Personal injury lawsuits can arise when someone suffers an injury in an incident resulting from another party’s wrongdoing (usually due to negligence or an intentional act). Unfortunately, insurance carriers of a party responsible for causing injuries to others often refuse to offer fair monetary compensation through informal negotiation. In those instances where pre-litigation efforts to resolve the case have been unsuccessful, the accident victim may be able to file a lawsuit seeking appropriate compensation
The primary goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to recover full and fair compensation for all injuries and losses stemming from the accident.
If you suffered injuries in an accident that occurred because of someone else’s negligence, then filing a personal injury lawsuit might be the best way to be fairly compensated. A skilled and experienced personal injury attorney in your area can evaluate your case and assist you with determining the best way to secure recovery for your injuries.
When Does a Personal Injury Case Arise?
A personal injury case arises when someone suffers injuries in an accident due to someone else’s unsafe or negligent conduct.
Personal injury claims and lawsuits can arise in many different ways but often result from:
- Car and truck accidents
- Motorcycle and bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents and other accidents that occur on premises belonging to someone else
- Construction accidents
- Unsafe/Defective products
If you sustained injuries in one of these situations, a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area can discuss the case with you and determine your options for filing a claim or lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Monetary Compensation and Damages
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, in most cases, personal injury attorneys will try to resolve the case informally with the at-fault party’s insurance company. This is because it is usually faster and less expensive to to resolve cases without litigation, when possible. Pre-litigation efforts to resolve cases are most effective in matters where the fault of the responsible party is clear and the resulting injuries are obvious. This is often the case with auto crashes.
As part of a personal injury claim, the accident victim’s lawyer will typically include several very important pieces of documentation in a demand package sent to the responsible party’s insurance company. The purpose of the demand package is to describe the facts of the case, detail the resulting damages and make the insurance company aware of the amount of money the injured person is seeking.
To support the demand, a settlement demand package in a personal injury claim will also usually include:
- Pictures of the accident scene and property damage if available
- Copies of relevant medical records and bills that reference the accident victim’s injuries and treatment
- Documents establishing lost wages if the injured person missed time from work to treat injuries
- Copies of a police report or diagrams of the accident scene that officers prepared following the accident
- Witness statements and reports from individuals who saw the accident firsthand
- Pictures of injuries and an explanation of how the injuries have impacted the person’s life
The insurance company adjuster handling the personal injury claim will review all of this documentation to determine whether the insurer will accept liability and/or agree to pay the amount that has been demanded. Following this evaluation the adjuster may offer to settle the matter. However, you should be wary of initial settlement offers made by insurance adjusters as they are routinely low and rarely fully and fairly compensate accident victims for their injuries.
In most cases the insurance company and the accident victim’s lawyer will need to do some negotiating to see if the parties can agree to a settlement of the case. If the parties reach an impasse, litigating the case is the next option. The litigation process begins when the injured party files a lawsuit with an appropriate court.
Filing the Lawsuit in Court
Filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court starts the litigation process. Although the accident victim (called a “plaintiff”) files the lawsuit against the at-fault defendant, such as a negligent driver who causes an accident, the insurance company still makes the decision about whether to settle the case during litigation before trial.
Even after a victim files a lawsuit in a personal injury case, the parties can continue negotiating and can reach a favorable settlement. If that happens, the lawsuit gets dismissed, and the accident victim cannot file another lawsuit arising out of the same accident at any point in the future. However, if the parties still cannot resolve their differences, a personal injury case might go to a jury trial.
Once the case goes to trial, a jury will decide all disputed issues in the case. In some instances where fault is apparent, the parties might stipulate to liability. In that instance, the jury will only decide damages, which is how much money the defendant must pay the accident victim.
In a personal injury claim or lawsuit you can recover a various damages, most commonly medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Lawsuit
People wanting to pursue personal injury claims do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The deadline for filing a personal injury case with the court varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, can depend on the facts of your case, and may be shorter if the responsible party is a public entity. State laws set out these deadlines, called the statutes of limitations.
In some states, the statute of limitations is as short as one or two years. California, for example, has a two-year time limit on injury lawsuits for most claims, but some have special deadlines as short as six months.
If you fail to file your personal injury lawsuit within the required timeframe, a court will dismiss your case and you cannot recover damages for personal injuries resulting from your accident. The lesson is that it is best to file your claim or lawsuit as early on in the process as appropriate for your case, and a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area can help you do just that.