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The basics of personal injury law

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2020 | Personal Injury |

When someone gets injured because of the negligent or reckless actions of another party, they may be eligible to file a civil claim for monetary damages. This is often referred to as “personal injury” or “tort” law. Personal injury laws allow an injured party to seek compensation in order to be “made whole” for the losses that they have suffered.

Some of the most common instances in which a personal injury claim could be filed include:

  • Accidents: Most personal injury claims are filed because of accidents that occur due to someone acting in a negligent or careless manner. These may include auto accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, some workplace accidents, premises liability accidents (e.g., slips and falls), medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, wrongful death and many others.
  • Defective or dangerous products: When a consumer suffers harm through regular use of a product, they may be able to file a personal injury claim under the legal theory known as “product liability.” A product liability claim can be filed against the manufacturer, distributor, other parties within the product’s supply chain.
  • Intentional acts: Intentional harm happens when someone willfully and intentionally causes a personal injury. Examples may include fraud and other intentional acts.
  • Defamation: If someone’s false statements cause harm to another person’s reputation, they may be able to file a defamation of character lawsuit.

What types of damages can I receive from a personal injury claim?

You can pursue compensatory damages for all losses you have sustained from your injury, both economic and noneconomic:

  • Economic damages: These are direct monetary losses that the injured party suffers. Examples include hospitalization costs, doctor visits, costs for surgeries and other types of treatment, costs for ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and property damage.
  • Noneconomic damages: These are losses that are real but intangible and more difficult to assign a dollar figure. Examples include the physical and emotional pain and suffering the victim has to endure, the inability to participate in activities they once enjoyed and the effects of having to live with a permanent injury.

In more limited cases in which the actions of the party responsible for the injury go beyond standard negligence, punitive damages may also be awarded as punishment to the wrongdoer. Punitive damages may be appropriate in cases when the responsible party acted willfully, maliciously or with gross negligence.

How does a personal injury claim work?

Every case is different, and there are always unique circumstances that will determine how a claim might play out. In most accident injury cases, for example, the injured person will be dealing with the at fault party’s insurer. They might choose to handle the claim alone, or they could hire a personal injury lawyer. Without a lawyer, it will be up to the injured person to work out a settlement directly with the insurance company or other representatives for the defendant.

Although an injured person may think they can save money in attorney fees by handling a claim on their own, they may often be disappointed by the settlement offer they receive. The goal of the defendants and their insurance companies is to pay out as little as possible for the claim, and without legal representation, the other side will have far less incentive to give you a reasonable offer.

When an injured person is represented by an attorney, they have a legal professional in their corner who will put together the strongest possible case on their behalf. They will also have someone to present their case to the defendant’s representatives during negotiations. And if the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, an experienced attorney will be ready and able to take the case to trial.

Just how big a difference does it make to have legal representation in a personal injury case?

As we mentioned earlier, every case is different, but according to a survey of the readers of Nolo, a well-known online legal directory, the average compensation for those with legal representation was $77,600, while the average compensation for those without legal representation was $17,600. In addition, 91% of those in the survey who had an attorney received a payout, while only 51% of those without an attorney received one.

Whether you are represented by an attorney or not, most of the time, personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. In the Nolo survey, just 4% of the cases went to trial, which is pretty typical. In general, it is in everyone’s best interests to settle without litigation, but when you are represented by an attorney with proven trial experience, the other side is usually more motivated to make a reasonable settlement offer because there is a credible threat that you are willing to litigate the case if they don’t.

Contact our seasoned West Virginia personal injury attorneys

If you or someone close to you got injured because of the negligence, recklessness or willful acts of another party, The Masters Law Firm, L.C. is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at 304-371-7894 for a free consultation and case assessment.