What Qualifies as a Personal Injury Lawsuit? Everything Victims Should Know
After being injured, accident victims might wonder what their legal options and rights are. Though a personal injury lawsuit could help with financial compensation for the losses they suffer, it's crucial to know what they're getting into beforehand.
Likewise, understanding personal injury law isn't something most people know about. Therefore, they will likely require legal representation to go against the at-fault party in a potential personal injury case. This guide focuses on the basics, what qualifies as a personal injury lawsuit, and how to understand settlement negotiations.
If an accident victim wants to file a personal injury claim, they can contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. These lawyers go to war for 214!
What Are Personal Injury Lawsuits?
The personal injury lawsuit is simply a civil action that is brought by the injured person against the at-fault party (entity or person responsible for those personal injuries). Its purpose is to recover as much financial compensation as possible for the losses suffered because of that accident. This includes medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Overall, the at-fault party should have financial liability. To win a potential personal injury case, the victim must prove that the at-fault party was liable for the injuries. Therefore, they must show the other side was negligent. Once that's established, the court determines the amount of fair compensation the victim can get in damages if the claim doesn't settle out of court.
Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits
There are various personal injury lawsuits out there, but the most common types include:
Slip and fall accidents
The personal injury lawsuit the victim files depends on the facts of the case. For example, after a car accident, they would file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party (driver). However, if they were injured because of a defective product, they'd need to file their product liability claim against the at-fault manufacturer.
What Qualifies as a Personal Injury Lawsuit? What Victims Must Prove
If the victim was injured because of the at-fault party's negligence, they could file a personal injury claim against that person. To qualify and have a case, the victim must be able to prove that:
The injuries significantly impacted them financially.
The at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care.
The at-fault party then breached the duty of care.
That breach of care caused the minor or serious injury.
What to Do After an Injury or Accident
Accident victims must take several important steps to ensure that they are safe and that they address the injuries. These include:
Get Medical Attention - Even if the injury seems minor, it's crucial to see a medical professional. Serious injuries might require emergency assistance, and the victim might be treated at the accident scene or be taken to a hospital. Don't refuse the help.
Take Videos and Pictures - The best evidence of how the accident happened is video and pictures. Try to film or photograph the full accident scene, the injuries, and the equipment/vehicles involved.
Gather Data - Get the contact information and names of all witnesses. After a car accident, it's wise to ask for insurance information from the at-fault party. The easiest way to do that is by using a smartphone or camera to photograph the insurance card and driver's license.
Preserve and Gather Evidence - Request medical records from the treatment after the accident and get copies of information relating to ongoing care. Also, keep records of the insurance correspondence received.
Keep a Journal - Whether one is dealing with a minor or serious injury, it's best to show how they affected the victim's life. Write in a journal to describe activities that couldn't be done, pain levels, and how the injury has changed the person's mental state.
How Is Fault Considered in Most Personal Injury Claims
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff (victim) must prove that the other party was liable for the injuries. Therefore, one must show that the at-fault party was negligent. This can happen in many ways, but proving negligence is often the most common.
Negligence means not exercising reasonable care under those specific circumstances. The at-fault party didn't act like any other reasonable person would in that situation. One must prove negligence by showing:
The at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care.
The duty of care was breached.
That breach caused the injuries.
The main question in a personal injury case focuses on whether or not the defendant was negligent. This might be hard to answer, depending on the situation. For example, if the victim was in a car accident, the defendant could have been driving recklessly or speeding. If a defective product caused the issue, it could have been during the manufacturing or design process.
Superseding and Intervening Causes
Sometimes, the defendant in personal injury cases will argue that another event or person was responsible for the victim's injuries. This is called a superseding or intervening cause. Let's learn more about them:
Superseding Cause - Here, the event supersedes the negligence of the at-fault party and is considered the sole reason for the victim's injuries. For instance, the plaintiff is hit by a car while crossing the street. They got up, but a lightning bolt struck them. The driver might say that Mother Nature was responsible for the injuries the person received and not the negligence itself.
Intervening Cause - Here, the event breaks the causal chain between the plaintiff's injuries and the defendant's negligence. For instance, the plaintiff is hit by a car while crossing the street. They walked away without getting medical treatment. Therefore, the driver might say they were at fault for not getting medical attention, which is the intervening cause.
When There's More Than One At-fault Party
There could be more than one defendant in personal injury cases. This happens when multiple people are negligent, which contributes to the victim's injuries.
