Personal Injury Overview - Law and Lawyers

When you suffer a personal injury, the consequences can be physical as well as financial. The pain you feel may be compounded by the stress of medical bills you can’t pay and income you aren’t making since you can’t work. The law recognizes that suffering a personal injury can be damaging and, as such, if that injury was caused by someone else, personal injury law allows you to receive compensation. In order to get personal injury compensation, however, you should understand what is involved in making personal injury claims, and you usually should hire a personal injury attorney.

Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims can cover a wide variety of situations. These claims can include:

  • Car accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents
  • Slip and fall cases or cases based on other injuries you suffer because of a dangerous situation at a public location or private residence other than your own
  • Medical malpractice cases
  • Defective product cases, such as bad drugs or products with a defective design
  • Situations where someone hurt you intentionally
  • Dog bite cases

Other situations may also give rise to personal injury claims as well. In almost any situation where someone else hurt you through their negligent or intentional actions, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim.

Collecting Damages

If you suffer a personal injury of any nature, you generally have two options to collect damages. You can arrive at an out of court settlement with the person who hurt you (or, most likely, his insurer who will be footing the bill for legal fees and damages) or you can take your claim to court and sue.

For an insurer to offer you a settlement, the insurer will generally has to be reasonably convinced that their insured will be held at least partially responsible under the law. A settlement offer may not be generous. In fact, the insurance company will probably offer you as little as possible with the hope that you accept. Remember, insurers want to protect their own interests and make money. It is usually advisable to check with a personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement from an insurance company.

Proving Your Claim

To be able to prove a personal injury claim, you need to show that the defendant did something wrong. This involves showing that:

  • The defendant either hurt you on purpose (with intent) or was negligent in some manner. Perhaps he didn’t maintain his property properly according to the standard required by law, or he did not behave with the care required of a reasonable person in a particular situation.
  • The negligence directly caused your injury.

You also need to show the nature and extent of your injury so a jury can decide on damages. Damages may include medical bills, wages lost due to missed work, money to compensate you for pain and suffering, and even money to compensate you for emotional distress. In certain instances, you can even collect damages called punitive damages - designed to punish the defendant for very bad or reckless behavior.

Collecting Evidence

You will want to have as much evidence as you can, both of what the defendant did and how you were affected. This includes:

  • Photographs from the scene of an accident
  • Expert medical testimony
  • Detailed medical records
  • A pain journal or other recount of the pain you endured

Any additional evidence you can collect will strengthen your case and make it more likely you’ll be awarded a damage settlement that compensates you fully.

Getting an Injury Lawyer

When you suffer a personal injury, one of the first things you should do is get a personal injury lawyer. Your injury lawyer will help you in a number of important ways:

  • A lawyer can evaluate your case to determine if you do, indeed, have a personal injury claim
  • Your injury attorney can send a demand letter to the insurance company, letting them know how much you expect them to compensate you in order for you to agree to a settlement
  • Your personal injury lawyer can ensure you comply with the statute of limitations, which is a time limit set by state law within which you must bring your claim or risk losing your right to sue
  • An attorney can assist you in filling out all paperwork, whether with the insurance company to make a personal injury claim or with the court to initiate a lawsuit
  • Personal injury lawyers are experts at negotiating. They can help you to understand what damages you are entitled to and can help you to get the insurance company to agree to pay those damages
  • If a case goes to court, a personal injury lawyer will be invaluable at helping to ensure you comply with all court rules, and helping to collect evidence to build your case. He can hire expert witnesses, assemble documents and evidence and do everything else necessary to convince a jury to see things your way

When you hire a personal injury lawyer, most often you do not have to pay any upfront legal fees. Typically fees are handled on a contingent fee basis. This means payment is contingent upon you winning your case, and when you win the lawyer takes a portion of your settlement. Your lawyer will be on your side, driven to help you win and to help you make sure that the financial burden of the personal injury accident is alleviated.

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