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Personal injury covers a wide range of legal cases throughout the United States. Victims have the right to seek financial compensation when injured by the negligence of another party. The broad umbrella of personal injury law addresses several injury types caused by negligence, but some situations are more common than others.

Injury claimants may want to seek legal advice from an attorney even before filing a claim through the insurance company. However, legal deadlines apply to personal cases, which means it is essential to move on matters quickly. Below, this article will help you understand crucial details related to personal injury cases.

Types of Cases that Fall Under Personal Injury Law

As stated above, personal injury addresses several types of injury cases. In fact, people file more than 400,000 personal injury cases every year. However, less than four percent of them make it all the way to a jury trial.

Here are the six types of cases that fall under general personal injury laws throughout the United States:

Lost Consortium

Lost consortium claims, sometimes called survival actions, allow family members to bring against a case against the party that caused the wrongful death. These lawsuits reimburse the individual for losses associated with their family member no longer being alive

Some of these awards include lost companionship, mental anguish, and more.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is when a doctor, nurse, therapist, or hospital fails to meet a medical standard of care. The negligence of medical professionals can cause severe injuries in patients. There are many types of medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis, improper treatment, surgical errors, medication mistakes, pharmacy errors, birth injury, and failure to diagnose severe health conditions.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Each year, millions of people suffer traumatic or fatal motor vehicle accident injuries. In 2009 alone, motor vehicle accidents resulted in over 2.2 million injured people and 33,000 fatalities involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Personal injury laws throughout the United States allow injury victims and surviving family members to file an insurance claim for their financial and physical losses.

Premises Liability

Premises liability is a type of accident caused by a dangerous or defective condition on another’s property. These location-specific accidents can occur almost anywhere, from commercial properties to a neighbor’s home. Negligent conditions can lead to a premises liability claim, including broken stairs, walkway hazards, and dog attacks.

Product Liability

Defective or dangerous products can cause severe injury in the home, public, and at work. Improper warnings and operation manuals can also cause negligent injuries. Personal injury claimants can hold individuals, businesses, or government entities accountable if they played a role.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death describes a type of claim brought when one person’s negligence results in the fatal injuries of another, also known as the decedent. If the claimant successfully wins their case, then the lawsuit winnings go back to the decedent’s estate for distribution among beneficiaries. Proceeds generally pay for losses incurred by the decedent while still alive but following the injury, including medical bills, lost wages, funeral arrangements, and pain and suffering.

Workplace Accidents

Most states prohibit injured employees from bringing a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Instead, they must file a claim under a state-mandated Workers’ Compensation Act, requiring employers to provide various benefits to injured workers. These include medical treatment and disability, but the injured employee may pursue additional compensation through a third-party claim.

The Four Main Elements of a Personal Injury Case

While personal injury laws allow someone to file a claim, their case must meet particular elements. The injury victim or their personal injury lawyer must strategize a case, element by element, and prove that another person’s negligence was the impetus. If your case fails to prove the four elements, you do not have the right to file a claim or lawsuit.

These are the four elements of a personal injury case as described below:

Element 1. Duty of Care

Duty of care is the first element in a personal injury case and is defined as a legal or moral obligation that one party owes to another. Depending on the parties involved and the type of accident, the duty of care varies. For example, a property owner’s general duty is to keep their properties reasonably safe for those entering, such as customers and guests.

Element 2. Breach in the Duty of Care

A breach in the duty of care is the next element of a personal injury case. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the negligent party failed to act with the same level of care that any reasonable and rational person would have exercised under the same circumstances. This type of breach is also known as negligence.

Element 3. Causation

Proving causation is a vital aspect of winning a personal injury case. A plaintiff’s burden of proof requires them to show that their injuries were more likely than not caused by the defendant’s actions. Causation is also one of the most challenging elements for plaintiffs to prove since obtaining admissible evidence may require the help of experts or licensed legal professionals.

Element 4. Damages

A personal injury lawsuit cannot occur unless it involves financial losses, also known as damages. Injury victims can seek compensation for a variety of damages, including both economic and non-economic losses. Special damages compensate the plaintiff for intangible harm, whereas compensatory damages compensate them for real financial losses, such as medical bills.

Types of Evidence to Present in a Personal Injury Case

When suffering from a personal injury, it is critical to gather the most relevant and valuable evidence if an individual wants to make a successful financial recovery. Working with a personal injury lawyer will help present a case in the best possible light when making a demand for your financial, physical, and emotional harm. However, most states have laws about which type of evidence they may use, making it essential to know them before initiating a claim or lawsuit.

