Personal Injury Lawsuits: Complete Guide for Beginners
Have you been involved in some sort of accident, and are wondering what actions you should take, as well as what type of lawsuit you should pursue? Well, if you were injured due to another party’s negligence or disregard for following standard safety precautions, you are looking for personal injury lawsuits.
Personal injury lawsuits are a claim against a certain individual, or company, that enforces your rights to receive monetary compensation for damages done upon yourself by that other individual, or company.
In many situations, you would seek compensation from the responsible party’s insurance company. Which, is just another example of why everyone should have insurance. There are many different types of Personal Injury Lawsuits, and if you keep reading, we will get right into them.
Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Vehicle Accident Lawsuits
Vehicle accident lawsuits are the most common type of personal injury lawsuits, in the United State of America. Even though these are accidents, when they do occur, usually it is because someone is not following the rules of the road, or they are not driving as carefully as they ought to be.
A careless driver is usually held financially responsible for the injuries their careless act caused on the others involved. However, there are exceptions that do exist in the “no-fault” states, where drivers have to collect from their own insurers, except in cases of “serious” injury.
If you have been injured in a car, truck, semi or any other type of vehicle accident, contacting a lawyer who specializes in personal injury lawsuits can assist you on your decision to file or not.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
One of the rare types of personal injury lawsuits filed are medical malpractice lawsuits. However, these are normally the highest monetary compensation lawsuits. A medical malpractice claim can arise when a doctor, or any other health care professional, fails to provide competent and reasonably skilled care, and their patient becomes injured as a result.
Due to the plaintiff already needing medical attention, it makes this type of personal injury lawsuits very complex. The plaintiff has to prove that their new, or worsened, injury or even death was caused directly from the malpractice of the medical practitioner, or the entire medical facility that they received their medical attention from. If the plaintiff cannot prove this, it makes it difficult to decide if the plaintiff is at fault or the defense.
Slip and Fall Lawsuits
This personal injury lawsuit falls just after vehicle accidents as the most common type of lawsuit filed under personal injury. Property owners, and sometimes those who are renting a property, have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably safe and free of hazards, so when guests are on the property, they do not fall injured from the unsafe property.
Of course, not all injuries that happen on someone’s property end with them being held liable, as accidents happen with even the most well-kept properties. The exact nature of the landowner’s legal duty varies depending on the situation, as well as in regards to the state laws where the injury took place.
Slip and Fall Lawsuits are typically based on premises liability laws. However, it is also not as cut and dry, like many other types of Personal Injury Lawsuits. Much like the Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, the plaintiff has to be able to prove that the defendant acted carelessly.
In regards to Slip and Fall Lawsuits, this means that the plaintiff has to prove the landowner left his or her property unmanaged, and that is what caused the injury. All the defense has to prove is that it was simply an accident that occurred by no means of either party, just a simple accident.
Defamation: Libel and Slander
Defamation of character in the form of a libelous assault, or slanderous act, refers to the fact that a person can suffer an injury to his or her reputation as a result of an untrue statement made about the plaintiff. The exact nature of what defamation plaintiffs must prove will vary depending on who the plaintiff is, as well as the forum of which the statement was made.
An average person usually only needs to prove that an untrue, negative, statement was made and that statement directly caused actual harm, mainly through financial loss, by means of its release. However, celebrities or other public figures, like government workers, usually have to prove what is called “actual malice.” Actual malice means that they need to prove that the nature of the false statement was made with either intentional or reckless disregard to the truth of the statement made.
Another popular use of a Defamation, or Libel and Slander, is to claims that a person committed a crime in order to attain some personal gain from their arrest. The bad side of this is that the person who the statement was made against not only has to prove that they did not do the crime they were accused of but also has to prove that the person who accused them acted in a selfish, reckless manner. Which, makes defamation lawsuits both one of the easiest and more difficult lawsuits to judge. However, they typically lean more towards the easier side.
The most common form of animal attack lawsuits is dog bites. In most lawsuits, the owner of the dog is financially responsible for the bites and any other injury caused by their dog. This is the same for any other type of pet that a person or family may own.
