Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is the most common form of civil litigation. It is a legal avenue for an injured person to pursue payment for damages incurred due to another party’s intentional or negligent action.
Most personal injury cases settle without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, but every case is different. Suppose you suffered an injury or lost someone you love in an avoidable accident. In that case, you deserve compensation for your losses, and a personal injury lawyer can help you adequately calculate the damages.
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What Are the Most Common Types of Personal Injury Cases?
No two personal injury cases are the same, but to file a personal injury lawsuit, you need three crucial elements:
- The defendant must owe the plaintiff a duty of care. For example, in an auto accident case, the defendant is responsible for doing their utmost to keep everyone around them safe on the road.
- The defendant breached that duty of care and caused an accident.
- The accident caused the plaintiff’s injury.
As the plaintiff, the burden of proof falls on you, meaning you must prove each of these three elements. How you do that depends on the type of case and the available evidence. The following are the most common types of personal injury cases.
Auto Accident Cases
Auto accident cases encompass a variety of different collision types, including car accidents, semi or commercial truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bus accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. In the moments following a serious auto accident, you may struggle to collect yourself, but if you are physically able, you can do a few things to protect your rights. Follow these simple steps:
- Get emergency medical attention. If you or anyone else suffers a severe injury, contact 911 immediately and wait for emergency services to arrive.
- Contact the police. Most states require you to contact the police for collisions resulting in injuries or significant damages. When the police arrive, they will conduct an investigation and file a report you can later access.
- Gather contact information. Ask the other driver for their insurance and license information. Additionally, write down the names and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses.
- Document damages. If you have a smartphone available, take photos of everything you see, including any injuries on your body and damage to the vehicles.
- See your doctor. Sometimes car accident victims avoid having a medical evaluation, but you should see a doctor even if you feel fine. Medical records are excellent sources of evidence for injury claims.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer. Speaking with an attorney while the accident details are freshest is your best option. Additionally, an attorney will act quickly to help you file a claim and get the compensation you need.
Every state has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident. Most allow between two and three years, but the sooner you file, the stronger your case will be.
If you suffered an injury caused by the negligence of a medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse, or even a facility, such as a private practice or hospital, you may file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Examples of malpractice include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Prescribing the wrong dosage of medication
- Errors in surgery or anesthesia
These cases are often complex and challenging to prove. More often than not, plaintiffs need the help of a legal professional with experience in medical malpractice cases.
If you sustained an injury due to an unsafe condition on someone else’s property, your accident and the resulting lawsuit would fall under the legal concept of premises liability. Simply put, premises liability states that property owners are responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their property for anyone who enters lawfully. Anyone with a direct or implied invitation from the owner is considered a legal visitor.
The most common example of a premises liability case is a slip and fall accident. For example, if you slip and fall on black ice in a parking lot, you could potentially sue the parking lot owner if they had sufficient time to clear the ice and failed to do so. Similarly, if you fall in a restaurant bathroom or supermarket aisle because of wet floors without signage, you can sue the property owner for failing to protect the safety of customers.
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the products they advertise and sell are safe for consumers, and there are many federal and state laws in place to provide that protection.
Unfortunately, however, defective products sometimes make it onto the market. For example, suppose you have a tire blowout while driving down the road and discover that the manufacturer failed to conduct required testing before distribution or missed a flaw during the design phase. In that case, you could file a product liability lawsuit against the company. Product liability cases are heavily nuanced and require extensive knowledge about consumer protection laws. Additionally, you have an immediate disadvantage when going up against a large corporation. However, a personal injury lawyer with experience in product liability can help you value your claim and combat arguments from the defense’s legal team.
Workers’ compensation cases rarely require significant legal action. In most cases, you can handle the insurance claim yourself. However, certain circumstances may call for the help of an attorney. For example, contact a lawyer if:
- The insurance provider denies your claim
- You sustained an injury to a body part with a preexisting condition
- The insurance company will not settle
- Your injury results in an inability to work
- There is a dispute involving your permanent disability rating
- You cannot get the medical treatment you need
Your chances of receiving a fairer settlement are significantly higher with the help of a legal professional.
