Personal Injury Law - What You Need to Know

CDC data shows that every year, millions of Americans are hurt in accidents and are treated for their injuries. Slips and falls and motor vehicle crashes are the most common causes for hospital emergency treatment, while fires, drowning, and poisoning also cause both non-fatal and fatal injuries.

Accidents can have serious consequences for injured persons and their families. Many victims require extensive and expensive medical treatment and are unable to work or perform their usual activities for long periods of time. Others can suffer disabilities that permanently affect their chances of work and lower their quality of life.

The law on personal injury

State laws generally provide their own set of rules known as “personal injury laws” for pursuing monetary compensation to allow an injured person to be made whole again. These rules often prescribe the requirements for a successful civil action for damages, define the type of damages that are available to plaintiffs, and provide the limitations for these cases.

First steps after an injury

Anyone injured in an accident should immediately look after their health by seeking emergency treatment or by being checked by their family doctor. Upon securing treatment and appropriate medical advice, there are a number of things that an injured person can do to preserve any potential right to receive compensation for their injuries.

  • Gather evidence of the incident. Take photographs of the accident site and of objects, persons, and other items that may have caused your injury. Use a camera phone.
  • Write down names and contact information of the other party (driver, property owner or manager), witnesses, and the insurance companies of the other parties.
  • Keep medical records of treatment obtained after the accident.
  • Consult a personal injury attorney

Who may be liable for personal injury?

An injured person may or may not be legally entitled to compensation. When contemplating a case for personal injury, it is important to determine whether someone’s action, or failure to act, caused the injury.

As a rule, persons or entities that have a duty to exercise reasonable care, whether on the road or in their establishments, and who breach that duty as a result of their negligence, may be held liable for damages arising from the incident. This may be the other driver in a car accident, the owner or manager of a supermarket with slippery floors, a nurse who mistreated an elderly patient, or the owner of vicious dog that attacked the victim.

What may be recovered?

Injury recovery has financial implications for many – medical treatment, hospitalization, ongoing medication, rehabilitation, therapy, and time away from work resulting in workers compensation. Injuries also lead to immeasurable damages such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship. In a successful tort or personal injury action, the plaintiff may be awarded two types of damages.

Economic damages cover past and future medical expenses, lost wages or income, and expenses for obtaining help at home while recovering from injury.

Non-economic damages are estimated values of the injured party’s pain and suffering and other losses such as loss of companionship and consortium.

Most states' tort laws have time limits for pursuing personal injury actions in court and other complicated rules for successfully bringing a case for damages against the appropriate parties. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide guidance on the legal process and the options available for injured parties.

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