Personal Injury Law

Personal injury law involves a number of key complexities, from determining who may have caused your accident to calculating the amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries. Insurance companies typically take on the liability associated with personal injury claims. Hire a personal injury lawyer with the legal experience necessary to take on the insurance companies in your best interest.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 12, 2021

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Overview

  • Personal injury claims can result from a variety of injuries, from asbestos exposure to broken bones or traumatic brain injury
  • Personal injury settlements are usually based on your medical bills, other financial losses resulting from the injury, and the suffering you faced following the accident
  • Insurance companies typically take on the financial liability associated with a personal injury claim, and you may face a variety of challenges in dealing with them

After a severe injury caused by the negligence of another person or entity, you may have questions about personal injury law basics and how it might apply to your case.

Did you suffer serious injuries in an accident due to another party’s negligence? Do you need help understanding the car accident settlement you deserve or how to move forward with your personal injury claim in your state?

You may have grounds for a personal injury claim if the liable party bore a duty of care to you at the time of the incident, committed an act of negligence that led to your injuries, or caused your injuries due to that negligence.

Working with a personal injury attorney often serves as the most effective way to navigate your personal injury claim. Enter your ZIP code into our free legal tool above to find affordable personal injury law firms in your area right now.

Do I have grounds for a personal injury claim?

Whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim may depend on the circumstances surrounding your accident and your injuries. However, in general, you can assume that you have grounds for a personal injury claim if you suffered injuries due to another party’s negligence.

How can a personal injury lawyer help you?

An experienced personal injury attorney will evaluate the following key questions to determine whether you may have grounds for a claim:

Did the party that caused your injuries bear a duty of care to you at the time of the accident?

The first thing an attorney will look at when determining who bears liability for your accident is whether the liable party bore a duty of care to you at the time of the accident. “Duty of care” often includes a fairly broad legal definition.

For example, if you suffer injuries in a car accident due to the negligence of another driver, your attorney will know whether or not your state operates under tort law, also known as at-fault law, which means you have the right to seek compensation in civil court.

Likewise, if you suffered asbestos exposure on the job that ultimately led to mesothelioma, your employer bore a strong duty of care to you during your employment and may bear liability for the injuries you sustained. If you suffered injuries while visiting a business, that business bears a strong duty of care to ensure the safety of its customers.

Did your injuries result from an act of negligence or inattention on the part of the liable party?

To determine liability in a personal injury claim, your attorney will take a look at the act of negligence that led to your injuries. Acts of negligence may include any act in which the liable party failed in their duty of care to you.

Take that car accident example. On the road, a driver must exercise strong care to decrease the risk of injury to everyone who shares the road with him. Distraction behind the wheel, driving while intoxicated, or just ignoring the rules of the road all violate that duty of care and can lead to severe injuries for the victims of those accidents.

In a medical malpractice claim, a doctor who does not offer a reasonable standard of care to his patients in order to prevent potential injuries may commit serious negligence that can lead to long-term challenges, including physical disabilities that can last for the rest of the victim’s life.

Did you suffer injuries as a result of that act of negligence?

To have grounds for a personal injury claim, you must suffer some type of injury, usually one that results in significant physical or financial losses.

A personal injury claim aims to provide compensation for the financial and physical losses sustained as a result of a severe injury caused by someone else’s negligence.

If you’re lucky, you may note an act of negligence but suffer no injuries. For example, you may notice a distracted driver on the road and even see him swerve across the dotted line. If he does not strike your vehicle, however, you cannot file a personal injury claim.

There has to be actual harm (either physical, psychological, or financial) for a claim to proceed.

For the victims of severe accidents, on the other hand, those acts of negligence can lead to substantial injuries. In the case of the distracted driver, a sideswipe collision might result in broken bones or even traumatic brain injury. A personal injury claim against the negligent driver can cover medical bills and more.

Can more than one party bear liability for a severe accident?

Simply put: yes, more than one party can bear liability for a severe accident. If your attorney can uncover multiple parties that may share liability for the accident, it can, in many cases, help increase the compensation you can receive as part of your personal injury claim.

What happens if I share liability for my injuries?

Often, we make our own mistakes that can contribute to our injuries. Suppose, for example, that you visited a store and tried to get something down from a shelf without help. The shelves crashed down, leaving you with serious injuries.

Do you share liability for that accident? If so, can you seek compensation anyway? That depends on where you live.

Some states have laws that allow for partial liability: that is, you will receive compensation based on the amount of liability the other party bears. This is known as a comparative negligence standard.