While every state’s laws are unique, here are a few types of evidence that a personal injury victim could present:

Physical Evidence

There is often physical evidence of a personal injury accident. These items could include anything from a weapon to a tangible object seen in the courtroom, including clothing, equipment, tools, vehicles, and observed weather patterns. Evidence might provide insight into a case for injury victims. Physical evidence can help determine who is at fault and what caused the injuries.

Accident Scene Evidence

When an accident occurs, evidence is generally found at the scene or as part of the accident itself. Accident scene evidence can include skid marks on the road, broken glass from a window, positioning of area equipment, and physical injuries. It is necessary to prove these elements existed to win a personal injury case.

Accident Documentation

The majority of evidence in a personal injury case is in the form of documentation. These documents could include medical records, insurance forms, bills, incident reports, and statements. A personal injury lawyer uses them to corroborate, verify, or support specific case facts related to the accident or damages suffered.

Eyewitnesses & Expert Witnesses

It is possible to prove a personal injury through eyewitness statements. Witnesses’ statements are crucial pieces of evidence used against the defendant in compensation cases. Almost anyone present or relevant to the case may assist through testimony, including expert witnesses, accident reconstruction experts, and economists.

Photographic and Video Evidence

Photo and video evidence is a potent weapon in the defendant’s arsenal. It is easier to win your case if you can show the judge or jury photographic or video evidence of negligence, injuries, and more. Claimants should seek to obtain a street camera, dashcam, or other surveillance equipment to show that the defendant is to blame for the injuries.

Evidence Preservation

Once the plaintiff obtains evidence, they need to preserve it adequately. Courts will only accept certain types of evidence, and there may be local rules about its preservation. You should always seek legal advice if you are gathering and preserving evidence in your personal injury case.

Financial Damages Available in a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury compensation comes in a variety of forms. Insurance companies will offer injury victims less money if they can do so legally. Regardless of where your case falls, it is critical that you understand the types of personal injury compensation available to receive a fair award.

About Personal Injury Damages

Compensatory and punitive damages are the two primary types of personal injury compensation damages. Federal, state, and local rules generally distribute these types of damages into two primary categories as described below:

  1. Compensatory damages compensate you for the costs incurred as a result of their injury. These damages generally include out-of-pocket and emotional harm.
  2. Punitive damages punish the defendant for their particularly egregious actions. However, courts rarely award punitive damages.

These two types of personal injury compensation serve as umbrellas for all other types of payment. Personal injury compensation can and will become more specific according to the facts of your case.

Compensatory Damages

Almost all personal injury cases assist victims in obtaining compensation for their losses. The outline below is not entirely exhaustive, which means that you should always consult with a lawyer before making vital decisions that can affect your case.

Special Damages

The law sometimes refers to special compensatory damages as economic damages. Economic damages are quantifiable out-of-pocket expenses. You can generally observe these types of damages and track them with a pay stub, receipt, or electronic record.

Special damages include:

  • At-home or nursing-home care costs
  • Cost of living increases
  • Cost of prescription drugs
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Hospital stays, medical bills, and medical treatments 
  • Medical transportation
  • Physical therapy, rehabilitation, and pain management
  • Property damage

Was your car, bike, boat, or other property damaged in the accident that resulted in your injury? You can recover property damage costs help of an experienced vehicle accident lawyer.

Current and Future Lost Earnings

Current and future lost earnings refer to the wages you lost due to your injuries up until the trial date. It can also include compensation for wages you can no longer earn in the future resulting from your accident injuries. Future lost earnings are more challenging to prove and may require the input of numerous experts to evaluate accurately.

Irreplaceable Item Losses

Was a priceless item, such as a family heirloom, damaged or destroyed in the accident that caused your injury? You could be eligible for additional compensation for that lost item, in addition to the initial value.

Event Cancellation & Rescheduling Losses

Were you planning a big trip or an international trip before you got hurt? If your injury prevented you from carrying out your original plans, you could receive monetary compensation for losses you could not recoup.

General Damages

General damages are those that relate to your mental and emotional trauma. Unlike special damages, these types of injuries do not come with a receipt. They are also more subjective and can become challenging to prove without properly preserved admissible evidence.

Below, we have outlined what general damages include:

Physical Pain and Suffering

Physical pain that lasts for a long time due to an injury or treatment can result in ongoing suffering. This situation can give rise to depression, insomnia, and PTSD. Injury victims should receive compensation for these losses.

Lower Life Quality

Unfortunately, many types of personal injuries prevent victims from enjoying life as they once did. For example, victims who have had an amputation or suffered a TBI receive this type of compensation frequently.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

When personal injury victims cannot participate in activities that previously brought them joy, they may seek compensation for a loss of enjoyment of life, including:

  • Lost companionship
  • Scarring & disfigurement
  • Inconvenience

General damages are the most perplexing. Courts around the United States use different methodologies for determining how much a personal injury case is worth. Always speak with a legal professional if you have questions regarding the value of your case and what to include in an insurance demand letter.