You may file a wrongful death lawsuit if another party’s negligence results in the death of a loved one. State laws dictate who can file a wrongful death case, but most limit it to spouses, children, and immediate family members. Some states allow the parents of a lost fetus to sue for compensation under the claim of wrongful death. The most common plaintiff is the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Personal Injury Case?
To file any personal injury case, you must be able to prove that you suffered losses caused by the accident and your injuries. The specifics of what damages you can recover depend on the value of your losses and the severity of your injuries. However, you can generally categorize most personal injury damages as compensatory.
Compensatory damages include the economic and non-economic losses for which your settlement or award should make whole. Additionally, if the party responsible for your accident and injuries acted with malintent or gross negligence, you may also sue for punitive damages. Below is a basic overview of compensatory and punitive damages. However, you can learn more about how these apply to your case by speaking with a personal injury lawyer.
Economic damages are the specific financial losses associated with your injuries. They include:
- Cost of medical bills. You can request compensation for any past or future medical treatments, including visits to the hospital or doctor, necessary medical devices, and medications.
- Lost income and benefits. If your injury hinders you from going to work or causes you to lose the ability to perform your job as before, you can request compensation for lost wages. Additionally, if you lost benefits, such as pension or retirement, you can request recovery of those as well.
- Any other monetary losses. Auto accident victims often seek compensation for damaged property. You may also ask for the cost of household care needed during your recovery or transportation costs back and forth to medical visits.
To claim any damages, you must provide evidence of those losses. For example, evidence for medical treatment includes bills from hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. To prove lost income, you can provide pay stubs from before and after your injuries, and for future lost income, your attorney may request recent tax returns. Any other monetary losses may have receipts or estimates from related professionals. Collecting these documents can be cumbersome, but an attorney will typically take care of it for you.
Non-economic damages are more general and typically more challenging to quantify. These are the mental and emotional losses directly associated with your injuries. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering from the physical injuries
- Mental and emotional anguish, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Disfigurement or impairment of ability
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life as you did before
Non-economic damages have no absolute monetary value that you can calculate using bills or estimates. However, you can provide evidence of these issues by providing your written statement about how the injuries affected your life. Additionally, your family, friends, co-workers, or anyone close to you can testify to the changes they see in your mental state.
There are a few methods used to assign a dollar amount to pain and suffering. The most common is the multiplier. Your attorney may choose a number between 1.5 and 5 based on precedent and multiply your medical bills by the number to value the non-economic damages. Naturally, the more severe your injuries are, the higher the multiplier.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are rare in most personal injury cases. This type of damages is reserved for cases in which the defendant acted with no evident care for the plaintiff’s safety. For example, the court may award punitive damages in a malpractice case where the doctor failed to remove a tool from the body during surgery or a drunk driver sped through a school zone and injured pedestrians. The purpose of exemplary damages is to punish the defendant and deter that behavior in the future. For this reason, an award of punitive damage is often substantial.
Compensatory Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
In addition to some of the aforementioned economic and non-economic damages, such as medical bills and emotional anguish, wrongful death cases have other compensatory damages. For example, you may seek compensation for the following:
- Any expenses related to the funeral, burial, or cremation of your loved one
- Any lost income or benefits if you depended on your loved one
- Any lost inheritance you would have received
- Loss of companionship or consortium
The specific damages vary among wrongful death cases depending on several factors, and while nothing can truly replace that loss, the court offers the opportunity to lessen the financial burden.
What Are the Advantages of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer?
You can file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party in your case and represent yourself in negotiations. Such is your legal right. However, before you do, you should consider the advantages of having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. Some things an attorney will do for you include:
- Use their negotiation skills to secure a fair settlement
- Investigate your accident to search for relevant information
- Combat bad faith tactics from insurance companies
- Help you understand the legal process
- Protect your rights
- File the required paperwork and ensure there are no delays in your lawsuit
- Provide access to medical professionals to help you get the support you need
Additionally, most personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they charge nothing to hear your case or represent you. They receive payment when you receive a settlement or award.
If you suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident, you can find relief from the resulting financial burden. The personal injury lawyers at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fee to get started on your case. We specialize in fighting for the rights of the injured and stop at nothing to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures we get paid only after you get paid. There’s No Obligation, Just Information (R).
