Personal injury cases can happen when someone else’s negligence causes harm, whether it’s an individual, a business, or an institution. Some examples are getting into a car accident with a reckless driver, receiving substandard care from medical professionals, suffering a hard fall due to hazardous conditions in a store, or getting hurt due to a dangerous product defect.
Regardless of how it happens, the consequences for victims and their families can be devastating. Serious injuries will result in physical pain, long-term disruption to normal life, and an overwhelming financial burden. In the most severe cases, such as victims that suffer traumatic brain damage or spinal cord injuries, victims will never fully recover, leaving them with a reduced quality of life and ongoing health issues.
If you’re currently facing the heartbreaking consequences of a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, it’s important to know that you have rights under the law and that there’s a range of options available for recovering compensation.
The Most Common Types of Personal Injuries
Personal injuries are considered personal because they result in physical bodily harm rather than property damage. From a legal standpoint, personal injuries are caused by irresponsible behavior, whether or not it was done intentionally. This is a very broad field because there are so many ways for negligence to cause harm; however, some of the most common scenarios where an at-fault party can be held liable for injuries include:
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Even the most careful driver can eventually be in a serious accident due to someone else’s negligent driving. Most car, truck, and motorcycle accidents will happen because the at-fault party wasn’t following the rule of the road, whether it’s traffic violations, speeding, using a smartphone, or erratic lane changes.
One of the major challenges of pursuing a car accident claim is establishing who caused the accident, especially when there are conflicting accounts of what happened. However, personal injury lawyers have a range of resources for investigating a crash, proving fault, and holding the responsible party accountable.
Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals have a legal duty to avoid harming patients and provide treatments according to the specific standards set by medical science.
That means they can be held liable for deviating from these accepted protocols in a way that injures the patient, including worsening their condition or making it harder for them to survive. Medical malpractice includes misdiagnosing patients, surgical errors, anesthesia errors, or negligence during delivery that causes congenital disabilities.
When medical professionals fail to uphold their duties, the consequences can be tragic and may even include death. However, medical malpractice cases are considered some of the hardest to litigate and win due to being highly technical and having to meet a very high burden of proof. Personal injury lawyers depend on the testimony of medical experts that can show how the patient’s injuries were directly caused by receiving substandard care.
The owners of businesses, hotels, apartment buildings, and private houses are all held broadly responsible for maintaining a safe environment for legal visitors that come onto the property. Premises liability is not designed to make owners responsible for every possible scenario where someone might get hurt on their property but rather to prevent situations that any reasonable person would consider dangerous and likely to cause harm.
For example, you can hold property owners liable for injuries that result from slips and falls due to a hazardous walking surface, fires that start or spread due to fire code violations, preventable swimming pool accidents, or an aggressive dog that escapes and attacks the neighbor.
Whether it’s medical devices, children’s toys, vehicle parts, or packaged foods, defective products can cause incredible harm to unsuspecting consumers, often on a very large scale. Product defects can include manufacturing errors or poor design and products that become dangerous due to not being labeled correctly or not providing proper warnings.
One unique aspect of defective product cases is that companies that manufacture or sell an unreasonably hazardous product can be held liable even if they didn’t behave negligently, such as failing to conduct proper product testing.
This very high legal standard of responsibility, known as strict liability, reflects that consumers have every expectation that all products on the market are safe when used as directed. That means companies must go above and beyond in their efforts to avoid selling dangerous products and can be held “strictly” liable for consumer injuries, regardless of any specific wrongdoing.
How Do You Know Whether You Have a Personal Injury Case?
After suffering preventable harm due to the negligence of others, you’re likely dealing with a host of physical and financial consequences that can drastically change your life.
Personal injury laws offer victims a legal pathway for getting compensation and holding the responsible parties accountable. However, these laws are designed for situations that meet the specific criteria for negligence. To succeed with your personal injury claim, you must demonstrate that the party responsible for your injuries had placed you in preventable risk.
There are three elements for establishing negligence:
The Victim Deserved a Duty of Care
This element of a personal injury claim involves establishing that the at-fault party had legal responsibility for the victim’s wellbeing. Simply put, “duty of care” is the basic obligation to avoid causing harm to someone else. This implicit obligation can be based on the relationship between the two parties, such as the doctor’s duty to care for their patients or part of a general requirement to respect public safety laws, like the driver’s duty to follow traffic rules.
The At-Fault Party Breached Their Duty of Care
This crucial element of negligence depends on showing that the at-fault party’s actions didn’t meet the standards of what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation. Under personal injury laws, there’s no liability for a freak accident, so holding the at-fault party responsible for actions that were unreasonably harmful and led to foreseeable danger is when the law operates.
For example, property owners can breach their duty of care by failing to fix a broken stair rail, an obvious hazard that creates the conditions for a tenant to fall and suffer a broken hip.