If the court deems that you contributed 10% to the accident, you may recover 90% of the compensation you deserve. On the other hand, if you contributed more than 50% of the liability for that accident, you may not have the right to seek compensation. In states with “pure” comparative negligence standards, each party recovers 100% of the costs minus the amount they are at fault.

In states with modified comparative negligence standards, however, no recovery is possible for those more than 50% at fault.

In other states, if you bear partial liability for some types of accidents, especially car accidents, it may prevent you from recovering any compensation for those injuries. States that don’t allow any recovery if you have any fault at all follow a rule called contributory negligence. In other words, if you contributed to the negligence that led to the accident, you aren’t allowed to recover at all.

Working with a personal injury attorney can prove critical in establishing who caused your accident and uncovering evidence showing you deserve compensation for those injuries.

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What types of injuries often result in a personal injury claim?

You may have the right to file a personal injury claim any time you suffer severe injuries due to the negligence of another party. Some claims, however, occur more commonly than others.

Here are a few examples of common types of injuries in personal injury lawsuits:

Asbestos Claims

Before the 1980s, asbestos was used in cement, floor tiles, insulation, and even popcorn ceilings. Construction workers rarely used safety equipment and precautions when working with this hazardous material, due in part to a lack of knowledge about the potential dangers associated with asbestos.

Working with asbestos can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma and a host of other ailments, including cardiac inflammation, resulting in many personal injury claims over the last few decades.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries occur any time mother or child suffers serious injuries during childbirth. Birth injuries usually occur for one of two reasons: either because the medical care providers failed to take necessary precautions and intervene before circumstances became more serious, or because medical care providers insisted on unnecessary interventions that ultimately caused complications during the birth.

Brain Injuries

In the movies and other popular media, brain injuries are usually depicted as problems with long-term memory. In reality, however, victims with traumatic brain injury may face a wide range of other potential challenges, including difficulties focusing on the task at hand, problems with short-term memory, and even issues with emotional regulation.

Brain injuries can linger long after the initial accident, with many victims of even minor traumatic brain injury suffering from symptoms more than a year after the initial accident. Those injuries can quickly become incredibly expensive, especially as victims struggle with going back to work until symptoms resolve.

Dangerous Drug Claims

The medical industry offers a host of products that are intended to help treat ailments and improve patients’ quality of life. Some of those drugs and medical devices, however, may cause dangerous side effects that can ultimately decrease the patient’s quality of life or lead to severe issues that the patient must then contend with.

Many drug manufacturers pull their medications from the shelves each year after discovering that their medications cause more complications than initially realized.

Amputations

On construction sites, in car accidents, and in accidents involving heavy machinery, amputations are a very real threat. Sometimes, the victim may suffer the immediate amputation of the limb due to the force of the machinery or accident. In other cases, amputation may result from severe crushing damage to the limb, which may cut off blood flow and lead to tissue death.

Amputees have a variety of complications that they must deal with every day, including relearning how to perform many common activities. If they choose to use prosthetics to help with function, amputees may need to contend with the expense of those devices for the rest of their lives.

Back and Neck Injuries

Back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States each year. While some victims suffer back pain as a result of repetitive stress injuries, including too much time spent sitting behind a desk, others may suffer back and neck injuries because of severe accidents.

Bulging or herniated discs, strained muscles, or spinal cord injuries can all cause immense suffering and considerable pain for the victim. Spinal cord injury victims often suffer partial or full paralysis below the site of the injury, while victims with other types of back and neck injuries may suffer pain or weakness that prevents them from working or even connecting with friends and family with the same ease they did before the accident.

Dog Bite Injuries

In most states, dog owners must keep their animals under control and exercise every precaution to prevent dangerous attacks. If an animal attacks a person who otherwise legally has the right to be in that location, including on private property, the dog’s owner may bear liability for the dog’s actions.

Dog bites not only mean serious initial injury, but they can also lead to psychological trauma or severe infection, especially if the victim does not receive prompt, comprehensive medical treatment.

Burn Injuries

Severe burns can occur from more than just heat. Burns can also result from extreme cold, chemical exposure, or electricity. Burns cause immense pain and significant tissue death around the site of the injury.

Deep burns can even result in nerve damage which, while it may prevent the victim from feeling the initial pain of the burns, can lead to a permanent loss of sensation in the affected area. Burn victims may have an expensive road to recovery, including a long stay in a special burn unit, which personal injury claims can provide compensation for.

Do I have the right to file a personal injury claim after minor injuries?

