Personal Injury Law: The Basics

If you’ve been injured through the negligence of a third party, you have the legal right to seek compensation for the negative impacts that carelessness has had on your health, your property, and other aspects of your life. Here are answers to some of the more common questions about civil actions that may be taken when injuries are sustained in this way.

What Types of Personal Injuries Are Eligible for Legal Remedy?

You have the right to seek legal remedy in any situation where you’ve suffered injuries that are due to another person’s actions, whether those actions were intended or unintended. You may be able to bring a lawsuit if you’re injured in an automobile accident that occurred because someone else was driving recklessly, or if you slip and fall on a wet patch of floor in a store because the store manager didn’t put up signage warning that the floor was wet. You may also be able to bring a lawsuit in a situation in which another person clearly intended to do you harm as in a case where another person assaults you or vandalizes property belonging to you.

What Kinds of Compensation Can I Ask For?

The monetary compensations awarded in a successful personal injury case are called “damages.” Damages may be awarded to cover any medical costs associated with the injury you’ve sustained or to replace any wages that you lost because you had to take time off from your work to recover from your injuries. If the act that injured you involved some degree of maliciousness, you may also be eligible to receive punitive damages that compensate you for pain and suffering.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal injury lawsuits are civil complaints heard in front of a court. They’re initiated when an individual alleges that he or she has suffered harm through the action or inaction of another individual, business, or government agency.

In contrast to criminal cases brought by the government in which the burden of proof relies upon a “reasonable doubt standard”, in a personal injury lawsuit the burden of proof is “a preponderance of evidence” or the probable truth of the evidence presented. If the court finds in favor of the individual initiating the lawsuit, he or she will be compensated monetarily for personal injuries and other damage.

What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?

Formal lawsuits can be time-consuming, so many individuals elect to resolve tort disputes through more informal negotiations. The injured party, the alleged perpetrator of the injury and attorneys representing both sides will work together to reach a deal that results in a payment that’s amenable to all parties. Often, insurance representatives will be involved in these discussions as well. Once a settlement sum of money has been reached, both parties will sign a written contract in which the injured individual agrees not to pursue further legal action.

What Is Arbitration?

In instances where two parties cannot come to an agreement during informal negotiations but do not want to proceed with a formal lawsuit, parties may agree to arbitration. The arbitrator is typically a neutral third person with some expertise in the specific circumstances of the case that he or she is reviewing.

What Laws Pertain to Personal Injury Cases?

Criminal cases are decided by penal codes established by local, state, and federal jurisdictions. In contrast, the legal standards that apply to the resolution of personal injury cases have been developed by examining the precedents established by similar cases over the years. This body of precedents is called “common law.”

States do codify concepts like “negligence,” standards of care, and the other elements that must exist in order to prove or disprove responsibility for the act that results in injury, but the majority of personal injury cases are decided through the application of common law.

What Are Statutes of Limitation?

State laws also determine the way personal injury cases can be filed in front of a civil court. All states require that personal injury cases be brought before a civil court within a specified time window, but that time window differs from state to state. The time constraints within which this legal motion can be filed are called “statutes of limitation.”