What Is Personal Injury?In law, “personal injury” cases refer to lawsuits in which the plaintiff (the injured person) has suffered an injury to their body, mind, or emotions. If you slip and fall on a broken sidewalk, for example, and sprain an ankle, personal injury refers to the fractured bone and also to the potential humiliation or other emotional pain of falling. Personal injury is also a specific type of legal case. If you have suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s actions or failure to act, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim for damages you suffered. In this scenario, the party that caused the injury or harm may have been negligent. If they were negligent, they can be held liable for your injuries. If you break an ankle tripping on a broken sidewalk in front of your apartment building, for example, your landlord or the local government may be responsible for repairing the sidewalks and other walkways proximate to the building. Your landlord or local government could therefore be negligent for not repairing the sidewalk, and thus liable for your injuries.
What Types of Events Are Covered in Personal Injury Cases?Any type of event that causes personal injury or harm that stems from another party’s actions—whether they are a person, company, or other organization—can potentially be covered in a personal injury case. Tripping and falling or suffering some other injury in a commercial establishment or a private home is a type of personal injury called premises liability. Injuries suffered from a defective or unsafe product are a type of personal injury called product liability. Birth injuries can warrant personal injury lawsuits if they are caused by a medical personnel’s mistake (or their failure to take proper action). Vehicle accidents or traffic accidents of all types—car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian—are common causes of personal injury. Even a dog bite in a neighbor’s yard, if the dog bit someone previously, can be the subject of a personal injury suit, although these are usually simply called dog bite cases.
What Is Negligence, Exactly?Negligence, broadly stated, is a failure to maintain an appropriate standard of care, or what a reasonable person would consider appropriate action or failure to act in the circumstances. Commercial establishments, for example, have a duty of care to maintain safe premises for their customers and employees. Companies have a duty of care to manufacture and sell safe products. All vehicle drivers have a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws and regulations. Medical personnel have a duty of care to their patients to do no harm. The violation of any of these duties of care is called “breaching the duty of care.” A party who is negligent and causes a personal injury can be liable for damages and harm stemming from that injury.
What If They Say I Was Responsible for My Own Injury?It’s not uncommon for the defendants in a personal injury case to claim that the injured person is responsible for their own injuries, whether it’s true or not. They don’t want to be found liable! A skilled attorney will review all the facts and, if you were not responsible, refute the idea that you were or try to mitigate any of your liability. How Long Do I Have to Bring a Personal Injury Case? By law, you need to bring a personal injury claim within two years after the date of the accident or incident that caused you harm. This is called the statute of limitations. After two years, the court will refuse to hear a personal injury case. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after your injuries occur. Compensation is determined by the amount and degree of harm you’ve suffered. You need to discuss your injuries and harm when they are still fresh. Evidence, such as pictures of your injuries, doctor’s reports, eyewitness testimony, and even the site where the accident took place, all need to be documented. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to gather evidence.
What Kind of Damages Can I Be Compensated For?Compensation in a legal case is often referred to as “damages,” because it is payment for damages suffered, such as medical bills. In Texas, you can receive economic damages for medical and related bills such as physical therapy or rehabilitative services. Economic damages also include wages lost from work. Both of these can be prospective as well as actual (that is, medical treatment or time lost from work expected in the future as well as already incurred). You can also receive damages for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
My Loved One Died as a Result of Their Injuries. Can I Bring a Personal Injury Suit?If injuries that stemmed from another party’s negligence causes the injured individual to die, that person’s family can bring a legal suit for damages. This is called a wrongful death suit. Like personal injury suits, wrongful death actions most often stem from negligence: another party owed a duty of care, but breached it. The surviving spouse of the deceased, their children, or their parents may bring a wrongful death claim, either individually or together. A deceased person’s children include legally adopted and adult children. If the family does not bring a claim within three months after the person dies, the deceased person’s executor or personal representative can file a wrongful death claim on the estate’s behalf. Possible compensation includes the following:
- The income the deceased would have earned if they had not died.
- Lost companionship, love, and comfort.
- Lost support, services, advice, counsel, and maintenance.
- Lost inheritance for beneficiaries due to an untimely death.
- Mental and emotional pain, anguish, and suffering.
How will I afford a lawyer if I’m not working?Most personal injury attorneys, including those at the Law Offices of George Salinas, handle cases on a contingency basis. We offer free consultations, and we take our fee as a percentage of any settlement or judgment we help you to obtain.
How do I know if I have a strong case?Usually, only someone trained in the law can determine if you’re eligible to file a personal injury claim. If you think you have a case, most attorneys, including our office, offer free case evaluations. At the Law Offices of George Salinas, we offer free consultations during which we will review your specific circumstances and information and determine whether you have a strong claim.
Can I settle without filing a lawsuit?Sometimes, your attorney will begin settlement negotiations without filing a lawsuit. However, because of the statute of limitations, you might have to file a lawsuit before you start negotiations. In some cases, you might have to file a lawsuit in the middle of negotiations, even if it looks as though you might eventually come to an agreement with the insurance company regarding a settlement.
What should I do immediately after an accident?If you can move without causing more damage to yourself and without putting yourself in further danger, you should:
- Check on other people involved in the accident
- Call first responders
- Ask other drivers for their contact, insurance, and registration information
- Ask any witnesses for their contact information and what they saw
- Take pictures of the accident from all angles. Include some close-ups of the damage, but don’t get so close that you can’t tell what you are looking at in the photos. If the accident was a slip and fall, dog bite, or another personal injury accident that is not a vehicle accident, take pictures of what caused the accident, whether it is a spill, a cracked sidewalk, or the dog that bit you.
- Allow EMTs to check you out, even if you think you did not suffer any injuries.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible, even if you think you did not suffer any injuries. Some injuries won’t manifest until hours or even a couple of days later.
- Contact your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company to let them know that you were in an accident. Give the representatives your name, policy number, location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
How much is my personal injury case worth?The amount of money you ultimately win in a settlement or in a judgment, and whether you recover any compensation at all, depends on the severity of your injuries. Some cases involving long-term or permanent traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injuries may be valued at millions of dollars. Types of damages that you may collect include:
- Reimbursement of past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost wages. Even if you go back to work after an accident, you might collect future lost wages if you cannot do the same job you did before the accident.
- Reimbursement or replacement of personal property
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship and/or consortium
- Loss of use of a limb or body function