When to File a Personal Injury Case
People suffer injuries every day from automobile accidents, falls, medical malpractice, defective products, animal attacks, crimes, and more. While criminal charges may stem from some of these cases, personal injury lawsuits are civil cases in which the plaintiff seeks financial awards from the defendant to cover medical bills and other expenses.
When should you file a personal injury claim?
Consider This Before Filing a Lawsuit or Insurance Claim
Only the person injured in an accident can file a lawsuit against the party at fault. That person is called the plaintiff, while the at-fault party is the defendant. The exceptions to this rule are fatal accidents where the victim’s spouse, parent, or surviving child may file suit, or an executor of a deceased person’s estate may file a personal injury claim unless otherwise ordered by a survivor.
An individual who suffered an injury due to another’s negligent or reckless action is entitled to seek financial compensation for medical expenses related to the accident, including:
- All medical expenses related to the injury included those required in the future
- Compensation for damaged property caused by the accident
- Modifications to a home for an individual disabled by the accident
- Replacement income
- Lost future income
The injured person can seek compensation for follow-up surgery, vehicle or other property repairs, and the placement of wheelchair ramps, among other things.
There is a caveat: you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit in Texas for injuries or death. The exceptions to this statute of limitations are rare.
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases in a state trial court, district court, or county-level court when the estimated value of the claim is between $200 and $10,000. If violations of federal law are involved or the defendant lives or works in another state, the case may be heard in federal court, as can cases that involve more than $75,000 in damages.
Otherwise, Texas lets the injured party choose the district court:
- The court with jurisdiction over where the accident took place
- The court with jurisdiction over where the plaintiff lives
- The court with jurisdiction over where the defendant lives or does business
Once you have thought these elements through, you have something else to determine.
Do You Have a Legal Claim?
To have a legal claim, you must have been injured in an accident caused by another party’s recklessness or negligence. Also, many courts want to know if you tried to negotiate.
When determining injury, ask yourself questions like these:
- Was I hurt in an automobile accident?
- Did I slip and fall because another person didn’t maintain their property in safe condition?
- Did I become sick because of exposure to a dangerous substance?
Also, before going to the potential expense of a lawsuit, mediation and arbitration could be an appropriate pathway to resolve your dispute with the potential plaintiff. In many cases, claims can be negotiated directly with the liable party’s insurance company.
If negotiations fail or you cannot collect damages, you can file a legal claim.
Types of Incidents and Legal Claims
Following are examples of various types of injury or death-causing accidents that could be part of a personal injury case.
The typical cause of a car accident is negligence on the part of the at-fault driver. If someone T-bones your car because they ran a red light, the red-light runner was negligent.
The source of compensation will be either the negligent driver’s insurance, or you may need to file a civil lawsuit.
Slip and Fall
A slip and fall injury is a premises liability issue. The store owner is responsible if you are shopping at the grocery store and slip on an unmarked wet floor. The claim goes to the property owner’s liability insurance, or you must file a civil lawsuit.
Injuries sustained by medical negligence are considered to be caused by medical malpractice. If a surgeon leaves an instrument inside your body after surgery or the hospital, through neglect, caused you to develop bedsores requiring extensive treatment, you may be the victim of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice personal injury claims can be made against the physician, other medical professionals, a hospital, or a medical facility. Compensation is awarded through insurance or civil lawsuit.
Workplace accidents are typically worker’s compensation claims. Often, you cannot file a personal injury claim because liability isn’t the issue. If you are injured on the job, you are expected to file for worker’s compensation.
How to Prove a Civil Case
Unlike a criminal case, civil cases only need to offer a preponderance of the evidence. Jury trials don’t require unanimous decisions.
As the injured party or plaintiff, you must prove to the jury that the liable party had a duty of care to prevent your accident and that the party breached that duty of care by causing the accident. Also, the accident must be the direct cause of your injuries and property damage.
As the person making a claim, you have the burden of proof. You must prove to the judge or jury that everything you allege happened is more likely than not to have caused your injuries or property damage.
Provide Evidence to Support Your Claim
You have multiple opportunities to obtain evidence supporting your personal injury claim. In some circumstances, you need to act quickly.
- Police reports document the circumstances and cause of automobile accidents.
- Incident reports from stores, restaurants, and other businesses support slip and fall claims.
- Eyewitness statements provide details of where, when, and how your injury occurred.
- Photos and video from the accident scene are invaluable in documenting the cause and circumstance of injury.
- Documents of time missed at work and records of your typical income uphold your claim for lost wages.
- Testimony from a medical expert can help prove the cause of the injury, especially if multiple factors are involved.
- Records of all your medical treatment, from emergency services to chiropractors, are excellent forms of evidence.
Remember, you need a preponderance of the evidence. You do not need to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. Your goal is financial compensation, not criminal penalties.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Personal injury cases can be difficult to navigate without an experienced attorney at your side. Obtaining the appropriate evidence can be difficult, especially if you have severe injuries.
The lawyers at Mukerji Law Firm can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.