Personal Injury FAQ

What is personal injury law?

Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is a civil wrong or wrongs recognized as legal causes for lawsuits. Injuries sustained by the victims of such wrongs provide the basis for a claim for damages incurred by the injured party.

What is the definition of tort law?

Tort law is typically divided into three categories:

Intentional tort – the Defendant knew, or should have known, injury could occur as a result of his/her actions or inactions.

Negligent tort – the Defendant was unaware that an injury could occur as a result of his/her actions, and at the same time, the Defendant was not acting in a safe manner.

Strict liability tort – a specific action caused the damages rather than the lack of care on the defendant’s part.

What is “negligence”?

The critical issue in many personal injury cases is just how a “reasonable person” was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like an “ordinary, reasonable person.” The determination of whether a given person has met his/her “ordinary reasonable person” standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.

What if I cannot prove someone’s negligence caused my injury? Is there any other basis for personal injury liability besides negligence?

Yes, some persons or companies may be held “strictly liable” for certain activities that harm others, even if they have not acted negligently or with wrongful intent. Under this theory, a person injured by a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product, for instance, may recover compensation from the maker or seller of the product without showing that the manufacturer or seller was actually negligent. Also, persons or companies engaged in using explosives, storing dangerous substances, or keeping dangerous animals can be strictly liable for harm caused to others as a result of such activities. The theory behind imposing strict liability on those conducting such activities is that these activities pose an undue risk of harm to members of the community. Thus, anyone who conducts such activity does so at his own risk and is liable when something goes wrong and someone is harmed. The people who create certain risks are thus made accountable.

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

First, you must have suffered an injury to your person or property. Second, you should consider whether your injury was the result of someone else’s fault. It is not always necessary to have a physical injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury claims are often based on a variety of non-physical losses and harms. In the case of an assault, for example, you do not need to show that a person’s action caused you actual physical harm, but only that you expected some harm to come to you. You may also have a case if someone has attacked your reputation, invaded your privacy, or inflicted emotional distress upon you.

What are the most common personal injury lawsuits?

The most common personal injury cases are automobile accidents; however, dog bites and slips and falls are also common. Others include sexual abuse, wrongful death, denial of civil rights, unfair employment practices, medical malpractice, professional malpractice, product liability, slander and damage to property. When you have received an injury to yourself or your property, you should seek advice from a personal injury attorney.

How will I pay my medical bills?

If you have been injured, you will likely have medical bills from physicians, hospitals, physical therapists, and other health care providers. Those bills will be in your name and will usually be sent to your address. You are primarily responsible for paying your bills, regardless of the cause of your injuries. The at-fault person’s liability insurance carrier is responsible for paying you reasonable compensation for damages incurred, which includes medical bills.

How much is my case worth?

Cases typically have value based on five areas, assuming the other person was at fault. Plaintiffs in personal injury cases are entitled to damages. Damages are normally awarded as follows:

Past medical bills,
Future medical bills,
Past loss wages,
Loss of earning capacity in the future, and
Pain and suffering

There is no tried and proven formula to determine exactly how much a case is worth and it really depends on the evidence of the case. More specifically, whether or not there are any inconsistencies in testimony, medical records and other issues that would allow the insurance company’s lawyer to take away credibility from the injured party’s case.

Why do we have to use my insurance company if I did nothing wrong to cause this accident?

Even when our client is in an accident that is based on the negligence of another person we still are able to make a claim for personal injury protection benefits, more commonly known as “PIP.” This is also known as “no fault” insurance that the legislature designated to pay a person’s medical bills and a person’s lost wages, up to $10,000, whether they are at fault or not.

How long will it take to bring my case to a conclusion?

The time frame depends on the complexity of the case. In other words, the last thing we want to do is resolve a case while our client is still healing or does not have a good understanding on what their future medical condition will be. Naturally, the time range is subject to fluctuation depending on the facts of the case.

What does a letter of protection mean in my case?

In many instances people do not have insurance coverage or their PIP benefits are exhausted. When that is the situation some medical facilities and physicians are willing to take a “letter of protection.” This is a document that gives the patient the ability to keep treating without paying for the medical bills at the time of treatment. These letters of protection typically, if accepted by the facility or physician, allow the patient to keep treating and once a recovery is made, the doctor or healthcare facility is reimbursed. However, it is always made clear to the client that even with a letter of protection in their medical file they are ultimately responsible for the medical bills in the event the case does not resolve as expected.

Why do we have to “file suit” and what does that mean?

Filing suit is the actual act of filing a law suit at the courthouse. This is done only with the client’s permission after all efforts have been made to resolve the case in pre-suit.  When a case is actually filed that does not mean that you will be going to trial. However, it does mean there is a possibility and although most cases resolve before trials, there is a possibility that once your case is filed it can go to trial.

How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?

Every state has certain time limits, called the “statutes of limitations,” which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, your claims can be dismissed. Consequently, it is important to talk with a lawyer as soon as you receive or discover an injury.

How do I get my benefits?

In order to make a claim for medical bills, you must notify the local claims office of your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident. A Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim form will be sent to either you or your doctor.

I’ve been hurt in an accident and I want to file a claim for my injuries. What is the first thing that I should do?

There are a number of things you can do in the first few days and weeks after an accident to protect your right to compensation, such as:

Write down as much as you can about the accident itself, your injuries and any other losses (such as wages) you’ve suffered as a result of the accident.
Make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim.

Preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical evidence and taking photographs.
Locate people who witnessed the accident and who might be able to help you prove your case.

Contact a personal injury attorney to evaluate and pursue your claim.
Do not give a recorded statement to an insurance company.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation regarding your injury claim.

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