Guide to Personal Injury Cases
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Guide on Personal Injury Cases
Being proactive about accident avoidance can be the best way to keep from suffering from personal injuries, but accidents can still happen no matter how careful you are. If you find yourself injured following an automobile accident, contacting a lawyer for answers to questions about the personal injury litigation process can give you the upper hand. An attorney will have questions for you that help with deciding whether there is a case and how to proceed. Who was at fault when the accident occurred? Have you suffered any injuries or experienced an exacerbation of a prior condition as a result of the accident? Are any injuries sustained during an accident significant enough to warrant a lawsuit that is intended to collect compensation for medical care and lost wages? The answers to these questions will give a legal representative the initial knowledge needed to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate and evaluate the amount of monetary compensation that should be sought.
The following guide is intended to give you information about how to answer the essential questions outlined above in order to help you determine whether you have a case and to give you an idea of what kind of monetary compensation you should consider seeking. Personal injury litigation can be difficult to navigate because of the uniqueness of each case, but the guide below will give you a basic understanding of how to proceed with your potential personal injury case.
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1. Liability Issues
Question: Who was at fault in the accident?
Liability is a key aspect of a personal injury case because finding out who was at fault can determine whether a person is entitled to compensation for injuries sustained during the accident. Some accidents present clear evidence regarding who was at fault. An example of an accident in which one party is clearly liable is when a driver rear-ends someone at a red light. The driver was not paying attention and caused damage to the other vehicle and possibly personal injury to people in the other car, so it is clear
who is at fault in this situation.
Unfortunately, most accidents do not involve a situation that makes liability indisputable. A driver who fails to use a turn signal or contributes to a dangerous situation by using the passing lane in an incorrect manner can make liability confusing. Even though the driver may have contributed to the accident, the other driver may have been careless or negligent in a way that makes him liable. If you are injured in an accident in which you had partial responsibility, you may think that you are not entitled to any compensation. In reality, you could have the right to collect compensation for personal injuries sustained as a result of an accident if you can prove in court that your liability was less than half. In these cases, you will usually be able to collect compensation that is reduced in relation to your liability in the accident.
Even if you sustain serious injuries during an automobile accident, you are not able to collect any compensation if the other driver is deemed to have zero liability.
2. Proof of Injury Causation
Question: Are there any injuries related to the accident?
You are probably reading this guide because you have suffered injuries that you believe to be a result of an automobile accident. Even though you know that your injuries are related to the accident, you need to be able to prove causation in court. Medical history is often used to prove causation, and any pre-existing conditions that you may have been dealing with before the accident may lead to questions about whether the accident really caused your injuries.
Some people are dishonest and claim that their pre-existing conditions are the result of an accident in order to collect compensation. Because of the possibility of dishonesty, legal professionals have to examine medical records. Records including X-rays, MRIs and other lab tests could be used by the defense during a personal injury case. The expertise of a medical doctor may be sought in order to determine whether injuries are truly the result of an automobile accident based on the medical history of the plaintiff.
Having a pre-existing condition does not mean that you will not be able to collect compensation. However, you will either need to prove that a different injury has occurred or that the accident has caused additional medical problems in relation to a pre-existing condition. For example, a person suffering from chronic back pain may have the condition exacerbated by a back injury sustained during an accident. An in-depth evaluation of medical history as it relates to a pre-existing condition will be used to determine whether the injury has been made worse as a direct result of the accident.
3. Determining Severity of Injuries
Question: What is the extent of injuries sustained during the accident?
The threshold of injuries must be determined to evaluate the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. Injuries that are not economic in nature are generally not eligible to be claimed for compensation because no monetary losses are suffered. However, in some cases a permanent injury may allow for compensation even if the injury does not involve economic damages. Permanent injury compensation relates to pain and suffering, and the determination of whether pain and suffering is a factor in a personal injury case is made by the court.
The determination of whether pain and suffering compensation can be collected is made after evaluating if the injury is one of four main types.
Pain and suffering injuries are ones that result in:
- A permanent or significant loss of important bodily functions
- A permanent injury that has been determined in a court of law to be caused by the injury. This means that a medical expert has assessed the injury and determined it to be a result of the accident.
- Disfigurement or scarring that is both significant and permanent.
After the severity of any injuries sustained during an accident is determined, the litigation process requires an evaluation of whether you are eligible to be extended personal injury protection (PIP) benefits as the plaintiff. If you have been determined to be eligible for PIP benefits, you will need to provide evidence related to the permanence of these injuries. These benefits are used to pay for medical bills in order to lessen the financial hit that injuries from an automobile accident can cause. Even if you are not eligible for PIP benefits, you may be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering.
Question: Are injuries worthy of a personal injury lawsuit?
Damages that can be claimed after an automobile accident can either be economic or non-economic in nature. Economic injuries are easier to make claims for because evidence can be collected related to the financial loss suffered as a result of the injury.
Economic damages that can be collected following an injury include:
- Past lost wages suffered as the result of an accident. If you were unable to work because you were in the hospital due to injuries sustained during the accident, you could be eligible to collect the wages you missed out on during this time.
- Wages that will be lost because you have sustained an injury that either makes it impossible to work or forces you to work in a different position making less money than before. For example, if you worked in construction in the past and have been forced to work in an office setting due to injury, you may be eligible for compensation if your new position pays less than your old position.
- Medical bills incurred because of injuries sustained during the accident. The other driver may have insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills, but inadequate coverage could leave you with a financial burden.
- Ongoing medical bills for care such as rehabilitation or medication used to treat a permanent condition resulting from the accident.
- It is easier to collect economic damages because you are able to present the court with medical bills, tax returns and employment records in order to prove financial losses suffered. Physicians and economic experts are able to estimate any future expenses you may incur in relation to the injury when economic damages are involved.
Non-economic damages can warrant financial compensation if a permanent injury results from pain and suffering experienced as the result of an accident. Both past and future pain and suffering can lead to compensation for the trauma of the accident. There is also a legal precedent known as consortium that could be considered in relation to the personal injury lawsuit. Consortium is compensation that is collected by a spouse in order to make up for the loss of the benefits of a family relationship. The legal protection allowed through consortium includes the relationship between a husband and wife.
Question: Do I have a case?
Since you have read this guide, you will have a solid understanding of whether you should proceed with pursuing legal action in relation to an automobile accident. If you do feel that you should take legal action, you feel confident that you were not liable for the accident and that the other driver acted negligently. You have suffered from an injury that was caused by the accident, and you feel that your injuries meet the requirements for warranting financial compensation. You believe that you have enough evidence to prove your case in court, and economic damages related to your injury are documented. You have experienced pain and suffering from the trauma suffered by the automobile accident. If you agree with these statements, you should feel confident that you have a case and should proceed with the personal injury litigation process in order to get the compensation you need and deserve.
DO NOT TALK to any insurance company without first phoning me for some FREE personal injury legal advice. (You may not need an attorney. If you don't I will tell you how to do it yourself. If you do need us we can come to your home, hospital, or work place).