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23 Feb

How a Personal Injury Claim Works

Learning the Basics of Personal Injury Law

Start to get a sense of what personal injury means and the key elements of these kinds of cases. 

Personal injury law also known as “tort” law allows an injured person to file a civil lawsuit in court and get legal remedy for all of the losses stemming from an accident or other incident. 

The purpose of the personal injury system is to allow the injured person to be financially compensated or “made whole” after he or she has suffered harm due to someone else’s negligent or intentional conduct. 

In this article we shall:

  • Cover the basics of Personal Injury Law
  • Discuss where Personal Injury Law comes from
  • Explain how a typical Personal Injury case works

The Basics of Personal Injury

There are a wide variety of different situations where personal injury rules apply:

Accidents- Personal Injury rules apply in situations where someone acts in a negligent manner, and that carelessness causes harm to another person. Examples include car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and medical malpractice, among other types of cases. 

Intentional Acts- Personal injury laws apply in situations where a defendant’s intentional conduct causes harm to another person. Examples of this include assault and battery, and other intentional torts. 

Defective Products- When a vehicle component, consumer product, medical device, pharmaceutical, or other product is defective or unreasonably dangerous, anyone harmed by use of the product might be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. 

Defamation- Personal injury laws apply when one person’s defamatory statement causes harm to another. Defamation is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another to unjustly harm their reputation. 

Who Makes Personal Injury Laws?

Many personal injury laws date back to old “common law rules”. Common law refers to law made by judges, as opposed to laws made by legislature or passed in bills and statutes. 

When a judge hears and decides a case, their decision on that issue of law becomes binding precedent on all other courts in the state that are “lower” than the deciding judge’s court. These other courts then have to apply what the first judge said, and eventually, all of this binding precedent creates a body of “common law.”

Common law can and does differ from state to state, so the rules for personal injury law may not be uniform across the country. Much of the common law has been collected into something called the Restatement of Torts, which is a sort of guide book that explains what the rules are, and a lot of states draw guidance from this on personal injury matters.

Common law is not the only source of personal injury law. Legislatures have passed statues (laws) that touch on personal injury issues. For example, when the legislature passed workers compensation laws, they essentially took all instances of work related injuries outside the realm of personal injury and made workers compensation the exclusive remedy for injured workers (in most cases precluding injury related lawsuits against employers). 

Another state law that comes into play in injury cases is the statute of limitations, which sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file an injury related lawsuit in your state’s civil court system. Call Tompkins Selph & Associates today at 614-453-0971 to learn more about the statute of limitations on your possible case. 

How Does a Personal Injury Case Work?

No two accidents are the same, so no two personal injury cases will follow the same path. But there are some standard steps that most personal injury cases take, from a big picture standpoint.

Defendant Does Something to Injure Plaintiff

This can be almost any bad act on the part of the defendant, with the exception of contractual breaches, which are handled under a separate body of legislation known as “contract law.”

Plaintiff Determines that Defendant Breached a Legal Duty

The specific legal duty is going to depend on the situation in which the injury occurred. For example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles with the level of care that a reasonable person would exhibit while on the road. Doctors have a legal duty to treat a patient in accordance with the applicable medical standard of care. Manufacturers and distributors have a duty not to put defective or unreasonably dangerous products on the market. 

Settlement Talks Occur

If it is clear to all involved that the defendant breached a legal duty, then the defendant (or the insurance company representing him or her) may wish to settle outside of court. This would involve making an offer of monetary compensation to the injured person, in exchange for the injured person’s binding promise not to file a lawsuit over the injury.  

If a plaintiff agrees to a settlement, the case ends. If not, the plaintiff may go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit over the matter. Settlement negotiations can also continue once the lawsuit is filed, and a settlement can be reached at any time prior to the civil case being handed over to the jury for finding as to the defendant’s liability. 

If you’re thinking about filing a personal injury case after any kind of accident or incident, your best first step might be discussing your situations (and your options) with an experienced personal injury attorney. Get tips and free consultations from Tompkins Selph & Associates today. (614)-453-0971.

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