The exact laws on owner responsibility do vary from state to state. However, in some instances of animal attacks, strict liability rules exist where the animal owner will be held liable for the animal bite. This is the case even if the animal itself has never shown any aggression, or propensity to bite in the past. In the other states, “One Bite” rules are put in place. These “One Bite” rules state that the animal owner is only responsible for any personal injury once there is common knowledge that the owner’s pet is known to show aggression frequently or is prone to biting.
If you have been attacked by another’s animal, you will need to check your state laws and see if you fall under the “One Bite” rules, or if your state follows the rule of any bite leads to liability. If you cannot find the rules your state uses, you can always contact a personal injury lawyer. Once, you have discovered your states ruling, if you fall under the “One Bite” law, then you will need to prove that the animal that attacked you has had a history of aggressive behavior, or is at least prone to biting. If you fall under any bite, then you can move ahead with the filing process.
Assault, Battery, and Other Intentional Torts
Lastly, there are assault and battery lawsuits. Unlike most of the other types of personal injury lawsuits, intentional torts are not based on accidents caused by negligence or carelessness but instead based on when one-person harms or injures another with intent.
These personal injury lawsuits almost always involve the added aspect of a criminal case against the perpetrator (the attacker). As an example, when one person physically attacks another, he or she will probably face criminal charges. In addition, the victim can file personal injury lawsuits in civil court and demand compensation for the injuries caused by the attacker.
Compensation here can stem from medical bills, loss of income due to recovery time, and in some cases, from loss of ability. If you have been attacked, an Assault or Battery Lawsuit is far easier to prove than the previously discussed personal injury lawsuits. All you have to do is prove that it was a specific person, which can be confirmed by a video, photo or scientific tests, such as a DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) test or identification marking tests (i.e. fingerprint, palm print, etc.).
Where to go From Here?
So, no what you know all the types of personal injury lawsuits, you can get started filing. The process can take some time, but do not worry, we have listed out all the steps you need to take, as well as what time frame they typically fall under. With that being said, you need to understand that the time frames given can vary, just like everything in life. In some instances, the time frame could be much less, or it could be longer. Just remember the goal is to get your rightful compensation.
So, with all that being said, keep on reading so you can get an idea of how the flow goes with Personal Injury Lawsuits!
Timeframe for Personal Injury Lawsuits
Engage an Attorney – The first thing that you need to do to start your lawsuit is to contact a lawyer. If your injury caused you to miss out on work for more than a couple days, if you broke a bone, or if medical bills have totaled more than a couple thousand dollars, you will want to contact a lawyer.
Starting the Case – In this stage, you and your lawyer will begin the initial paperwork and processing. In addition, this is when your party lets the opposing party known what you are intending to claim against them. It is important to remember that the statute of limitations determines how long you have to file your claim. If the accident fell outside of this limitation, then you have lost your chance to file.
From here, it moves to Court Motions. Here is where the case may be dismissed or have a judgment entered due to factors such as jurisdiction, venue, improper process, default, etc. All this can happen before the Discovery Process.
Discovery Process – This process can take six months, to a year. However, there have been some lawsuits that this process can be even longer. But that is okay, as in this stage, facts are dug up, reports are gathered or produced (Police Reports, Medical Records, etc.) and depositions and witness statements are taken. All these are very important to proving your case, and the more you have, the easier the rest will be.
During this process, it is also the lawyers’ job to exchange documentation. After those steps have been taken, investigations about the disputes of the event will occur. This could include accident reconstruction and or other research. This time is also allotted for receiving maximum medical improvement or a firm prognosis from a medical expert to be given.
Discovery Process (Continued) – After the previous steps conclude, an attempted settlement is presented. Most lawsuits are actually settled here, through negotiation, mediation or arbitration. If a settlement is reached, congratulations! You are done with your lawsuit. If a settlement is not reached, your case will continue through trial.
Go to Trial – At trial, motions and other arguments will occur separately from the jury hearing the case. It is also possible, that during the trial, a settlement could be reached. If so, you are done! If not, once again, your case will continue towards a verdict.
Reaching a Verdict – This step can take anywhere from one to two years since the original filing of the lawsuit. At this time, it is the defense’s turn to appeal, which could force a settlement for a lower dollar amount than the jury set. In addition, if the appeal is successful, a whole new trial or settlement could arise. If the plaintiff wins, the defendant owes him or her the amount determined by the jury.
