In everyday life, a personal injury claim is usually associated with injuries sustained during an automobile or other type of motor vehicle accident. However, a personal injury claim may arise in a variety of situations. A personal injury claim may arise, for example, from an injury sustained as a result of premises liability accidents (i.e. slip and fall). It may arise from injuries sustained during performance of work-related duties; as a result of an animal attack; due to medical malpractice. It may also arise for injuries caused by defective products (products liability).
The majority of personal injury claims are based on the legal concept of negligence. In order for an injured party (who is also called Plaintiff in a civil action) to establish negligence, she must prove the following:
- The party which caused the injury (also called Defendant in a civil action) owed a duty of care towards the Plaintiff
- This duty was breached by the Defendant
- There is a causal connection between the breach and the injury sustained by the Plaintiff (in other words the breach of duty was the legal cause for injuries)
- The Plaintiff did in fact suffer injuries
As the old adage goes, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and an average law suit for example in Los Angeles County may take years to be resolved. Fortunately, a very big percentage of personal injury cases are settled prior to filing of a formal law suit. Furthermore, the majority of cases that do end up being filed get settled before trial. Only a relatively small percentage of highly contested matters are usually resolved through trial.
A settlement is reached when those involved in the dispute (attorneys representing both sides and a representative of the insurer) come to an agreement through negotiation. Once an agreement is reached it is formalized by a written agreement, whereby typically the injured party gets compensation for the injuries sustained in exchange for release of her claims against the party who caused the injury. Of course, there is a trade off on both sides when they agree to a settlement. On one hand it is the risk associated with the uncertainty of the outcome when a case is submitted to a jury and on the other it is the current offer and whether it is high or low enough to justify the risk of jury trial.
An area of particular importance is the time limitations set by the law on when a party can bring action for personal injury. The law on these limitations, otherwise known as statute of limitations, can be very complicated and may be different depending on the type of case or the type of parties involved. There may also be different procedural requirements involved, again depending on the type of case or parties involved.
For example, a patient injured in a Los Angeles County hospital will have different procedures and time limitations as compared to a patient injured at a private hospital, not associated with the county. That is why it is very important that a personal injury claim be handled in a careful and expeditious manner.
The material provided above barely scratches the surface of what is an ocean of information with hidden undercurrents of the personal injury claim process and litigation. Having a competent counsel who can be trusted will ensure that the injured party recovers to the fullest extent allowed under the law.