injuries or whether you even suffered injuries in the first place. This can hurt your case, resulting in a diminished settlement.
Whenever possible, gather as much evidence as possible.
Strong evidence can include:
- Photos and videos
- The liable party’s information
- Witness information
- Documentation proving your losses
Additionally, police reports and medical records can help your case considerably. If you need assistance getting this documentation, which is common, your attorney can help.
Avoid Speaking With the Defendant’s Insurance Company
The other party’s insurance company is not on your side. After an accident, it is common to have the defendant’s insurer call you requesting a statement. They’ll ask many questions, including how the accident occurred from your perspective.
Insurance companies are always utilizing tactics to help avoid or limit liability, so they don’t have to pay you. They will attempt to use your words against you.
If an insurance company other than yours calls, kindly tell them you cannot speak to them without first consulting your lawyer.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take to Resolve?
Every case is unique. Therefore, there is no average time you can expect your case to take.
Many factors dictate how long your personal injury case can take to complete, including:
- The extent of your injuries
- How long it takes you to recover from your injuries
- How long the discovery phase lasts
- Whether there are questions regarding liability
- Whether the opposing party is willing to negotiate
- Whether your case goes to trial
While it can frustrate you, remain patient throughout the process. Your attorney knows what they’re doing—rushing them can result in an unfair settlement.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?
While you’re free to handle your personal injury case, hiring an attorney frequently yields better results.
Your personal injury lawyer will handle the most critical parts of your case, including:
- Investigating your claim
- Drafting and filing court documents
- Communicating with the opposing party
- Gathering evidence and documentation
- Calculating your damages
- Engaging in settlement negotiations
- Representing you at trial, if necessary
A personal injury attorney is well—versed in the law and procedures for your case. They have the skills and resources to advocate for your right to fair compensation.
Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you suffered injuries at the hands of another, discuss your case with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence with personal injury cases, so the sooner you allow a lawyer to begin working on your case, the better.