Personal injury laws allow people to seek compensation for damages that stem from another person’s wrongdoing or negligence. Personal injury law covers a wide variety of types of accidents and situations, including car and truck accidents, medical malpractice, product liability claims for defective products, motorcycle accidents, construction accidents, and wrongful death.
1. These Cases Tend to Involve Insurance Companies
Most personal injury cases involve insurance companies, especially when talking about car accidents and medical malpractice accidents. Personal injury cases that stem from accidents occurring in a private home or in a business also involve insurance companies. An insurance company’s representatives have a vested interest in protecting the company’s own financial interest.
The settlement offer that an insurance company makes to someone who’s hurt may not be fair because their entire goal is reducing their financial exposure.
2. You May Be Able to Recover Different Types of Damages
If you’re hurt because of someone’s negligence or inaction, you might be able to recover economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are financial losses incurred because of your accident or your injuries. Examples of economic damages include travel and medical expenses, lost wages, personal care costs, and the costs you might have to cover to pay for help around the house after an accident.
Non-economic damages are often described as damages for pain and suffering.
Non-economic damages can include mental, physical, and emotional suffering you deal with because of the accident. If you have a reduction in your quality of life, you may be entitled to compensation in the form of non-economic damages.
Less commonly, punitive damages are available. These are meant to punish the party that’s at fault, but these are rarely awarded in personal injury.
3. A Wide Range of Factors Determine How Much a Case is Worth
People often want to know right off the bat what their personal injury claim is worth. An experienced personal injury attorney can come to an estimate, and the factors that impact the value of a claim include the type and severity of injuries and total economic losses.
Also relevant are whether you’re partially responsible for your injuries if you sustained a permanent disability or impairment, the insurance coverage that’s available, and whether liability is in dispute for the cause of the accident.
4. Most Claims Settle
One thing that people often don’t realize about personal injury cases is that they almost always settle out of court and rarely go to trial. This means that rather than a jury or judge deciding the outcome if you’re the victim, your personal injury lawyer negotiates a financial settlement with the defendant or their insurance company.
If you’re the injured person, you can decide whether or not you’ll accept a settlement when it’s proposed.
Sometimes settlements come after mediation, which is when the parties come together to try and solve a legal dispute.
If you don’t accept a settlement and you can’t come to an agreement with the defendant or their insurer, this is when your case might go to trial.
5. You Don’t Pay a Personal Injury Lawyer Unless You Recover
When you file a personal injury claim, your attorney will very likely be paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that your lawyer, rather than being paid hourly or taking a retainer upfront, is paid if you recover, and their payment is based on how much you recover.
Most personal injury lawyers charge 1/3 of whatever their client recovers.
This is beneficial from the client’s perspective because you have legal options even if you can’t afford an attorney. It also means lawyers are going to be selective about the cases they take on because otherwise, they’d be wasting their own time.
While most personal injury lawyers are paid this way, confirm before you work with an attorney.
6. You May Be Able to Pursue a Claim Even If You’re Partially At fault
Many states follow a model of comparative negligence. This means that if you’re a victim, you may still be able to pursue a personal injury claim if you’re partially at fault. In states with comparative negligence, your recovery if you’re the victim could be reduced by the amount of fault you’re found to have contributed to the accident.
For example, if you’re a victim and you suffered damages of $300,000, but you’re 10% at fault, your maximum recovery would be $270,000 because you were responsible for $30,000 of damages.
7. You Have a Limited Window of Time
Finally, there is a term, the statute of limitations, to be aware of. This means that you have a limited time from the date of your injuries to bring a personal injury claim. Once the statute of limitations expires, you are prevented from bringing a claim. Many states have anywhere from two to three years as their statute of limitations in personal injury cases.