Common Kinds of Personal Injury Cases
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 100 million people visit the emergency room annually due to unintentional injuries. When your injury is caused by someone else’s negligence, personal injury law (tort law) allows you to pursue compensation from the negligent party for damages.
There are a variety of situations that can result in a personal injury claim. The following are some of the most common types of personal injury cases.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common type of personal injury claim in the US. Every year, millions of Americans are injured in car accidents.
The majority of collisions are the result of driver negligence. If a careless or reckless driver caused you harm, you have the right to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against that person. The exception is when you live in one of the “no-fault” states, where you are required to file first with your own insurance company.
Slip-and-fall accidents are another popular type of personal injury claim. Slip-and-fall accident cases are especially common among the elderly. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 elderly people fall annually.
Property owners have a duty of care to keep their buildings and land reasonably safe and free from hazards. When their failure to do so results in injury, they could be held financially liable.
Tragically, medical malpractice occurs far more frequently than anyone would like to think. A medical malpractice claim results when a doctor provides treatment that is below the medical standard of care and a patient is harmed as a result.
Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, failure to treat, prescription errors, and anesthesia errors are some common forms of medical malpractice cases.
Sadly, wrongful death claims are one common type of personal injury lawsuit. These types of claims can be filed when someone’s negligent actions have resulted in a fatality.
Wrongful death damages may be awarded to surviving family members to cover medical bills incurred as a result of the accident, funeral costs, burial expenses, and other financial losses.
Personal Injury Claims: When You Need a Lawyer
If you have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering, “When do I need to hire a personal injury lawyer?”
Unfortunately, many victims choose to represent themselves after being injured. You can be sure, though, that the negligent party and their insurer are going to have their own lawyers representing them. If you don’t get the legal assistance you require, you may not get the full amount of compensation that you are due.
In the following two situations, it is especially important that you have a legal representative on your side advocating for your best interests: when the insurance company acts in bad faith and when you suffer severe injuries.
When the insurance company is acting in bad faith
If possible, the insurance company would like to get away with paying you nothing for your claim. Unfortunately, some insurers act in bad faith when dealing with individuals following an accident.
Bad faith tactics that insurance companies use may include:
- Refusing to pay a valid claim
- Failing to investigate a claim
- Requesting unnecessary documents to process your claim
- Delaying a claim until the statute of limitations runs out
- Misleading a victim about his or her legal rights
- Falsifying the terms of the insurance policy
A personal injury lawyer will be familiar with the tactics and schemes that insurance companies use to avoid the payout of the claim. If the insurance adjusters refuse to negotiate a fair settlement, a lawyer can help you file a personal injury lawsuit.
When you have severe injuries
A person who has sustained serious harm in a personal injury accident should always consult with an attorney before accepting a settlement offer. A severe injury can result in a victim requiring medical care that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some victims may be left with traumatic or debilitating injuries that could require a lifetime of medical treatment.
The negligent party’s insurance company may try to pressure you into accepting a settlement that does not even cover your medical bills, let alone your lost wages and pain and suffering. Keep in mind that once a settlement offer is accepted, you will be unable to go back and request additional funds.
A personal injury lawyer will review any settlement offer you receive and handle all negotiations with the insurance company. He or she can ensure you receive the full amount of compensation you are entitled to receive.
Ten Most Common Types of Personal Injuries
You may choose to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation if you have been injured by another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. One of our personal injury attorneys can examine your potential case for free and tell you what compensation you can expect for your medical bills and other injury-related damages.
The following are the ten most common types of personal injuries:
- Motor vehicle accidents: Auto accidents are by far the most common types of personal injury claims in the US. If a person was injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, he or she may have a valid claim for compensation.
- Slip-and-fall accidents: A person who was injured as a result of hazardous conditions on another party’s public or private property could be entitled to compensation for damages.
- Medical malpractice: These types of claims arise when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional made a medical error that harmed a patient.
- Product liability: Designers, manufacturers, and retailers have an obligation to ensure that the products they produce and sell are safe for their intended uses. Consumers injured by defective products may have the right to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation.
- Battery and assault: Unlike other types of personal injury claims, assault is not usually caused by negligence. Assault injuries occur when a person intentionally decides to harm another.