Collection – If you are successful, the collection of the judgment begins here. However, sometimes the defendant does not always pay as they are supposed to. The final judgment may be one lump sum, or it may be broken down into multiple payments. This collection step technically varies in time of starting, as your case could have ended at the original attempted settlement. The three-year mark is given for the cases that get stretched to this point.
However, remember that most personal injury lawsuits are processed within one to two years. So, hopefully, you will not have to wait three years to receive the monetary compensation that you deserve. It is best to remain call and practice patience when it comes to law. If you rush, you could miss out on key evidence, or even a way to receive greater compensation. In the end, the law will always win, it just may not take a day.
With all that said, there are a few things you may want to consider that will end up improving, or wrecking your lawsuit.
Factors to Success and Failure
Just as with anything you do in life, there are certain aspects that if you do them a certain way, it could lead to greater success or failure in achieving your goal. To help you out though, we have listed them all for you!
Success – There are two main factors that can really strengthen your lawsuit and lead you to a successful verdict. Those factors are time restrictions and comparative negligence. As mentioned above, there are statutes of limitations, which give you a specified amount of time, from the date of the incident, to file your lawsuit. If you do not hesitate, and start the litigation process earlier, you are more likely to get better facts and data from all involved. The more facts you have, the better you can bolster your attack.
When it comes to comparative negligence, this is a rule that if done right, will grant you a larger monetary compensation. Comparative negligence is a rule that takes into account your actions before, during and after the accident. If you were found at fault in any manner, this will negatively affect your compensation.
So, if you act quickly and can prove that you were not at fault in any manner, your lawsuit will go by much quicker, with a greater impact, and will lead to you getting the proper amount of compensation, that you well deserve.
Failure – But just as there are things you can do to boost your case, there are also things you can do to negatively affect your case. The most common are seeking improper medical care, saying too much to the insurance company, giving non-supportive documentation, sharing too much on social media and not using a skilled attorney to represent you.
Just as if you delay in starting your case, if you delay your medical care, you are sending a message that the accident did not cause the issue, or they were not serious. Simply going to the ER (Emergency Room), an Urgent Care or to your own doctor will not only improve your own health but will provide proper documentation into the severity of the injury.
If you immediately go onto social media or call your insurance company, any statements you make are now published and available for the defense to use against you. When it comes to social media, stay off of it about any accident you were involved in. As for the insurance companies, only give straight facts. Do not go over the top, or say anything that is not true. If you do not know what happened, just say you do not remember. Any false information will come back to hurt you.
All of the above scenarios lead to support documentation. When you are in an accident, you will want to use any and all documentation possible. If you fail to do so, you risk the chance of failure for your case.
Documentation is also a very important part of the Lawyer’s job. If your lawyer is not given quality and quantity documentation, there is not much they can do for you. On the contrary, there are some lawyers that cannot do much for you in general. When it comes to the law, always get the best representation possible. A Personal Injury Lawyer is your best friend and ally in winning your lawsuit. Without a good one, you can greatly decrease your odds of success.
Summing it Up
There are many different types of personal injury lawsuits. But no matter the type, every lawsuit follows the same steps and timeline. If you need any reminders, here is the list of personal injury lawsuits you can file:
- Vehicle Accident Cases
- Medical Malpractice
- Slip and Fall Cases
- Defamation: Libel and Slander
- Animal Attacks
- Assault, Battery and Other Intentional Torts
When it comes to the process, there are many variables that will influence the outcome. With that being said, here is the timeframe with all the steps included:
- Year One
- Engage an Attorney
- Start the Case
- Discovery Process
- Year Two
- Discovery Process (Continued)
- Go to Trial
- Reach a Verdict
- Year Three
And Finally, personal injury lawsuits have certain aspects of them, that if acted on correctly, will increase your success. However, there are also more aspects, that if done incorrectly, will lead you down the path of failure. Those aspects are the following:
- Time Restrictions
- Comparative Negligence
- Seeking Improper Medical Care
- Saying Too Much to The Insurance Company
- Giving Non-Supportive Documentation
- Sharing Too Much on Social Media
- Not Using A Skilled Attorney to Represent You
If you take anything from this, it should be to only give truthful statements, practice your patience, use all the information you have, fight for your rights, and use a Personal Injury Lawyer that knows what they are doing. Putting each of these aspects into practice will give you the best chance at winning your case.