Yes, you can file a personal injury claim for any type of injury. Even so-called minor injuries can have a substantial impact on many areas of your life. A single broken bone, for example, can prevent you from working for six to eight weeks or more while it heals. Not only that, you may have costly medical bills in front of you.

In some cases, after a minor injury, the insurance company that covers the liable party may prove more likely to pay out the compensation you deserve for those injuries quickly.

A major injury may mean more substantial losses for the insurance company, which can make the insurance company less likely to release those funds in a reasonable amount of time. Hiring a personal injury attorney can ensure that you are fairly compensated and quickly.

How much compensation can I expect from a personal injury claim?

Sit down with an attorney to learn more about your right to compensation, including how much you can expect. Most attorneys will provide a free consultation to go over the initial circumstances that led to your injuries, which may give you a better idea of how you want to move forward with your personal injury claim.

Keep in mind that even an attorney cannot guarantee the compensation you will receive through a personal injury claim. A lawyer can provide you with a ballpark number based on their past experience but cannot promise the exact amount an insurance company will ultimately negotiate.

There are no guarantees when it comes to the compensation you will ultimately receive from a personal injury claim. Often, that compensation depends on a wide range of factors, including:

1 – Who committed the act of negligence that led to your injury?

Who committed the act of negligence that led to your injury and the kind of insurance company they have will ultimately impact how much compensation you receive.

In most personal injury claims, you will not deal with the party that caused your accident directly. Most of the time, you will contend with that party’s insurance company.

The insurance company will have a specific policy that governs how much compensation it can offer in specific settings. The type of insurance policy you have to deal with will depend on the type of accident you suffered and who caused your injuries.

Take a look at some common personal injury lawsuits against insurance companies below to learn what to expect in your case:

Auto Insurance Companies

Most of the time, after an accident on the road or involving a motor vehicle, you will deal with an auto insurance company. Some drivers will carry only minimum liability insurance, which will offer the individual state’s minimum compensation to an individual or multiple parties injured in an auto accident in addition to offering compensation for a vehicle damaged in the accident.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies

A medical malpractice insurance company offers a policy that covers doctors and other medical care professionals. It typically provides coverage when a victim suffers serious injuries or losses because of a doctor’s negligence.

Business Liability Insurance Companies

Business liability insurance is specifically designed to offer compensation to a victim who suffers serious injuries as a result of an act of negligence on the part of the business, including producing products that cause serious injury to people who use them.

Premises Liability Insurance Companies

Most premises owners, including both private and business owners, carry premises liability insurance, which offers compensation when someone suffers injury on the property. You can file a personal injury claim against a private property owner, including a homeowner, if you suffer serious injuries on that individual’s property.

2 – What type of personal injury did you sustain?

When putting together the demand package associated with your personal injury claim, an attorney will often start by looking at your medical costs. Those medical bills are often your greatest financial loss associated with your accident. Emergency medical treatment alone can cause substantial strain on your wallet.

If you sustain severe injuries, you may require ongoing medical treatment, from long-term hospitalization to numerous surgeries and procedures required to speed your healing and recovery. As you recover, you may have ongoing physical and occupational therapy expenses associated with that recovery.

The more severe your injuries, the higher your medical bills. As a result, the amount you must ask for in compensation for your injuries will also grow higher.

3 – What other financial losses did you face as a result of your injuries?

In addition to your direct medical bills, you may suffer a number of other financial losses. They may include:

  • Lost income because you could not work immediately after your accident
  • Direct financial losses related to the accident, including damage to a vehicle or personal possessions
  • Pain and suffering, including emotional anguish, related to your injuries

An attorney will take a look at all of those losses, including the suffering you faced due to your injuries, and help assess the compensation you may deserve through a personal injury claim.

When should I hire a personal injury attorney?

After a serious accident, you may get a call from the insurance company with a settlement offer. The insurance company may pressure you to accept their offer quickly to speed up the claims process and move forward.

There’s just one problem: you may, at that point, have no idea how much compensation you deserve. Some insurance companies will try to take advantage of that.

When you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, do not accept it immediately.

Talk to a personal injury lawyer with experience in accident law to better understand your case and establish the amount of compensation you really deserve. Then determine whether the settlement offer is a fair representation of the compensation you need.

The insurance company may also try to use a variety of tactics to pressure you after the accident, from trying to convince you to accept the initial offer quickly or threaten to prove that you, rather than the party covered by the insurance policy, caused the majority of the accident.

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate those challenges and prevent you from settling for less than you deserve. Enter your ZIP code below to speak with a local personal injury lawyer today for free.

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