- Workplace accidents: These types of claims are filed when a person is injured while on the job. If workers’ compensation is denied, a personal injury lawyer can help file a lawsuit against the negligent employer or another liable party.
- Dog bites: Thousands of people visit the emergency room in the US every year to receive treatment for dog bite injuries. If a dog bites someone, it is usually the owner who is held responsible.
- Wrongful death: A family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit if a loved one was killed in an accident due to someone else’s negligence.
- Defamation of character: These types of lawsuits are filed when someone has made an intentionally harmful statement without regard for the truth that has affected the reputation of another. The untrue statement may have affected someone’s reputation and cost that person monetarily.
- Motorcycle accidents: A motorcyclist who was harmed in an accident as a result of a motorist or another party may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Kinds of “Injuries” Does Personal Injury Law Include?
After being injured in an accident, you may begin to hear the term “personal injury.” A personal injury occurs when a person sustains physical harm. It is considered personal because the harm is caused to a person’s physical body rather than to his or her property.
With accidents being one of the leading causes of injury and death in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of personal injury claims filed every year. Consider the following.
Types of accidents
Personal injury law may govern a variety of accidents, including:
- Car accidents: Motor vehicle accidents can leave victims with significant injuries that require extensive medical treatment
- Medical malpractice: Negligent doctors and nurses injure or kill thousands of people every year by making medical errors
- Product liability: Many consumers are injured every year from products that function incorrectly or come with inadequate warnings
- Workplace accidents: Accidents that happen on the job are usually covered by workers’ compensation, but in some circumstances, the injured employee could file a personal injury claim
- Slip-and-falls: A person injured on the property of another, perhaps as a result of poor maintenance or hazardous conditions, can pursue compensation from the property owner
- Dog bites: The owner of the animal is usually responsible for damages if a person is attacked by a dog or another animal
- Wrongful death: When a person is killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, the surviving family members may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit
- Truck accidents: Drivers or the trucking company may have personal injury claims filed against them for injuries sustained in a truck accident
Physical injuries may vary in severity. Some victims are able to make a full recovery in only a few weeks while others may be left with injuries that alter their lives forever.
Types of injuries
A personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover compensation for:
- Crushed and broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Neck and back injuries
- Arm, wrist, leg, ankle, and foot injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Scarring and disfigurement
Please come talk to us if you suffered a different injury. The possibilities of financial recovery are not limited to the list above.
What is a Major Personal Injury?
A major personal injury is any injury that results in loss of bodily function, dismemberment, prolonged disability, or diminished quality of life. Major injuries may be either temporary or permanent but will most likely require a long period of recovery.
Types of major personal injuries
Examples of major personal injuries include:
- Compound fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Deep lacerations or stab wounds
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of hearing or vision
- Gunshot wounds
- Severe burns
- Spinal injuries that result in paralysis
- Loss of a limb
Compensation available to those with major personal injuries
A person who has sustained a major personal injury is entitled to pursue compensation for all losses suffered as a result of the accident. In most personal injury claims, this will include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. However, victims of major personal injuries are often awarded additional damages.
Damages awarded to victims of major personal injuries may include:
- Future medical expenses: Victims of major personal injuries will likely require ongoing medical care. Compensation for future medical expenses could include hospital stays, physical therapy, home or vehicle modifications, assisted living costs, prescriptions, and more.
- Pain and suffering: These types of damages are given in some major personal injury cases to compensate for the physical and emotional pain a person must endure as a result of the accident. Typically, the more catastrophic an injury suffered, the greater the amount of pain and suffering damages the person may be awarded.
- Loss of enjoyment: A major personal injury may have a lasting impact on the victim’s quality of life. When calculating loss of enjoyment damages, factors considered include the age of the person, the future consequences of the injury, and the nature of the activity that has been lost.
What Does Personal Injury Law Involve?
Personal injury law, also referred to as tort law, allows an injured person to file a claim or lawsuit to pursue compensation for losses sustained in an accident or another incident. The majority of personal injury claims are based on “negligence,” which refers to any careless act (or inaction) that causes harm to another individual.
In order for a personal injury lawsuit to be successful, you must prove that the responsible party acted with negligence and that their actions or failure to act resulted in you being harmed. Your personal injury lawyer will have to present evidence that proves the following four points.
