On my campus, I saw people slipping and falling all the time. Little did I expect, I would encounter a slip and fall in my own life. I nearly escaped an oncoming car, which left me bruised. It happened while I was on my way to the office. I couldn’t go to my office in Pittsburgh, USA, and consulted a personal injury lawyer.
It was unbelievable that a car had injured my foot. I was out of action for days, but the incident gave me a very first-hand look into the world of personal injury law.
How do you begin a personal injury claim?
In the United States, every specific tort claim, irrespective of its basis, whether intentional, negligence, or strict liability, has two core issues—liability and damages. The common question is always if the defendant is liable for the damages one sustains, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of the damages? If one can prove liability and damages, the American system of justice will award compensation for the losses sustained.
Who is at fault in a personal injury case?
Amongst many types of injuries, the most common one, are automobile accidents. The area of law in which most personal injury actions are analyzed is tort law, which offers remedies to claimants in the form of damages. Sometimes, if the damages are excessive, then punitive damages may be provided. In U.S. tort law, the person who is at “fault” and who injures a bystander is the one who has failed to exercise reasonable care. As per the law, it is this person who ought to have not breached his duty of proper care to pedestrians, as it is expected that a pedestrian will try to cross the road safely. When drivers breach that duty and an injury results, personal injury law says you can recoup your losses. However, every state in the U.S. may have a different system, as some states have no-fault laws while others do not.
What is the difference between strict liability and an intentional wrong in personal injury law?
The reach of negligence in tort law goes beyond car accidents. Strict liability and Intentional Wrongs are the two most significant bases of personal injury cases. It will be helpful to distinguish the two:
Strict liability is an evolving area of tort law. In the U.S., designers and manufacturers are strictly liable for any injury caused by the products they design. The only point which the victim has to show us that the design was dangerous, and it was caused by their defective product. In other terms, one does not need to establish the negligence of the manufacturer here; it is proved after the harm done to the victim before the usage of such a product. Often, if the driver is drunk or a cyclist injures a bystander, liability can be analyzed under a strict liability framework
Intentional Wrongs are the second type of personal injury claims. Though they are not often evident in the practical world, there are good chances for one to win a suit for battery due to intentional wrong. If a store fails to clean up its store and you slip and fall due to some liquid on the floor, you may have a claim under a doctrine called res ipsa loquitur.
Res ipsa loquitur stands for the ‘the things speaks for itself.’ Hence, absent negligence, a store owner, would have been more careful and should have prevented someone from slipping and have a fall. Interestingly, some courts will extend this concept to even situations where an independent contractor is used, such that a property owner owes a duty of care to people visiting his or her store at the mall. It is important to remember that a tort case is a civil proceeding in court that is brought by an individual or entity and remains separate from any criminal charges brought by the government.
Can I file a lawsuit in a case involving an automobile accident?
In cases such as automobile accidents, most of the cases are dealt through by-party insurance companies and are resolved through compensation. Even if someone is not satisfied by the amount of compensation, they can indeed file a lawsuit, where you become the plaintiff in the case, and the person who injured you becomes the defendant. Lawyers for each side (and for the insurer) typically begin gathering facts through the exchange of documents, written questions (interrogatories), or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases get settled before trial. Only a small percentage of personal injury actions ever go to trial.
What are damages in a personal injury case?
After the thorough procedure followed by the court system, and after spending all the time and the resources evolved, if you can win, a judge or jury awards you money that is commonly known as ‘damages,’ for your injuries sustained. That amount can include compensation for such expenses as makeup for the medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for future wage losses. It also can compensate you for physical pain and suffering. Also, you may receive damages for any physical disfigurement or disability that resulted from your injury.
How do I settle a Personal Injury Case?
In every case, there comes an option to settle the case, which means you agree to accept money in return for dropping all the charges against the person who caused the injury. The process includes you signing a release liberalizing the other side of any further liability. To support your contention here and decide whether to accept the settlement offer, your lawyer will be able to provide a fair assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful. The settlement of a personal injury case also can take place at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed, including before trial or even after a case has been tried but before a jury reaches a verdict. The liberty to accept the settlement offer is always yours, not the lawyers.
How does punishment work in a personal Injury case?
Punishment comes from criminal cases, not civil cases. Defendants in civil actions for personal injury do not receive jail time or big-time fines as punishment. Those are criminal sentences, and individual injury cases are civil disputes. (But sometimes punitive damages are awarded as measures by the judges/juries when the defendant’s intentional acts have injured you. These awards are rather rare.
Am I limited by a time-limit in personal injury cases?
In the U.S., every state has certain time-barred limits, called “statutes of limitations,” that govern the period during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit. For example, in some states, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit from an automobile accident. If you miss the statutory deadline for filing a case, your case is thrown out of court.
Hence, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the various parts of the U.S. system before filing for a personal injury lawsuit. Sometimes, the language can be confusing and technical, but after an initial overview, the world of U.S. tort law begins to make sense.
By Rishav Soni, Attorney
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