Personal injury law is a branch of tort law that deals with legal disputes arising from injuries caused by another party’s negligence or intent to harm. Personal injury attorneys can often help victims settle tort claims outside the courtroom, allowing them to recover financial compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. However, when litigation is necessary to settle a personal injury case, it occurs in a local civil court.
What Type of Accident May Fall Under Tort or Personal Injury Law?
Auto accidents consume the majority of personal injury claims. These can involve vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. Determining liability often hinges on proving negligence, such as failure to follow traffic laws and drive with reasonable safety. Less common cases include:
- Premises liability claims involve individuals injured on someone else’s property, such as slip-and-fall accidents in stores or private residences.
- Product liability claims involve injuries caused by defective or unsafe products and hold the manufacturer, distributor or retail accountable for harm caused by design flaws, defects or inadequate warnings.
- Medical malpractice claims arise from substandard care in the healthcare field, encompassing misdiagnoses, surgical errors, improper treatment, birth injuries and medication mistakes.
- Wrongful death claims seek compensation for the surviving family members of someone who lost their life due to a personal injury.
Each type of case falls under the umbrella of personal injury law but involves legal concepts specific to the state and type of case. Some are more complex than others. For example, auto accident cases can be open and shut, while product liability and medical malpractice cases are often more challenging and require extensive legal expertise.
What Is the Process of a Personal Injury Claim?
The process of a personal injury claim involves several key steps, starting with an individual suffering an injury due to someone else’s actions and seeking medical attention immediately after. Ideally, the injured party would then consult a personal injury attorney to assess the validity of their claim and understand their legal rights. The attorney will evaluate the case’s merits, including liability and potential damages. From there, the following steps occur:
- Investigation and gathering evidence. The attorney will conduct a thorough, independent investigation, collecting proof like accident reports, witness statements and medical records to build a solid case for compensation.
- Filing the claim. The attorney will file a claim on your behalf, typically with the at-fault party’s insurance provider, and begin negotiations for a fast and fair settlement that covers all your losses.
- Filing a lawsuit. The attorney may file a lawsuit if negotiations do not result in a satisfactory settlement. This action moves the case into the court system.
- Discovery and continued negotiations. Both parties exchange information through the discovery process, involving document requests, depositions and interrogatories. Even during litigation, parties often engage in continued negotiations or mediation to reach a settlement outside the courtroom.
- Trial. If a settlement is impossible, the case goes to trial, where a judge or jury will determine liability and damages. The process concludes with a court verdict.
Most personal injury claims settle without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. This is often ideal for the plaintiff and defendant because a trial can be lengthy and costly. Throughout this process, the expertise of a personal injury attorney is invaluable in navigating the legal complexities and advocating for your rights and fair compensation.
How To Protect Your Claim to Compensation
To protect your claim to compensation after a personal injury, seek immediate medical attention. This is vital for your health and essential for documenting your injuries, as medical records are key evidence in a personal injury case. It is also important to report the incident to the relevant authorities or parties, such as in the case of a car accident, workplace injury or slip-and-fall accident. Follow your doctor’s advice and adhere to the prescribed treatment plan to ensure the defense cannot undervalue the seriousness of your claim.
Documenting everything is also helpful for your claim. Take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries and any property damage if possible. Gather contact information from any witnesses or other parties involved. Exercise caution in giving statements, particularly to insurance adjusters or representatives of the opposing party, as these can be used against your claim.
Avoid accepting early settlement offers before consulting with a personal injury attorney. Most initial offers are much lower than what the provider actually owes you. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable guidance, negotiate on your behalf and help assess the true value of your claim.
When Do You Need an Attorney To Help With Your Case?
If the legal rules surrounding your case are complex or your situation involves significant financial stakes, an attorney’s legal expertise becomes invaluable. This is especially true in cases where the potential compensation is high. Insurance companies sometimes resort to bad faith tactics to avoid making a substantial payout on a valid claim.
If your case involves challenging evidence or expert testimonies, like in medical malpractice or product liability cases, a lawyer’s experience and resources can sometimes make or break the case. If the opposing party has legal representation, hiring an attorney to level the playing field is advisable, ensuring the protection of your rights.
Finally, when the case might lead to litigation, an attorney’s skills in navigating court procedures and advocating on your behalf become crucial. The complexity, potential value and adversarial nature of a case determine the necessity of an attorney’s involvement. However, you have nothing to lose from a free consultation under any circumstances.
Can You File a Civil Claim After Criminal Assault?
Victims of criminal assault can file a civil claim for damages against the assailant. The criminal and civil legal systems operate independently of each other. In criminal cases, the state prosecutes the perpetrator with the aim of punishing them, whereas in a civil claim, the victim personally seeks compensation for the harm suffered. This compensation can cover:
- The cost of current and future medical care, including rehabilitation
- The wages lost during recovery, including loss of earning capacity if the victim can no longer perform their previous job
- The cost of repairing property damages during the incident
- The physical and emotional pain and suffering associated with an assault
- Any out-of-pocket expenses related directly to the incident
The standards of proof differ in civil and criminal cases. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, the standard is the balance of probabilities, which is a lower threshold. This means the court could find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial while the civil court still holds them liable for damages. Initiating a civil claim can provide pathways for victims to seek restitution and recovery for their losses and suffering caused by the assault.
Where Can You Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney?
If you need help navigating the legal process of a civil tort claim after suffering a devastating personal injury, the legal team at Jeff Coat Injury Law can help. We commit to protecting our client’s rights and ensuring they receive the compensation needed to restore their lives or adjust to new circumstances as comfortably as possible. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney and take the first step in seeking justice.