Duty of care
First, it must be shown that the defendant owed you a duty of care, or an obligation, to act in a certain way that would not reasonably cause harm to you or others.
The following are examples of duty of care:
- Drivers have the duty of care to obey traffic laws and drive in a manner that does not endanger others
- Property owners are obligated to keep their properties safe for guests and visitors
- Doctors and nurses have a duty to administer treatment that meets the standard of care for their patients
Breach of duty
Next, your lawyer will need to prove that the defendant’s actions breached the duty of care owed to you. In other words, that party failed to take reasonable care to prevent an accident.
Breach of duty examples include:
- A driver texting while driving
- A property owner failing to fix a broken step
- A doctor leaving a towel or another object inside a patient during surgery
Next, your lawyer will need to show that the breach of duty caused you harm. For example, you would not have been injured if the defendant was not texting and driving.
Lastly, your personal injury attorney will work to prove that your injuries resulted in damages.
Damages that you could recover compensation for include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
What is Personal Injury Compensation?
Personal injury damages are monetary awards that injured parties may receive to compensate for the harm caused to them due to someone else’s negligence. One other legal term for compensation is “damages.”
The types of damages and amount of compensation recovered will depend largely on the circumstances of your accident and the extent of your injuries. Compensatory damages can be broken down into two categories: special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages.
Special compensatory damages
Special compensatory damages are awarded to compensate for the monetary losses caused by an injury. This may include compensation for:
- Medical expenses: This could include payment for ambulance rides, hospital stays, medication, rehabilitation, surgeries, and more
- Lost wages: You are entitled to pursue compensation for any income you lost as a result of your injury
- Loss of future earning potential: If your injury results in a disability that affects your future ability to earn, you may be able to recover damages for that loss
- Property damage: When your vehicle or another piece of valuable property was damaged in an accident, you could recover compensation to repair or replace it
General damages are awarded to compensate for the non-monetary repercussions of your injuries. These types of damages may include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering: Awarded as compensation for the physical distress and emotional discomfort endured as a result of your accident
- Emotional distress: Meant to compensate for anxiety, fear, sleep loss, and the other psychological impacts the injury has had on your daily life
- Loss of enjoyment: If your injuries prevent you from engaging in activities that you enjoyed before the accident, these damages may be awarded as compensation for that loss
- Loss of consortium: This is a legal term used to describe the loss of companionship, love, comfort, care, affection, support, and assistance in the case of a loved one passing away in the accident
How to Prove an Injury is From a Car Accident
In order to collect compensation for medical expenses after a car accident, you will need to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident. Unfortunately, the process is not always as easy as it should be. Insurance companies will sometimes try to avoid the payout of your claim by blaming your injuries on prior health conditions.
In the aftermath of a car accident, it is important for injured victims to keep from disclosing any statements about their health. Even an innocent statement such as “I’m fine” or “I do not think I got hurt,” can be used against you by insurance companies and their lawyers, though some conditions cannot be felt immediately after a collision because of the adrenaline and confusion that normally follows an accident.
Experienced personal injury lawyers know what evidence is needed to build a strong case for each client. We can prove that your injuries were a direct result of your car accident.
Documents that an attorney may use to build your case include:
- Police accident report: The accident report, along with photos of the scene and eyewitness testimony, can help give a full picture of how the accident transpired.
- Medical bills: It is important to go to seek medical attention immediately following an accident and keep a copy of all medical bills you have received since the accident. These records can also help to show projected long-term costs.
- Doctor’s records: These records will prove that you went to the hospital or doctor’s office after the accident to receive medical care. Be sure to follow any instructions your doctor gives and keep all appointments. This helps establish that your injuries are real and that you are actively seeking treatment.
- Medical history: While it is understandable that a person may not want to disclose their full medical history, it may be helpful to present some medical records that prove that you did not have any pre-existing conditions prior to the accident.
If I Trip on Uneven Sidewalk, Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Many may find themselves to be distracted while entering and exiting stores and other businesses, or even simply while walking along the street. Also, people generally walk with their eyes focused on what’s ahead in their path rather than down at the pathway. As a result, a trip and fall on an uneven sidewalk may occur.
