You must have often come across the terms Personal Injury Protection or Personal Injury Claim. But what is a Personal Injury Claim? Is personal injury the same as a bodily injury? Knowing these things is extremely essential to make sure you are not losing out on the protection of your legal rights in case of a mishap.
Before you understand how a personal injury claim works, you need to be clear about what is categorized as a personal injury under the law and what is not.
What Is Considered As Personal Injury?
Personal injury is covered by civil law. Personal injury does not necessarily mean physical injury to your body alone. It could mean injury or loss to your body, mind, or emotions due to the actions of others. The most common cases of personal injury arising from accidents or intentional wrongdoings by someone that has caused you loss. Any damage that you may have suffered due to the negligence of others or due to their intentional actions can be covered under personal injury.
What Is A Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury can be a widely defined term but for recovering compensation against personal injury, under law, it has to be valued in monetary terms. This means that there has to be recognizable damage that has caused you pain or suffering. Physical injury can be gauged just from the sight of it or the extent of it. But in case of psychological damage caused by an incident, how do you measure the intensity of the damage caused to determine whether it can be compensated? For that, there are some strict rules that define the circumstances under which you can claim for compensation and how much you can claim.
A personal injury claim is generally a monetary compensation. You are supposed to use this compensation amount to pay for any medical bills or expenses you may have incurred as a result of the accident or event. For a successful personal injury claim, you have to be able to establish that someone else was responsible for your loss or injury. That is to say, that someone should have been more careful or was liable to take care of your safety under the circumstances.
Personal injury claims are usually made when the opposite party is legally liable in the following ways.
Duty Of Care
Under some situations, the opposite party may owe you what is called a duty of care. That is they are responsible for your safety in various ways. For example, a store is responsible for the safety of its customers. If you are injured in some way due to the negligence of the people working in the store, maybe because of a falling object or a slippery floor, you have the right to claim for personal injury. Another example, which is all the more relevant here, is negligence by medical practitioners. Medical practitioners and nursing homes are responsible for your life and health when you are under their treatment. If you suffer any damage during treatment or during your stay in a nursing home, the doctor or other authorities can be held liable. Similarly, a person driving an automobile has a duty of care to ensure the safety of other vehicles and pedestrians on the road.
Some parties have a higher level of duty of care towards you than others, based on your relationship with them. A doctor and an open market cannot be expected to have the same levels of duty of care. So you have to be judicious when making a claim.
Breach of Duty
When a person or an institution that has a legally imposed duty of care towards you fails to fulfill that duty, they are responsible for breach of duty. If you can prove that the party has caused a breach of duty due to their negligence, you can get closer to successfully landing a claim.
As a claimant, you first have to establish that the other party had a duty of care towards you. You then need to prove that the personal injury suffered by you was a breach of the duty by the party and that could be because of their negligence or intentional. Lastly, you have to prove that this breach of duty by the opposite party is the cause of your injury. If, say, you were shopping in a store and you tripped on another shopper’s leg and fell, that is not a breach of duty by the store. So your injuries are not caused by the negligence of the store in this case. You can only lay a successful personal injury claim when you can prove that the opposite party was responsible for your safety and their negligence caused the injury.
What are the causes of personal injury covered under this claim?
The most common causes of personal injury cases stem from negligence. Particularly cases of automobile accidents, pedestrian accidents or slip and fall injuries are covered by negligence of the other party. Apart from negligence too there are some other causes you can use to your benefit in a personal injury claim.
If the other party has intentionally caused you physical injury or mental harassment, you can claim a personal injury claim for it as well. Although intentional wrongs are quite rare, there are examples of cases where this may be applicable. Also known as intentional torts, in legal terms, these may include cases of physical assault, fraud, battery, slander or defamation of any kind. So cases where someone deliberately does you harm or wrongly accuses you of something or tries to tarnish your reputation may be covered by a personal injury claim.
The strict liability law requires certain institutions or individuals to maintain a standard of safety failing which any injury or damage caused will be the responsibility of the said party. For example, most manufacturers, designers or industries fall under a strict liability clause imposed by law. If their actions or their products cause any injury or damage to anyone, then they can be sued without the claimant having to prove their negligence or intention. If someone is involved in hazardous activities such as keeping wild animals, storing explosives, working with toxic chemicals or manufacturing products that may be defective, they can be held liable if someone else is injured by their actions.
