Don't Be A Victim Twice!
A Guide to Personal Injury LawThis article was approved by Jim Adler
Personal injury law refers to a specific branch of civil law. Generally, personal injury cases are started by a plaintiff who has been injured either physically or psychologically by some form of negligence or wrongdoing. The defendant in personal injury cases can be one other individual or a group, such as a company or government establishment. Because personal injury cases are not criminal cases, the defendant does not face jail time or criminal charges. Instead, most plaintiffs are seeking financial compensation for the medical expenses, loss of wages, or pain and suffering that they incurred as a result of the injury.
Lawsuits involving personal injury may be resolved in a number of different ways. Plaintiffs may choose to take the case to court, where the court will determine whether or not the defendant is responsible for the injury. To find the defendant guilty in court, the plaintiff and their lawyer or legal team must prove that the injury was a result of the defendant acting in an irresponsible or careless manner. At times, it may be difficult to prove negligence on behalf of the defendant, but proof of negligence is generally necessary to win the case. In most personal injury cases, however, an informal settlement or agreement is reached outside of court.
In a settlement, both the plaintiff and the defendant as well as their insurance companies and legal experts work together to identify and agree upon a reasonable amount of compensation for the injury that was sustained. In these cases, there does not necessarily have to be proof of negligence, although defendants are more likely to be unwilling to settle if this is the case. After an informal settlement is made, an agreement is generally signed by both parties that prevents any further legal actions from being taken. The defendant will then pay the plaintiff the agreed-upon amount of money as compensation. Other methods of resolving a personal injury case include procedures such as mediation and arbitration.
While injuries can occur in any number of ways, the most common ones involved in personal injury cases are due to automobile accidents, pharmaceutical injuries, and medical malpractice. After any of these injuries occur, it is important for the injured individual to follow steps to ensure that they will be able to receive compensation for their injuries. Naturally, if the injury is severe, the first step one should take is to seek medical treatment immediately. If the injury is the result of an automobile accident and the injured individual is not unconscious or too impaired to function, they should first begin by turning on their automobile’s hazard lights (if possible). If the hazard lights are not functioning, safety flares or cones should be placed in the road to notify oncoming traffic. Although this may not seem important at the time, understand that other drivers may be unable to see the stopped vehicles, which places everyone at risk for further accidents or injuries. After warning traffic, the injured individual should move to a safe place away from the vehicle, if this is possible.
Once all immediate dangers are identified, the police should be called and information such as names and insurance information should be exchanged by the parties involved in the accident. When the police arrive, it is important to answer their questions about the accident but never admit fault. If a camera or cell phone is available, it is also helpful to take photographs and gather witnesses. Once these steps have been taken, the injured person should seek medical attention at a local emergency room or at their physician’s office. The doctor will then treat the injuries and make a medical report addressing the findings. The individual’s auto insurance company should then be called as soon as possible to discuss the situation. All of these steps are vital to ensuring successful compensation for any injuries sustained as a result of the accident. In most cases, however, claims involving automobile accidents will be settled out of court between insurance companies.
For other personal injuries, seeking medical attention is often the first step. Even in the event that an injury does not initially seem severe, it is important to remember that an injury may become worse after a few hours or days. In personal injury law, it is necessary to have medical documentation of any injuries sustained to show proof of injury. These medical statements will help to protect the interest of the injured party at a later date. Aside from getting medical care, injured parties should also make the other party aware of their injury. If an injury occurs at work, it should be reported to a supervisor. These cases may be settled without going to court, but it may be in the best interest of the injured party to secure a lawyer.
When seeking a personal injury lawyer, individuals should first start by researching the reputations of local lawyers. This can be done online, by asking friends and family, or even by asking for a personal injury lawyer recommendation from a lawyer the individual has a pre-existing relationship with. After receiving a recommendation or locating a local lawyer, the individual should then call the lawyer’s office. At this point, many lawyers will offer a consultation during which they can discuss strategy and legal options with the prospective client before either party makes a commitment. If the injured party is satisfied with the consultation, they may then choose to meet with the lawyer. Upon meeting the lawyer, it is important to ask questions about payment, scheduling, their education, and their experience with similar cases. Along with these matters, a client should ensure that they feel comfortable speaking to the lawyer. If all of these answers are satisfactory, a person may choose to hire the lawyer.
Upon hiring a personal injury lawyer, the lawyer will guide the injured person on how to proceed with their case. They may recommend that a case be settled if an agreement can be reached, or they may believe that the case needs to be brought before a court. In either instance, the lawyer should keep the best interest of the client in mind.
For those who have been injured, the following resources may be helpful in understanding personal injuries and the law:
- What Is a Typical Personal Injury Case?
- What to Do in Case of an Auto Accident (PDF)
- Steps to Take to Find the Right Lawyer
- Tort and Personal Injury Law Dictionary
- Federal Tort Claims Act
- What to Do if You Are Injured at Work
- Product Liability and the Pharmaceutical Industry (PDF)
- Negligence and Personal Injury Law
- What Is Malpractice?
- General Principles of Tort Law
- What to Do After a Car Crash
- Filing an Auto Claim With Another’s Insurance Company
- Auto Accident Checklist
- Understanding a Head Injury
- How to Deal With a Car Accident