Wrongful Death & Survivor Action Damages

Wrongful death damages comprise of special and general damages when involving fatal injuries. These damages are paid to the victim’s surviving family members.

Here are some awards that an individual could expect to receive in wrongful death or survival action case:

  • Funeral/burial costs: Funerals are expensive. This type of compensation can assist in the reimbursement or reduction of those expenses.
  • Medical costs before death: If a loved one received medical care after an accident, but before death, their family may need assistance paying for their treatment. These damages will help them pay for these expenses.
  • Survival action damages: Surviving family members can also file an individual claim to recover the losses suffered. These claims usually hinge on injuries associated with the person no longer being alive, such as guidance and companionship.
  • Lost financial contributions: This compensation helps victims pay for their futures. It is particularly beneficial to spouses who have children or are not the primary breadwinners and need to make ends meet in the future.
  • Mental anguish: These damages are intended to assist surviving family members in moving forward with their lives after the untimely wrongful death of a loved one. These damages are similar to the emotional distress and mental anguish damages awarded to injured individuals.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, as previously stated, are not intended to compensate you for your losses. They seek retribution from the party who caused your personal injury or a loved one’s wrongful death. In fact, punitive damages are more akin to a “punishment” against the defendant for engaging in egregiously negligent acts.

Suppose the defendant acted with the grossest acts of negligence or broke the law. In that case, courts are more likely to award punitive damages. Punitive damages are often awarded in class action lawsuits, tort claims, or mass torts. However, it is worth noting that not all cases are eligible for punitive damages and are rarely awarded.


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Process Involved in a Personal Injury Case

Injury claimants can approach a personal injury case in a variety of ways. The ultimate goal, however, is for you to receive fair and reasonable compensation under the law. While your approach may be unique to your situation, we recommend negotiating or litigation your case with an abundance of caution by seeking legal advice from the outset.

Here is a simple but straightforward process for handling a personal injury:

Step 1: Schedule a Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer

In most cases, filing a personal injury lawsuit without first consulting a professional is a bad idea. An experienced lawyer can guide you in the right direction by analyzing the specific circumstances of your case. Prepare to answer a series of critical questions when you sit down with one.

You must discuss every detail of your case, including the full extent of your injuries and medical costs. Following that, your prospective lawyer will inform you of all of your legal options. It is also worth noting that video conferencing with an attorney is now available at many law firms.

Step 2: Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer on Contingency Fees

You would need to hire a personal injury attorney if you suffered from a severe injury due to someone else’s negligence. It is imperative that you find a professional who understands the legal system thoroughly and possesses a deep bench of experience. The attorney you select should be able to answer your questions in a way that makes sense to you and for your situation.

If you do not have professional representation, the other party’s insurance company may not offer you a fair settlement. The reason for this consequence is due to a claimant’s inability to refute their counter-allegations. A personal injury lawyer can cut through the smoke and mirrors to fight for their client’s rights.

Keep in mind that all personal injury attorneys are not equal. Perform research before hiring one on your case. Take the time to read testimonials from current and former customers and hire one that does not demand an upfront retainer.

Step 3. Send a Demand Letter to Initiate Negotiations

After conducting an investigation, your injury lawyer sends a demand package to the other party or insurance company. This letter will detail all of your anticipated expenses, including injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and future health care.

The other party has the opportunity to settle the case before going to court after receiving the demand package. This option will save everyone a significant amount of time in the long run. It will also initiate the negotiation discussions.

If the insurance company and other third parties refuse to pay you what your case is worth, your next step is to file a lawsuit in court. From the outset, your lawyer prepares your case as if it is going to a judge or jury trial from day one. This strategy helps reduce time inefficiencies and lets the insurance company know you are serious about getting the money they owe you.

STEP 4. File a Personal Injury Lawsuit as a Last Resort

An attorney is best suited to handle the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit. Everything must be precise. A seemingly minor blunder could jeopardize the rest of your case.

It is worth noting that more than 95 percent of personal injury cases settle before making it to a judge or jury trial. Court costs, expert testimony, depositions, and mediation all add up and could cost the defendant a significant amount of money to settle. Therefore, they have the incentive to resolve the matter quickly, out of court, and away from the public record.


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Get Legal Help with Your Personal Injury Matter

It is essential to remember that personal injury cases have a time limit, known as the statute of limitations. This assertion means you have to file a lawsuit by a specific date. This deadline varies according to the state in which you live.

Instead of leaving a personal injury case to chance, hire a personal injury lawyer from the start. They will protect you, your rights and help you build a case that moves your life forward.

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