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What is a Personal Injury Case?

A personal injury case is a civil claim that the victim of another person or company’s negligence can make under the law.  What that means is that if one suffers from an injury that arises out of an event, such as an automobile collision, a slip & fall, a mistake that a medical provider made in treatment, a workplace injury, the use of a defective product or drug, and many other types of situations, then that person may make a claim for compensation for his/her injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs that s/he incurs from that injury.  Most personal injury cases begin as insurance claims and transition into civil lawsuits (as opposed to criminal) against the at-fault party.

The Basic Elements of a Personal Injury Case

The basic information that must be proven to successfully bring a personal injury case include:  (1) showing that the other party acted carelessly or negligently; (2) showing that the carelessness or negligence caused an (an event that caused an injury) injury to the claimant or plaintiff; and, (3) showing the amount of loss that resulted from the injury (or injuries).

Automobile Accidents in the Context of a Personal Injury Case

The most basic example of a personal injury case is one that arises out of an automobile collision.  For example, a careless driver runs a red light and causes a t-bone collision with another driver who is attempting to cross the intersection.  In that case, the driver who ran the red light is most likely at fault for the collision–maybe he was eating a cheeseburger and fries and did not see that the light was red, and he admits that to the police officer who shows up at the scene of the collision.  The injury victim had the green light and was proceeding through the intersection properly when the collision occurs and does not do anything to contribute to the wreck.  Let’s say, that as a result of the collision, the injured victim breaks his arm and leg.  The injured victim is taken via ambulance to the emergency room and has to follow up with an orthopedic doctor to make sure that the bones are healing properly.  The medical bills total to $100,000.00.  Maybe the injured victim misses a week of work and does not get paid his regular $1,000.00 in income per week.  If the facts are all true in this example, then all of the elements of a personal injury case are met.  That is a personal injury case!

Insurance Coverage in a Personal Injury Case

Now, using the same example, the at-fault driver has automobile insurance with State Farm in order to cover accidents.  The first step that the injured party makes in order to assert his claim is to open a claim up against the at-fault driver with State Farm.  If the at-fault driver did not have any insurance, then the injured party either has to go against the at-fault driver personally or assert a claim under his own “uninsured motorist” insurance policy, if he has one.  Each automobile insurance policy has “limits of coverage,” which means that the insurance company will not pay for losses in excess of the limits.  In our case, let’s say that the at-fault driver has $250,000.00 in coverage that can apply to our injury victim.  The injury victim can submit his claim for his medical bills, lost wages, and “pain & suffering” under that policy.  If State Farm and the injury victim come to an agreement on an amount, then the case is closed.

Bringing a Personal Injury Case in Court

If State Farm and the injured party cannot come to an agreement, then the injured party has to sue the at-fault driver in a court of law.  In order to recover, the injured party must engage in the process of litigation.  Litigation begins with filing a lawsuit in court and ends with a settlement or a trial.  In between filing the lawsuit and trial, there is a period of time known as “discovery,” where the parties exchange information about the case.  The case can still resolve via a settlement during that time period and up to the eve of trial or in the middle of trial.  The ultimate resolution, absent settlement, is a decision from a jury as to whether the claimant or “plaintiff” has proven up the case and how much he is entitled to be compensated for his losses, if anything.

As discussed above, personal injury cases can come in many forms and arise out of all different types of situations and can involve both individuals and companies.  Companies can act negligently too (for example, a trucking company could hire a driver with a terrible driving record and that driver hits and severely injures someone on the road; or, a company can put a defective product on the market that injures many members of the public).  In order to know if you have a potential personal injury case, the best thing to do is to talk to an attorney who specializes in personal injury law.  This article is only meant to give a general overview of what personal injury is.  Each case and circumstances is different and can involve multiple complexities, so it is important that you present your case to an attorney if you think you have one.  We are happy to discuss your case with you.  Call the Davis Injury Firm at 404-593-2620 or e-mail betty@bettydavislaw.com in order to speak to an attorney today.