Accidents are common, but when the negligence of someone else causes them, that person or entity is legally bound to pay for the injuries and damages.
If you or your property have been harmed, then it is essential to consult an attorney who can help you understand if you have a personal injury claim and how to go about winning the settlement you deserve.
What is a personal injury claim?
Personal injury law varies from state to state. The general definition of a personal injury claim is a legal dispute that arises when one person sustains harm to themselves or their property, and another entity of entities is responsible for that injury or damage.
Personal injury claims are settled in one of three ways. These are:
- A formal lawsuit—when a person files a complaint against another entity, which could be a person, corporation, business or government agency.
- An informal settlement—Most personal injury claims are handled through a settlement process, especially when insurers are involved.
- Arbitration—The process of dispute resolution where a third party helps negotiate a settlement.
The most common types of personal injury claims
1.- Given that over 273 million vehicles are registered in the United States, there is little wonder that the most common type of personal injury claim is from an automobile accident. Depending on the laws in your state, if you are injured in an automobile accident, you can recoup compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and earning ability, pain, and suffering, damage to the vehicle, and other costs associated with the accident.
2.- Slip and fall injuries are another common cause of personal injury claims. Those who own or operate businesses open to the public have a responsibility to keep the building safe from hazards. The causes of a trip and fall can include:
- Uneven or slippery steps
- Cracked flooring or sidewalks
- Slick flooring materials
- A lack of proper railing
- Objects stacked in such a way that they can fall onto a person
- Assault and battery or intentional torts—when someone has attacked you, or deliberately caused bodily harm, you have the grounds for a personal injury suit. The legal concept of “intent” must be proven for these suits to be successful. You, with the help of a skilled attorney, will be responsible for showing that the person intended to cause harm before you can recoup damages.
- Dog bites are more prevalent than pet lovers want to believe. Under the law, a dog is considered the property of the owner, and owners are liable for compensation if their dog causes injury to another person or animal. You can also file a personal injury suit if the dog has caused damage to your property. It is essential that you work with a personal injury attorney in your state because the laws governing dog bites vary widely depending on the state.
Many states follow a “one-bite” rule, meaning a dog owner is not liable if their dog has never before shown signs of aggression. Actions on your part will also play a role in whether the suit has merit. Many states will not uphold a claim for damages if your actions can be construed as provoking the animal, or if you were given adequate warning about the dog’s nature, but approached the dog anyway.
- Defamation of character, when your reputation is harmed by libel or slander, is a personal injury. If someone says things about you that affect your ability to get a job, you can often claim the right to compensation equaling the lost earnings. An experienced attorney is necessary in defamation cases, as they are complicated and often hard to prove. It is important to remember that, in most states, you can only sue for defamation if the statements meet the legal criteria of being a) false and b) causes provable damage.
Steps to take if you sustain an injury
If you have been injured, there are essential things you can do to help your chances of winning a personal injury case. Depending on the extent of your injuries, it might be difficult for you to do some of these things. Have an advocate such as a friend or relative do them for you.
- Document everything that happened as soon as you can. Write out a statement detailing everything you remember about the event that led to your injury.
- If there were witnesses, try to get their names and contact information in case it is needed in the future.
- Take pictures of everything. Use the camera on your phone to take photos of the scene, preferably immediately after the accident. Take photos of your injuries, and continue to take pictures to document the healing process.
- Ask for copies of all medical records related to your injury.
- Schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Though most states have reasonable statutes of limitations, older personal injury cases are harder to win. Witnesses disappear or forget important details of what they witnessed. The laws can change to be less favorable to you, or the business responsible for your injury may close.