One common example here is chain reaction car accidents. Let's say Driver B hits Driver A because they're moving too quickly. Driver C is speeding and also hits Driver B, which causes the car to crash into Driver A again, leading to more injuries. Drivers C and B could be at fault. Therefore, a percentage of fault will be assigned to the negligent parties.
Respondeat Superior means that the employer could be held liable for an employee's negligence if it happened while they were working and within the employment scope. For example, a victim is injured in a car accident because the delivery driver was out making deliveries for the employer. This means the victim could sue the employer and the driver.
There are a few exceptions to this. Employers aren't held liable if their employee wasn't working and within their employment scope when the accident happened. For instance, the delivery driver caused the car accident, but they were off-duty at the time. Therefore, the victim cannot sue the employer, even if the driver was using a company vehicle at the time.
When the Victim Is Partly at Fault
There are two possible approaches for a personal injury case when the victim is partly at fault. However, Texas uses the modified comparative negligence method. This means that the financial recovery for the injured person gets reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the victim is hit by a car as a pedestrian but they were 30 percent responsible, their settlement award gets reduced by 30 percent.
Since Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, the plaintiff must be under 50 percent
responsible for the incident to collect financial compensation.
Last Clear Chance
Last Clear Chance is a doctrine claiming that if the plaintiff is partially responsible for their injuries, they could recover damages if the at-fault party had a "last clear chance" to prevent the accident but didn't do so. This might mean slamming on the brakes before a car accident.
Generally, Texas focuses on the modified comparative negligence doctrine and doesn't use the last clear chance rule.
What Does Statute of Limitations Mean?
The statute of limitations is the law that says how long a victim has to file a personal injury lawsuit after the incident. Typically, the time limit begins on the day of the accident. In Texas, a victim has two years to file the lawsuit. However, the start time on the clock depends on the situation.
What Laws Govern a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury claims are governed by various laws, such as state negligence laws and statutes of limitation. However, most personal injury law is written from prior cases because many jurisdictions follow the common law and not statutes.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Every personal injury lawsuit follows a similar process. However, both sides could agree to a settlement, even before a formal complaint is filed. Here are the steps one takes:
Filing the Complaint - To start a personal injury lawsuit, the victim must file a complaint in court. This document outlines the allegations against the at-fault party and the damages being sought. Likewise, it will include the summons, which notifies the defendant that there's a case and requires a response within a specified amount of time.
Serving the Defendant - The victim must have the summons and complaint served to the defendant. Depending on the location, that might require a constable, sheriff, or process server to deliver everything.
Defendant's Answer - Once a complaint is filed, the defendant can respond. The document denies the allegations or admits some/all of them. It also includes the defenses the defendant wants to use in court.
Discovery Process - After a response is filed, each side can exchange documentation during the discovery process. In fact, each side requests information from the other, such as financial documents, medical bills/records, and witness statements. It can take months or years, depending on how complicated the case is.
If the parties can't settle during the discovery phase, they'll go to settlement conferences to hopefully reach an agreement. Arbitration or mediation might be necessary. If those things fail, the case must go to trial.
Most personal injury cases settle out of court. They often happen when the at-fault party's insurance company takes the lead because it's generally the one paying for it.
When a victim sues someone, it's unlikely they'll get compensation directly from the at-fault party. Whether it's a medical malpractice issue or a car accident, the insurance company for the at-fault party is the one that sends the settlement.
Does One Need an Attorney?
A victim doesn't always have to hire an attorney for a personal injury case. If the incident was minor and the victim required little or no medical care, they will rarely need to hire a lawyer. Insurance companies are generally quick to offer fair settlements for those expenses, but it's wise to make sure it's enough.
However, during a medical malpractice case or a serious accident, it's wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer who understands personal injury law. They will know how the legal system works and will help one file the lawsuit, negotiate a fair settlement, and represent the victim in court if necessary.
How Much Might a Personal Injury Lawsuit Be Worth?
It all depends on the situation that results in the personal injury claim. Every case is different, so it's hard to say without knowing the specifics.
Possible Settlement Amounts
Each personal injury lawsuit has various factors that make it hard to determine with precision how much the personal injury settlement might be worth. Since settlement amounts vary so much, it will be difficult to predict the case's value.
If one wishes to know how much their personal injury claim could be worth, it's best to consult with a lawyer like the ones at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. They will go over all the information, determine the other person's negligence, and ensure the victim gets a fair settlement. They can also help answer what is a release in a settlement?