Although it may seem minor, tripping on an uneven sidewalk can leave a victim suffering an injury that is more serious than it might appear at first. Perhaps the victim feels that it was his or her own fault for not paying better attention. Even so, that person could still be entitled to personal injury compensation.
This is why it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer if you have been injured in a tripping and falling accident. A trip-and-fall comes under premises liability law in Massachusetts, which dictates that a property’s owner has the legal obligation to ensure a safe environment for visitors. Any failure to correct or warn of potential hazards, such as an uneven sidewalk, could make the owner liable for compensation for injuries suffered from a fall.
However, who to pursue for compensation would depend on where the incident occurred. Again, the assistance of a lawyer would be vital in determining this first step of your claim. If the incident occurred on private property, the owner could be liable. Whereas if it occurred on a public sidewalk, the municipality or state could be liable, which would be difficult to pursue without the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.
Personal Injury vs. Bodily Injury
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we believe that understanding your rights goes a long way toward protecting your best interests. “Personal injury” and “bodily injury” are two terms you might see on an insurance policy or a court claim. But what do they mean?
Bodily injury definition and coverage
Bodily injury refers to physical damage to someone’s body. Some examples are:
- Scrapes, burns, and bruises
- Sprains and strains
- Damage to internal organs
- Broken bones
- Disfigurement and loss of limb
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Herniated or ruptured discs
If you hurt someone in a car accident, for example, your bodily injury insurance would apply to the cost of his or her medical treatment. The minimum required insurance coverage in Massachusetts covers bodily injury of at least $20,000 per person. However, it does not cover the injuries of anyone in your car, including yours.
Personal injury definition and coverage
In addition to physical injury, personal injury refers to all losses incurred in an incident. For instance, car accident victims might lose:
- Property: Their vehicle or the cost of repairs
- Physical wellbeing or abilities: Their injuries
- Abilities: Any resulting disabilities and the limitations they impose
- Income: The money they would have earned if they could have gone to work
- Earning potential: The money they could have made without their new disability
- Companionship or consortium: The loss of the relationship of a deceased loved one
In Massachusetts, drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP). This covers medical expenses, a maximum of 75 percent of lost wages, and up to $8,000 in replacement services (e.g. lawn care, childcare, cleaning).
Unlike bodily injury protection, PIP covers:
- Anyone you allow to drive your vehicle
- Anyone living in your household
- Passengers in your car
If someone hurts you in a preventable accident, you could qualify to take civil action better known as a personal injury claim. Lawyers can negotiate a settlement out of court or take your case before a judge to pursue financial compensation for your losses.
When is a Car Accident a Personal Injury Claim?
A small car accident might cause only minor inconvenience. Some parties can settle differences without involving law enforcement, insurers, or attorneys.
In other instances, you might discover you need the assistance of professionals who know Massachusetts law. Skilled lawyers can file a personal injury claim to recover damages for your losses.
Providing you with the necessary information is important to us at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers. Here are some facts that will help you determine when your car accident is a personal injury claim.
When PIP isn’t enough
Mandatory automobile insurance protects all cars registered in Massachusetts. The minimum policies cover:
- Up to $20,000 per person in medical expenses for anyone you hurt with your car
- Your medical bills, lost wages, and replacement service cost up to $8,000
- Up to $40,000 for losses you incur because of being hit by an uninsured or unidentifiable driver
- Up to $5,000 in property damage caused by you or another authorized driver of your vehicle
If your losses exceed what your PIP insurance covers, you can seek additional compensation with a personal injury claim.
When your case meets the criteria
In Massachusetts, a personal injury claim must meet these criteria:
- Duty: The defendant (the party being sued) owes you a duty; anyone operating a vehicle has an obligation not to hurt others intentionally or as a result of negligence
- Breach: The defendant failed his or her duty; since running a red light puts others in danger, this is one example of failing to uphold the rules of the road
- Causation: The defendant’s malicious intentions or negligence must directly cause an accident
- Injury: The incident must cause damage to an individual or a property
Personal injury lawyers can help clients gather evidence to prove they meet these standards. With few exceptions, you must file a personal injury claim within 3 years from the date of the injury.
