We’ve all seen many commercials that talk about “personal injury” lawyers. You might be wondering what, exactly is personal injury law? Basically, personal injury, also known as “Tort” law, protects you in case of accident or negligence. This includes emotional, as well as physical harm, but does not include property damage. The most common of these cases are traffic accidents, but personal injury also covers things like medical accidents, work accidents, wrongful death, tripping accidents, etc.; any time someone else’s negligence causes injury to you. This can be a person, manufacturer, company, government, or any other entity.
An example of a personal injury case would be if a reckless driver hits you at an intersection. A doctor administering the wrong dosage of a medicine, or neglecting to provide proper treatment is another. Manufacturers and designers can be held liable if they make a product that is overly dangerous with reasonable use. To make sure you have a solid personal injury case, you should always consult the best personal injury law firm in the Bay Area.
If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, you are the plaintiff, and the other side becomes the defendant. Lawyers for both sides will then have the “discovery.” They’ll ask everyone involved questions (take depositions) gather pertinent facts, and exchange information on the case. At the end of this process, there will either be a settlement, or the case will go to court. The settlement means that the defendant agrees to compensate the plaintiff without going to trial, allowing them to not fully admit any wrongdoing, and avoiding the cost and time of a trial. Essentially, you would be accepting compensation in return for dropping the case and not holding the defendant liable in the future.
If no settlement agreement can be reached, the case goes to trial. Personal injury cases are tried in civil court, not criminal court, since it is assumed there was no intent to injure. Any court case can take time, so be patient with scheduling, etc. At court, it will be decided who is responsible or “liable” for the accident or injury.
A decision in your favor results in the judge and/or jury “awarding” you money for “damages.” This is to compensate you for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering (both physical and mental) and for any disfigurement or disability the injury caused. The compensation can come in a lump sum or in a structured settlement that is paid over a set period of time. Jail time for the defendant is not an option; remember this is a civil, not criminal, matter.
Finding a good lawyer is important to your process. While your insurance company may provide you with a lawyer, you should always look for yourself. Find out from friends, family, or research someone who has a good reputation and reasonable fees. All lawyers have to pass their state bar exam, and while not required; they can complete a personal injury specialty certificate through the American Bar Association.
There are several ways for lawyers to take payment. Some are paid on a contingency basis, meaning they are paid only upon winning your case. There are also hourly rates, flat fees, and retainers. Many law firms will talk with you about your case the first visit for no charge.
A physical or mental injury can cause numerous problems for you and your family. If you are involved in a significant accident or feel you have been a victim of negligence, you should consult a lawyer to find out if you need to file a personal injury lawsuit. Please do not take this lightly, there are lots frivolous suits that only serve to increase fees and take up the precious time of our nation’s courts. But if you need help, there are many honest, reliable lawyers out there that will guide you through the process and get you the compensation you need.