What is a Personal Injury Case?
When you are injured in an accident or because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you might have a legal claim against that person.
A personal injury case is a legal dispute between you and the other party. It is the process of seeking compensation for your injuries and damages caused by the other party’s actions that breached a duty of care owed to you.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
A property owner might fail to repair broken steps, thereby causing an accident.
Personal injury laws cover a wide variety of situations in which a person can be injured or killed. Examples of incidents that often result in a personal injury claim include, but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Assault injuries
- Slip and fall accidents
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Dog bites
- Nursing home abuse
- Defective product injuries
- Workplace accidents
If you are injured in an accident or because of another party’s actions, you may be entitled to damages. Damages can include physical injuries, financial losses, pain, and suffering.
What Types of Damages Are Available in a Personal Injury Case?
Damages refer to the losses and suffering incurred because of an accident and injury. The types of damages you might receive for a personal injury case depend on the facts of your case.
However, damages in a personal injury claim may include:
- Medical bills for physicians, hospitals, specialists, ambulance services, physical therapy, and other medical providers
- Medical expenses, such as medications, medical supplies, and medical equipment
- In-home health care and personal care
- Loss of income, including decreases in earning potential
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress and anguish
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Decreases in quality of life
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
- Property damage
Documenting damages is an essential step in the personal injury claim process. An insurance company or jury will require evidence of your damages. Keeping careful records and copies of all bills, receipts, and invoices improves your chance of recovering maximum compensation for damages.
How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
Several factors impact the value of your damages. Factors that might apply to your case include, but are not limited to:
Severity and Type of Injury
The medical bills, loss of income, and long-term damages are higher for cases involving permanent disabilities.
Also, catastrophic injuries usually result in substantial pain and suffering and significant changes in the quality of life and enjoyment of life for the injured person.
Fault and Liability
If you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury, you may not receive full compensation for all damages. Under Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws, a victim’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault the person has for causing the accident or injury.
For example, suppose a person crossed the road against the pedestrian light. A jury might find that the driver and the pedestrian were partly at fault for the pedestrian accident. If the jury found the pedestrian 40 percent at fault, the pedestrian would only receive 60 percent of the value of the damages.
However, if the jury found the pedestrian 55 percent at fault, the pedestrian would receive nothing for the injury claim. The victim must be less than 51 percent at fault to recover money for damages in a personal injury case.
Availability of Insurance Coverage
Pennsylvania requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance coverage of $15,000 for injury to one person.
The insurance company is only liable for your claim up to the policy limits. If the policy limits do not cover your claim, you could sue the at-fault driver for the remaining damages.
However, if the driver does not have the assets or income to pay the judgment, you might not receive the full value of your personal injury claim. You might receive additional compensation by filing a claim against your insurance coverage if you have underinsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy.
The same applies to other types of personal injury cases. For example, homeowner’s insurance may cover premises liability claims, and general liability insurance coverage would apply to product liability cases.
Strength and Amount of Evidence
You must have evidence proving the other party caused your injury to recover compensation for an injury. A lack of evidence or a lack of strong evidence could weaken your case. If so, you might need to accept a lower settlement offer instead of risking a trial.
Other Factors That Impact the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
Each personal injury case is different. There could be other factors that might affect the value of your claim.
For example, hiring a personal injury attorney could increase your chance of recovering maximum compensation. Insurance companies may treat a claim more seriously when an attorney is involved. They also know they cannot take advantage of the fact that a person may not understand the law or the value of their claim because they have an attorney.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit vs. Settling a Claim
Most personal injury cases are settled through negotiations with the insurance company for the at-fault party. The parties agree to a settlement amount and sign a settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement releases all parties from further liability for the claim. Therefore, before signing a settlement agreement, it is best to consult with an experienced lawyer to ensure the amount you receive is fair and just.
However, some claims cannot be settled through negotiations. The insurance company or the other party may refuse to agree to a fair settlement. In that case, the victim may want to pursue a claim through a court proceeding.
Filing a lawsuit begins by filing a complaint. The victim is the plaintiff, and the person who caused the injury is the defendant. The personal injury lawsuit seeks an award compensating the plaintiff for damages.
Personal injury lawsuits have several phases including:
- Filing the complaint
- The defendant responds to the complaint
- Discovery (investigation and exchange of information and evidence)
- Settlement negotiations, which might include mediation or arbitration
- Pretrial motions and hearings
- Trial and jury verdict
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is not a guarantee of an award. Your personal injury attorney analyzes each factor of your case and helps you weigh the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit. Your lawyer guides you through the process and advises you on what will be in your best interest, given the facts of your case.
It is important to keep in mind that your time to file a personal injury lawsuit is limited. Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations sets deadlines for filing injury claims. If you wait too long to talk to an attorney about your case, you could lose your right to pursue the claim through the courts.
Call Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
The best way to protect your best interests after an injury or accident is to learn about your legal rights. If you have questions about an injury claim, contact our office to schedule a free appointment with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney.