Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?

by Carina Jenkins
Accident in city, traffic problems, feeling unwell and injury in car. Despair millennial islamic african american lady driver in hijab on steering wheel presses hand to head suffering from headache

Receiving compensation for an injury can make your recovery easier, but not every injury a person experiences qualifies as a “personal injury.”

Find out what falls under personal injury law and how you should proceed if your situation meets the requirements.

What Is Personal Injury in Legal Terms?

Personal injury law refers to situations where an individual is injured due to the negligence or intentional action of someone else. A personal injury case is a civil lawsuit designed to let the injured person receive compensation to make up for the losses they experienced. This can include compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost income due to the inability to work and a reduction in earning ability.

What Are Some Examples of Personal Injury Cases?

Lots of injuries individuals incur could fall under the personal injury category. The following situations should give you a few examples of what constitutes personal injury, but other injuries might also qualify.

Car Accident

If someone else is to blame for a car accident, you can file a lawsuit against them for damages. You don't have to be in a vehicle to file a claim for a car accident. You can also file a claim if you were a pedestrian or were riding your bike and got hit by a vehicle.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Falling under the “premises liability” category, a slip and fall could qualify if the owner of the property allowed a dangerous situation that contributed to the injury. Examples include a missing handrail, spills that make the floor slippery or obstacles that make you trip.

Dog Bites

Being bitten by someone else's dog often qualifies as a personal injury case.

Defective Products

If an unsafe or defective product causes an injury, you can often file a suit against the manufacturer, designer, seller or marketer of the product.

Medical Malpractice

A healthcare professional who acts negligently can be sued for medical malpractice, which falls under the personal injury umbrella.

Wrongful Death

If a loved one dies due to negligence, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, which is a category of personal injury law. The settlement can help cover funeral costs and final medical expenses that the person had due to the injury.

Defamation

Personal injuries don't have to be physical. Cases involving defamation, libel and slander can also qualify as personal injury cases.

Elder Care Abuse

Residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar care facilities who experience injury due to negligence or abuse can also file a civil suit.

What Are the Requirements for a Personal Injury Case?

The most obvious requirement for a case is a personal injury, which can be physical or mental. The injury has to be due to someone else's negligence or their failure to act, and that person must have had a duty to the injured party.

For example, your neighbor may have a duty to maintain the walkway in front of their home so you don’t fall when you walk by. But they probably don’t have a duty to maintain your walkway or the road in front of their house.

There also have to be damages that can be recovered, such as medical bills or lost wages.

What Steps Should I Take If I Believe I Have a Personal Injury Case?

If you believe your situation qualifies as a personal injury, document as much as possible. Seeking medical attention first is important, but you also want to preserve as much evidence as possible. Taking photos of the location where the injury happened can help prove your case. For example, if there was a spill on the floor, taking pictures of the spill can help. If the steps or handrail were loose or damaged, a photo can prove that it was an unsafe situation.

If you called 911 or reported the incident to the police, they can provide additional documentation that can help. Request a copy of the police report to have as evidence. If anyone else witnessed the incident, the police should get information from them. You can also ask for witness contact information in case you pursue legal action. Ask for copies of your medical records pertaining to the injury as additional evidence.

Next, talk to a personal injury lawyer about your case. While you may be permitted to represent yourself in a personal injury case, the laws and procedural rules can be difficult to follow. Having an attorney can increase your chances of winning or getting a larger settlement.

An experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury cases can evaluate your situation and give you an idea of how good your chances are of winning the case. If you decide to pursue legal action, the attorney helps you collect evidence, build a case, negotiate with the other party and argue in court if you don't accept a settlement. The attorney can also help you comply with legal requirements and procedures that are required in personal injury cases.

What Are the Resolution Options for a Personal Injury Case?

Many personal injury cases are settled outside the courtroom. The other party or their insurance company will often negotiate with your personal injury lawyer to resolve the case quickly. Your attorney will help you determine the amount of compensation you should request. The other party can either agree to pay the amount or negotiate a different settlement amount. If you can't agree with the other party, your case can go to trial. This option leaves it up to a judge or jury to determine if you should receive compensation and how much.

How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Case?

All personal injury cases have statutes of limitations that require you to file within a certain timeframe. The statute of limitations varies by state, with most states allowing 1 to 3 years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Some states have longer windows, and the statute of limitations may depend on the type of injury. Check on the statute of limitations in your state to avoid missing your opportunity to take legal action. If the time limit passes, you can no longer file a personal injury suit against the responsible party. Contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible helps you get the case started and understand the time limits that apply to your case.

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