The Basics of Personal Injury Law
A personal injury is an injury that does not involve issues with property. Thus, this type of injury involves the physical body or a person's mind. Personal injury can involve psychological issues and emotions that occur after a traumatic event or accident. Recovering from a personal injury can be challenging, and a victim may experience extensive damages and losses as a result of this type of event.
After a mishap, an individual who experiences pain and emotional trauma due to the event may decide to take steps to protect their legal rights and recover damages. A personal injury law case is a proceeding in a civil court that involves establishing legal fault through a binding judgment. The steps involved in a personal injury case may or may not lead to a legal judgment, depending on whether the parties resolve the matter with an informal settlement or whether the case goes to trial. If the parties opt to settle, negotiation takes place to determine the terms of the settlement. If successful, all parties will sign a written agreement to forgo a lawsuit, with the payment of an agreed-upon sum compensating the victim or victims for their damages.
- A Century of Change in Personal Injury Law (PDF)
- Empowerment of Personal Injury Victims Through the Internet
When one party injures another as a result of failure to take reasonable care, negligence can come into play. This type of scenario can occur with vehicular accidents if one driver breaches their duty to use reasonable care and other parties are injured as a direct result. Negligence can also be the basis for personal injury in medical malpractice. If a person is injured on another person's property as a result of negligence, such as not clearing ice from a sidewalk, liability may result. Strict liability can also apply to designers and manufacturers who release defective products that cause injuries to consumers who used the products as they were intended to be used.
After an event involving an injury, the injured party may decide to file a lawsuit to recover damages for pain and monetary losses incurred from the injury. The injured party is the plaintiff, and the person responsible for the injury is the defendant. If the parties have insurance policies that would cover damages, the insurance companies will also be involved in the lawsuit. Every party, including the insurance companies, can have legal representation. Attorneys proceed with the discovery process, which includes gathering facts, questioning witnesses, and formulating depositions, which are formal questions asked of witnesses who must answer under oath. Many cases are settled during the discovery process as crucial evidence is uncovered that leads a defendant to negotiate a settlement to avoid a formal trial. If a case goes to trial, a judge or jury can rule for the plaintiff or the defendant. If a plaintiff wins, this party can collect damages to compensate for lost wages in the past as well as in the future, medical bills, and pain and suffering. The court can also award damages to compensate for a permanent disability.
While it's possible for a plaintiff to proceed with a lawsuit without legal representation, many people find it advantageous to hire a lawyer. An attorney has experience and expertise in personal injury cases and can navigate the process with precision. Filing papers, gathering evidence, filing motions, and negotiating for a fair settlement will be handled more easily with an attorney. It also may be possible to negotiate a higher settlement with an attorney advocating for a plaintiff. An attorney can also be helpful in situations where a plaintiff has difficulty collecting money after a settlement or judgment or in cases where an appeal is necessary.
Employers purchase workers' compensation insurance to cover injuries and illnesses that employees might experience while performing their work-related duties. Each state manages its own separate workers' compensation program to provide benefits to people who live and work in the state. Individual state programs will involve unique benefit laws and coverage. Most coverage includes expenses from medical care for an illness or injury, compensation for permanent disability, replacing lost income, any costs for retraining once an employee returns to work, and survivor benefits when employees lose their lives on the job. Workers' compensation law states that employees cannot engage in litigation against an employer if they collect workers' compensation benefits. These benefits do not extend to damages for pain and suffering.