Imagine that you are driving down the interstate when suddenly a sea of red brake lights appears in front of you – there is construction ahead and everyone is slamming on brakes as traffic slows from 70 to 0 in a matter of seconds.
Everyone, that is, except the eighteen wheeler behind you. As you brake, avoiding a collision with the car in front of you, you hold your breath as you see a huge shape in your rearview mirror closing in…
Crunching metal, shock, airbags exploding, smoke and dust fill the air, and when it’s over you hear your children sobbing in the back seat….
Fast-forward a few weeks….the children are ok physically but they are now in therapy for PTSD. You are missing work as you recover from a spinal injury in the hospital. The doctors are telling you that you will not be able to return to your job for a long time, if ever.
You are already receiving bills from the children’s therapist, the ambulance company, the emergency room, the radiology department, the hospital, the specialists, and the physical therapists overseeing your recovery. You have no idea what the total is going to come to or how you are going to be able to pay for the damages, pay your bills, and save your home on what is now a limited income.
The truck driver’s insurance company has already contacted you asking for a statement about the accident. You don’t want to hurt your chances of getting compensation, but you’ve also heard that you should not give them a statement before talking to your attorney….
Personal Injury Law Basics
Personal injury lawyers spend their careers helping people who were injured to recover damages from the people who injured them. If the courts did not enforce liability for negligent truck drivers or trucking companies, you would be at the mercy of corporations and insurance companies who do not care about your health and your medical bills – they are concerned only with their bottom line and their profits.
When you are injured in a car accident, by a dog attack, or in any situation where someone else caused your injury, you should contact your personal injury attorney immediately – before talking to the at-fault party’s insurance company or attorneys.
Below is some basic information that may help you gain a better understanding of personal injury cases.
What is personal injury law?
Personal injury law provides legal remedies to people who have been the victim of wrongful conduct. Personal injury law is categorized as civil law rather than criminal law. Instead of the government taking action against a wrongdoer, the victim may use the civil courts to seek compensation for his or her suffering.
What is a “tort?”
A tort is an act that causes harm or injury to another person – a “civil wrongdoing.” The courts have the power to decide whether the individual who committed the harmful act is liable for the damage, pain and suffering that was caused by the harmful act.
How does a personal injury case work?
Just like there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every personal injury case. The person who was injured or harmed is the plaintiff. The person whose alleged careless or negligent act caused the damage is the defendant.
Although personal injury cases vary widely, they all follow a similar path.
- The defendant causes harm or injury to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff decides the defendant should be held responsible.
- The plaintiff may or may not send a demand letter to the defendant before filing suit.
- The plaintiff files a personal injury lawsuit and takes the case to court.
- The plaintiff and the defendant or their representatives engage in settlement talks.
- If the two sides agree on a settlement, the case is closed.
- If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, they can go to trial. A jury will decide the outcome of the case.
What is the difference between a lawsuit and settlement?
A lawsuit is a formal legal action. In a personal injury lawsuit, the lawyers for both sides gather evidence to present in court. There will be a trial, and then a judge or a jury will decide the outcome of the case, including whether the plaintiff should receive monetary compensation and, if so, how much.
A settlement occurs when the two sides agree that the defendant will pay a particular sum of money to the plaintiff in exchange for a release from liability. A settlement can occur at any point – before filing a lawsuit, during the lawsuit, during mediation, or even in the middle of trial…
What is a statute of limitations, and why is it important?
A statute of limitations is a particular period during which you may file a lawsuit for your personal injury case. The clock starts ticking when the plaintiff is injured or discovers his or her injury.
Statutes of limitations for most civil cases are three years, but it could be two years or even less depending on the type of case that will be filed. This is why it is critical that you meet with a personal injury lawyer immediately after your accident so that your rights are protected and you do not miss any deadlines.
What happens if you win your case?
Winning your personal injury case gets you money—called “damages”—which can compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering you endured, and future pain and suffering. In some cases, the court will also award punitive damages.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases
Most personal injury cases fit into one of several categories because even though each person’s situation is unique, it may share common elements with other personal injury cases. The most common types of personal injury cases are described in more detail below.
You may be able to claim damages if you were the victim of an accident such as:
- An auto accident.
- Medical malpractice.
- A slip and fall.
- An accident on a construction site.
When you purchase a product from a company, you expect that the product will be of a certain quality. If you’re harmed by a defective product, you could recover damages from the manufacturer or from the store that sold it to you.
Strict liability refers to cases in which a person or company are liable for any damages regardless of whether they were negligent. For example, if a person keeps a tiger as a pet and it gets loose, the owner will be responsible for any injuries caused by the tiger.
When someone’s carelessness causes injury or harm to another individual, that may be grounds for a personal injury claim.
Intentional actions involve causing someone injury or harm on purpose, such as:
- Inflicting emotional distress
You may be confused because assault, battery and theft are also criminal offenses. In some cases, a person may be charged with a crime and sued by their victims. For example, in the infamous O.J. Simpson case, he was found not guilty of murder in criminal court, but later he was found liable for the wrongful deaths of the victims in civil court.
If someone makes statements about you that have a negative impact on your personal or professional reputation, you could sue for damages—particularly if their defamatory statements harm your career or livelihood.
Myrtle Beach Personal Injury Attorneys
The trauma, frustration, and confusion following an auto accident or other traumatic event may seem impossible to navigate, but you don’t have to go through this on your own.