What To Expect From a Personal Injury lawsuit?
Since personal injury lawsuits fall under civil law and not criminal law, these cases may or may not always be taken to court. You can file a formal lawsuit where you file a civil complaint against the other party and appear for court sessions. Or you can go for an informal settlement with the other party where the court would not be involved. In either case, you will need a good personal injury attorney who can represent you well in court or advise on the best terms for an informal settlement.
If you decide to file a lawsuit and land a claim successfully, the responsible party’s insurance company will be required to pay you for medical bills, other expenses and sometimes even for the pain or suffering caused. If your case is against an institution, such as a hospital, your personal injury attorney will have to deal with the institution’s attorneys and insurance providers.
In case of informal settlements, generally the attorney of both parties and their insurers are present. Both parties come to a written agreement forgoing any further legal action after payment of an agreeable compensation amount.
What Compensation Should You Expect In a Personal Injury Case?
The damages in most personal injury cases are classified into economic and non-economic damage. Economic damages are those that can be calculated based on your actual loss. Generally economic losses are not covered by personal injury but certain expenses such as medical bills, lost wages or other expenses caused by the injury can be claimed under a personal injury case.
It is more difficult to evaluate the non-economic damage in fact. Non-economic damage refers to the pain and suffering caused by the accident or the event. Since these are not tangible, it is difficult to lay a claim to compensate for such damage. Non-economic damages, particularly in medical malpractice claims, have caps to limit the damages to a certain amount.
How much compensation a claimant receives in a personal injury case will indeed vary from case to case. An experienced and skilled personal injury attorney can help you get the most out of your claim.
Is There a Time Limit to File a Personal injury Claim?
Yes, almost all legal claims are dictated by the Statute of Limitations. There are strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit in the civil court system. The Statute of Limitations for California allows you to file a personal injury claim within 2 years of the event or accident. In most cases the time is counted from the day of the accident itself. However, in some states the limitation period is counted from the date the injury is discovered in case you hadn’t discovered it on the day of the accident.
If you fail to file a case within the specified time limit, the guilty party can assert the Statute of Limitations in their defense.
How long does it take for settlement of a Personal Injury Claim?
Different cases require different lengths of time to settle. If you have hired a good attorney, your case is likely to get settled sooner. Apart from this there may be a number of other factors affecting the duration of the settlement of your case.
There may be problematic issues with the case that can delay the settlement. Legal issues like these may arise from inability of the claimant to prove liability. The defendant’s insurer will only agree to pay a reasonable settlement amount if the claimant’s attorney can prove the other party’s liability or the judge rules in favor of the claimant’s right to sue. Similarly, it may be difficult to prove that the damages were caused by the defendant party. The insurer will only pay up if it is established that the damage or injury was a result of the defendant’s actions.
Another cause of delay in a settlement may be the huge settlement amount. Insurers generally do not pay up easily when the amount involved is too big. They will do their due diligence by investigating the case from every aspect. They may agree to pay the damages only if they are unable to find a defense to your claim. Sometimes the insurers may even deliberately delay the settlement on a big case just to see if the claimant gives up or accepts a lower amount against the damages rather than waiting any longer.
Your case may also get delayed if you are still undergoing treatment for your injuries. Until you reach the point of, what is called maximum medical improvement from your injury, the full extent of your injuries and their effect on your life will not be known. So your attorney can value your case only after you have reached maximum medical improvement.
What affects the settlement of your Personal Injury Claim?
There are basically just two primary factors that determine the outcome of your case – Your injuries and the terms of the defendant’s insurance policy. If your injuries are significant, they will lead to higher medical bills and more pain and suffering claims. So you are likely to get a higher payout.
If the defendant’s insurance policy can cover the damages within the policy’s limit, you get paid. However, if your claim exceeds their insurance policy limits a settlement becomes difficult.
How can a lawyer help you in a Personal Injury Claim?
Taking the help of an experienced legal adviser is very important in any legal settlement or lawsuit. A good personal injury attorney can increase your chances of getting a higher compensation for your damages. Be it a formal lawsuit or an informal settlement, a personal injury lawyer can give you the best advice to ensure you get your dues.
If you are looking for a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney call Kuzyk Law for a free consultation today. Our personal injury attorneys have been serving clients throughout Antelope Valley and Southern California for decades with excellent results.