Personal injury law is applicable in situations where injury results from another’s negligence or failure to take appropriate care. The law is based on the accepted notion that each member of society has a duty to act responsibly in such manner that wouldn’t put others at danger or risk. This “tort law” encompasses a number of cases including vehicle or boat accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, construction accidents, slip and fall, dog bites, workplace injuries, and nursing home neglect.
Below is a look at 7 interesting facts about personal injury law in the U.S.
1. There are 4 Must-Have Elements to Make a Personal Injury Claim
To increase the possibilities of success and achieve a higher compensation, there should be 4 key elements. The first is duty of care which implies one party’s legal or moral obligation to another or others to ensure the latter’s well-being and safety. The second element is that there should be a violation of the duty of care. The third element is a physical, financial or emotional injury which the plaintiff sustained. The fourth element is causation. This means that there should be proof that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the defendant’s actions or negligence/ breach of duty of care.
2. Not initiated by the Government and Mostly Settled Out Of Court
In contrast to criminal cases, formal personal injury lawsuits are not government-initiated. What’s more, the majority of them (more than 90 percent) are resolved out of court either by way of mediation or by arbitrations with an insurance service provider’s representative.
There are several reasons why the out-of-court settlement happens. For the plaintiff, legal expenses can be avoided and there is no need to endure a protracted trial. For the defendant, there is the benefit of being safe from possible negative publicity. A good lawyer would be able to guide the plaintiff on whether it is advisable or not to take the lawsuit to court for his specific case.
3. May Take Time
When making a personal injury claim, the plaintiff should be prepared to wait a long time before the case is settled. One of the key reasons is that the plaintiff must reach the stage of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). A full recovery from injury means less compensation. This is why the defendant in particular would want to wait to see whether the claimant recovered fully or not by the time the doctor releases him from treatment. For the plaintiff and his/her lawyer, the stage of MMI makes it easier to assess damages.
Other possible reasons for a long settlement time are: an
uncooperative defendant, a huge sum of money involved, difficulty to prove liability or negligence, and whether or not the case can be settled out of court. If a trial is required, the settlement time gets extended further.
4. There is a Time Limit
When involved in an event that involves personal injury, it is important that the claimant get in touch with a lawyer at the earliest. The lawyer will provide necessary guidance on gathering crucial evidence and on the reports required (medical, legal) to support the claim.
There is a reason why proceeding with urgency is important. Making a claim for compensation is subject to statutes of limitations; the exact time duration varies with states in the U.S. However, It is generally between 1 to 6 years.
5. Each Case Is Different
Each claim of personal injury is unique. Irrespective of whether it falls into a certain category, or shares certain steps with another personal injury claim, each case is different and requires a specific approach to handle it. This is where the lawyer comes into the picture. It is likely he will look into factors such as the kind of injury and how it was caused to figure out the best approach.
6. The Insurance Company May Not Be Fair
Insurance companies often wish to limit as best as they can, the sum they pay for medical expenses or other damages to safeguard their bottom lines. It is also often seen that many victims of personal injury are tempted to take up the first offer they get however meagre it is, to offset their medical expenses and time away from work. This could turn out to be a bad judgment because of an undervalued claim. That means less help for the immediate and long-term money loss resulting from the injury.
7. To Make a Claim, The Plaintiff Should Not be More than 50 Percent Responsible for the Injury
This goes without saying but is worth mentioning. If it is found that the plaintiff is more than 50 percent to blame for the damages or injury that occurred in the event, he may get less compensation or even nothing at all.
In closing, it is always good to be well-informed before you put forth a lawsuit. Knowing the facts about personal injury is just the beginning. Detailed discussions with a good lawyer (do your research and ask about!) combined with patience and prudence will help you get a good outcome from your case.
Image Credits: Law Facts from Africa Studio /Shutterstock