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Personal Injury Law Basics: Your Guide to Personal Injury Claims

A woman trips and falls in a shopping mall and breaks her wrist. Does she have any options to recover any of the damages?

Accidents can happen at any time and in any place. If you’re the victim of an accident, you usually have the right to sue if the accident wasn’t your fault.

At that point, you’re entering the world of personal injury law. It’s a unique area of law that has more than 56,000 practicing attorneys and is worth about $38 billion a year.

If you were in an accident, you’ll want to learn the personal injury law basics. This will help you understand your case and hire an attorney that you can trust.

Read on to learn the basics of personal injury law

What Is Personal Injury Law?

The legal system in the United States is driven by two different justice systems. There is criminal law, which deals with people can companies that break the law and holds them accountable.

Civil law deals with issues that come up between people and organizations. Some cases do have a criminal and civil component to them, in which they’ll be tried separately in criminal court and civil court.

Personal injury law falls under the civil justice system. A personal injury covers almost any type of injury that occurs because someone else was negligent. The damage could be emotional, physical, or to your property.

Most personal injury cases are overseen by state laws and run in state courts. This can make personal injury law a little confusing because the laws vary by state.

Does that mean that there are no federal personal injury laws in existence? No, and that’s important to know if your injury occurred at a federal property. Let’s say that you were at a federal building, fell, and was injured.

You would have to file suit against the federal government in federal courts. Federal laws would guide the proceedings of this case.

Proving Negligence

The key to winning a personal injury case is proving that the other party was negligent. For example, if a dog owner knew that their dog was aggressive on a leash and didn’t muzzle the dog. The dog went on to bite you. The owner is negligent because they did nothing to prevent the dog bite.

From a legal perspective, there are four elements of negligence that you have to prove. The burden is on you to show that these elements existed at the time of your accident.

Duty is the first one, and that refers to the duty of care. A doctor or other healthcare professional has the duty to provide responsible care.

The second element is the Breach of Duty. This element looks at how a regular person would respond in the same circumstances. A doctor has a duty to provide care, and in this instance, they could have failed to provide care.

The third element is Causation, which asks if the actions or nonactions of the person caused your injury. An example would be that you tripped over a wire that wasn’t covered properly and tripped. You suffered an injury as a result of someone not taking action to cover the wire.

The final element refers to Damages in a personal injury case. This is the cost of the injury that the judge or jury will use as a guideline to determine your reward. It’s also used as a starting point for settlement negotiations.

Once you know the elements of negligence, you should take the time to learn the different types of negligence. Which ones that apply will depend on the circumstances of your case and the laws in your state.

Statute of Limitations

Another basic part of personal injury law is the statute of limitations. This is how long you have from the time of your accident to file a case in court. This is like a deadline.

If you miss your deadline, you can’t file a case. The statute of limitations is usually two years. That doesn’t mean you should wait 1 year and 350 days to get your act together.

You’ll want to hire a personal injury lawyer right away. That will give them plenty of time to collect evidence and gather documentation to support your case.

How Does a Personal Injury Case Work?

A personal injury case starts with the accident. This starts the clock on the statute of limitations.

It’s important to collect documentation, such as photos of an accident scene, even if you’re not injured. You may feel the effects of the accident days later, making it much more difficult to prove that the accident caused your injury.

You’ll then want to consult with an attorney who will review your case and decide to take it or not. In most cases, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. They get paid a percentage of your settlement or award.

Your attorney will get relevant information and the file suit in state court. The person or company you want to sue is notified and may reach out to settle out of court. The attorneys will negotiate, and about 95% of cases will end there.

Knowing the Personal Injury Law Basics Will Help Your Case

The more you know about personal injury law, the better chance you’ll have at winning your case. The personal injury law basics start with the type of law.

The laws that govern personal injury cases are different in each state. You want to make sure that you can prove negligence and file your case within the statute of limitations.

Do you want to know more than the personal injury law basics? Check out this blog for more legal insights.

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