Types of Damages
There are various types of damages juries and courts might consider in a personal injury case. These include:
Economic Damages - These are the financial losses a victim experienced because of the physical injuries and accident. They could include lost income, medical bills, property damage, and others.
Noneconomic Damages - These are harder to quantify because they don't have direct monetary values. They include loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering is the most common type of noneconomic damage that personal injury victims will seek. It focuses on the emotional and physical anguish they experienced through their injuries. It includes disfigurement, disability, mental suffering, and physical pain.
Whereas medical bills and other medical expenses are easy to determine, noneconomic damages aren't. There's no dollar value typically associated with them. However, they often give injured people the financial recovery they need to go through the healing process and deal with a traumatic injury. It's wise to work with a personal injury attorney to estimate what the victim might expect to recover.
Factors That Could Impact Case Value
There are many factors that contribute to the settlement one gets during a personal injury claim. These include:
The injury severity
How the injuries impacted the victim
The time and cost to treat the injuries and fully recover
The cost of the lawsuit
The psychological and emotional damage caused by the injuries
FAQs About Personal Injury Claims
How Does One Find a Personal Injury Attorney?
When searching for a personal injury lawyer, it's wise to get referrals from friends and family members. They might have experience with one and will provide an honest review.
It's also a good idea to check the local or state bar association for referrals and research personal injury attorneys in Dallas TX where the victim lives. Once there is a list, the victim can schedule consultations with all of them to discuss the personal injury case. Most personal injury attorneys provide free consultations to learn more about them and get an idea of whether there's the potential for a case.
How Long Will a Personal Injury Lawsuit Usually Take?
Personal injury cases often take longer when there's more money sought, and it's unclear who was responsible for the injuries.
If it's clear who was at fault, the personal injury claim shouldn't take as long. In some cases, there's a settlement in a few days or weeks, especially when the amount of compensation is generally low.
However, when there's a debate about the at-fault party, both sides might be reluctant to settle. It's generally true when the amount of damages is quite high (higher than the insurance coverage). Complex cases could take years to resolve. There's simply no easy way to determine how long it might take.
Victims must realize the process involved for personal injury lawsuits. The defendant must be aware of the situation and respond. Then, both parties will likely get legal representation. Their lawyers will have to gather all the evidence to present the full picture of the events. They'll also evaluate the evidence, calculate the financial value of the injuries, and much more.
All of these things take time. It's not uncommon for victims of personal injuries to be close to bankruptcy and have problems paying their bills. However, it's still best to do so as well as possible until the lawsuit is complete and the compensation awarded.
Is the Victim Taxed on Their Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement?
After the personal injury case is finished and the victim wins, they will likely have to pay tax on the settlement they received. However, this doesn't cover the treatment of their physical injuries. That portion is not taxable, but everything else is in most states.
What's the Average Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Amount?
It's impossible to predict the amount for a personal injury settlement because the injuries typically vary significantly. There have been studies done in the past, but the newest one is 20 years old. Therefore, it's wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine if there is a case and what it might be worth. Still, that's no guarantee!
How Does One Fight a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If a defendant is sued for causing another person's personal injury, they should contact the insurance company to help with their defense. Most insurance contracts have a stipulation that the company will offer legal representation to customers facing legal action for any insured activities.
However, if the defendant didn't have insurance at the time, or there was no such entity to contact, they could face financial liability on their own. It's wise for them to call a personal injury defense attorney. Many traditional lawyers also practice defense.
Final Thoughts on Personal Injury Cases
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is often the best solution when trying to recover damages because of another person's negligence. Dealing with the insurance company or filing a lawsuit alone can be traumatic and might mean seeing less-than-positive results.
Most attorneys will not require the victim to pay out-of-pocket initially. They use a contingency-fee basis, which means they don't collect any fees unless/until they win the personal injury claim for the client. This will save the victim money and help them focus on healing while going through the court system or arbitration.
If the attorney wins, they get paid from the compensation package, and this percentage is agreed upon beforehand. Therefore, there are no surprises.
Personal injury law is highly complicated. When victims have been injured because of another party's negligence, they deserve compensation. However, they might have trouble getting it from the insurance company or in court. Therefore, it's wise to hire an attorney who can help them lower the financial impact of being hurt. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can explain what is duty of care in personal injury law.
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is here for clients who have been hurt in accidents. These lawyers will ensure that the victim's legal rights are protected. Likewise, victims will be in a better position to get financial compensation for lost income and much more. Please use the online contact form to request a free consultation today!