The At-fault Party’s Negligent Act Caused the Victim’s Injuries and Damages
The final element of winning a personal injury claim is establishing a direct link between the at-fault party’s negligence and the victim’s harm and showing that getting hurt resulted in specific damages for the plaintiff. This legal requirement is known as causation. It depends on evidence, expert testimony, and other resources to show that the victim wouldn’t have been injured without the at-fault party’s negligent actions.
For example, a surgeon being sued for performing an unnecessary amputation might argue that the patient’s pre-existing conditions were the cause of a poor outcome rather than any medical mistakes. In this case, the victim’s legal team would have to build a persuasive case showing that the substandard care resulted in the patient’s lost limb.
Types of Damages You Can Pursue in a Personal Injury Case
Victims and their families will face many hardships after getting seriously injured, including uncertainty about how to begin the legal process. It’s often difficult to understand how your life will be affected by an unexpected injury, especially any long-term consequences.
One of the crucial services a personal injury lawyer provides is preparing a report that calculates the overall value of your claim by evaluating both economic and non-economic factors. Depending on the details of your specific case, the types of damages you may be eligible to pursue include:
The main goal of any personal injury claim is to help victims recover financially from all the major expenses associated with getting hurt.
Economic damages refer to all the tangible financial losses you have incurred as a direct result of someone else’s negligence, such as:
- Past medical expenses for treating your injuries, like ambulance fees, emergency room visits, surgeries, and prescription medication
- Ongoing and future medical expenses, like physical rehabilitation, the cost of modifying your vehicle to accommodate a disability, or home health aides
- Lost income if you’d have to miss work for an extended period
- For victims with permanent injuries that affect their ability to earn a living, compensation for having a reduced earning capacity,
- Property damage costs associated with the at-fault party’s negligence, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after being in a serious car accident
Serious injuries and all the disruption that surrounds them can significantly affect the victim’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Assigning a monetary value to these subjective costs is a complex process. Still, your personal injury lawyer can help you build a compelling case that accurately reflects the full extent of your non-economic damages.
Some of the main factors for calculating non-economic damages are the severity of your injuries, their impacts on daily life, and the length of your recovery time.
These damages can include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of consortium
There are some personal injury cases where the circumstances that caused the victim’s injuries are particularly reckless or even malicious. In this small percentage of cases, personal injury courts might also award an extra category of compensation called punitive damages, which punish the wrongdoer and deter extremely harmful behavior.
Some situations where punitive damages might be appropriate include a fatal accident caused by a drunk driver, a nursing home found guilty of systematic patient abuse, or a manufacturer knowingly selling defective products.
The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
After a devastating injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you deserve to focus on your healing without being burdened by the legal system’s complexities. A skilled personal injury lawyer can be a powerful ally to help you protect your rights and recover the compensation you’ll need to rebuild your life.
Some of the ways an experienced attorney can help you build a stronger case include:
- Investigating the circumstance of your injuries: Whether you’ve been harmed in a car accident, suffered a slip and fall, or sustained serious injuries in a preventable fire, any successful personal injury claim will depend on having solid evidence. Your legal team can play a crucial role in establishing the responsible party’s negligence by thoroughly investigating all the evidence available for your case, interviewing witnesses, and preparing expert testimony.
- Handling the legal process: Pursuing a personal injury claim involves a mountain of paperwork and back-and-forth communications with the at-fault party’s insurer. Your lawyer can prepare and file all the necessary paperwork, ensuring your case moves forward through the legal system as smoothly as possible. Having an attorney also minimizes direct contact with representatives from your insurer, which means you won’t accidentally compromise your case by making statements that could be used against you later on.
- Evaluate and substantiate your damages: The consequences of a serious injury are often very far-reaching, impacting not only your ability to work and participate in normal activities but also your overall quality of life. Lawyers have the experience and resources to assess the economic and non-economic damages that result from getting injured, especially in cases of permanent injuries. They can also prepare persuasive evidence to substantiate these costs, including documentation for intangible damages like pain and suffering.
- Negotiate with insurance companies: Most personal injury lawsuits will never see the inside of a courtroom because litigating a trial is incredibly expensive. That gives both sides a major incentive to sit down at the negotiation table and reach a mutual agreement. However, insurance companies are known for their aggressive tactics to deny liability, minimize the victim’s damages and try to pay the absolute minimum. Having a skilled attorney negotiating on your behalf and demonstrating the value of your case can provide a huge advantage and help you walk away with fair compensation.
The right approach for pursuing a personal injury case will vary significantly based on its specific circumstances, including how the injuries happened, how many parties can be held liable, the evidence available, and the extent of the victim’s resulting damages.
Whether a negligent landlord or an irresponsible surgeon harmed you, a personal injury lawyer can explain your rights and the best legal options for your unique case. Reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer who can provide support throughout the claims process and place you in the strongest position to achieve a favorable outcome in your personal injury case.