What to Look for When Searching for a Personal Injury Law Firm
When researching a personal injury law firm online, you may feel overwhelmed by the numerous options presented to you. Perhaps you are wondering, since they all appear the same, “What specifically should I look for?”
There are several factors that you want to consider when selecting the ideal law firm to work with. The following list highlights some of these factors:
- Larger firm vs. smaller firm: A larger firm would offer a team of experienced attorneys, but you would generally lose the personal connection with your attorney since a paralegal would probably work your case. Smaller firms offer you direct access to your experienced lawyer, who would most likely work your case.
- Rate of success: Law firms that highlight amounts that the firm has successfully settled may be more trustworthy. This shows attorney diligence in working on personal injury cases. When a firm highlights specific clients on their site discussing their claims, it shows that the firm is confident in its ability to represent your claim.
- Free consultation: If the law firm offers free consultations, that’s a good sign. When a firm asks for money for an initial consultation, though, it may be an indication of a lack of commitment to your claim. A “come and see for yourself” approach is much more assuring.
- Awards: A law firm with awards from prestigious organizations is a good indicator. For example, you can view the recognition our founder, Jason Stone himself, has received here.
- Client reviews: Check other websites, such as Google or Yelp, for past client reviews. Both of these sites can give you a reasonable idea as to your level of satisfaction with that law firm.
How Much of the Settlement Will I Get After a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
When it’s least expected, a personal injury can suddenly be inflicted on you. In many cases, the injury is the result of another person’s negligence. If this is your situation, you may have the right to seek compensation for your pain, suffering, and financial losses.
A lawyer can help you pursue a settlement for your claim. But, you could be wondering, what amount would be considered fair in the case of a personal injury lawsuit?
The amount that you receive depends on several factors. Some of these include compensation for damages you’ve suffered, such as medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering – and possibly punitive damages as well. The greater the value of the damages, the higher the settlement amount.
Another factor that would affect the settlement amount in Massachusetts is the legal rule of comparative negligence. This means that if you shared any fault in the accident, a percentage of the total settlement amount could be deducted.
Lastly, your final settlement will be reduced by the lawyer’s fee, which is typically 33 to 40 percent. (Jason Stone Injury Lawyers charges only one-third.)
Note this example: You slip and fall and suffer $30,000 in medical costs. Your attorney receives an offer of $200,000 for damages to settle your claim. From this scenario, how much will you receive?
First, let’s suppose that you were texting while walking and didn’t see the electrical cord that was carelessly left in the walkway. So, under the law of comparative negligence, you would be partially responsible. Let’s say you’re found to be 10 percent at fault. This would deduct 10 percent from your $200,000 settlement, leaving $180,000 to be awarded to you.
After this, the medical bills of $30,000 can be paid off, reducing the total to $150,000. Then, your lawyer’s fee of 33 percent, plus additional costs, would be deducted. These “costs” are generally low and consist of expenses made to settle the case, perhaps including medical records and court fees. All in all, you would be left with up to nearly $100,500 in-pocket.
Can I Sue Family Members Over Personal Injuries?
Getting hurt sometimes leads to seeking justice. If your injury was the result of someone else’s negligence, the law states that you have the right to seek fair compensation for your losses. But, what if the negligent party is a family member?
For example, what if you are a passenger in a family member’s car, an accident occurs, and it is discovered that your family member was at fault. Can you sue him or her for personal injuries that you have suffered?
In the past, the answer to this question would have been “no” in almost all cases. However, in recent decades, state laws have changed to allow family members to sue each other.
Although family members can now sue each other, legally speaking, the answer to this question isn’t so straightforward. There are various factors that come into play. Once you have considered these factors, you may decide whether or not to pursue the lawsuit against your relative.
First of all, a lawsuit can affect family relations for a long time. So do so consider: Is this lawsuit more important than your long-term relationship with your family member?
Related to this are the questions: Does your family member have the finances to pay for a personal injury lawsuit? Is he or she emotionally stable enough to go through the process of a lawsuit? Depending on your answers, you may decide to resolve the matter in a different setting.
Another factor to consider is whether the insurance company would pay for the damages you require. Some companies have policies that may not allow for payment of damages between relatives. Or the policy may apply only to specific relatives, such as those living outside the home.
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