Accidents happen and they happen often. Regardless of the fact that they are common, however, those who suffer an accident are often in a lot of pain and suffer from a lot of confusion as well. This is particularly true if the accident itself was caused by a third party. Those who are considering taking steps towards putting in a personal injury claim, effectively demanding their legal rights, are likely to have a number of questions. Hopefully, the following information will help you to gain a greater understanding of what is considered as personal injury.
What Is a Case for Personal Injury?
In a personal injury case, a legal dispute is taking place. This means that one person, the plaintiff, is demonstrating that he or she suffered harm as a result of an accident or injury and that someone else, the defendant, is legally responsible for this injury. Many times, personal injury cases are settled outside of the courts. However, sometimes, more formal measures have to be taken through civil proceedings in a court of law. Here, a judge will decide whether or not the defendant is actually legally at fault. However, it is generally in everybody’s best interest to seek an informal settlement first.
A formal lawsuit is very different from a criminal case. Criminal cases are started by the government and are tried in state or even federal court. In a personal injury case, however, the plaintiff, which is generally a private individual, starts a civil complaint against a defendant. A defendant can be an individual, but also a corporation, business or government department. The complaint will make an allegation that the defendant acted irresponsibly or carelessly and that this is connected to an injury or accident that actually harmed the plaintiff. When this is done, a lawsuit is filed. In it, it will have to be proven that there was negligence on the part of the defendant.
An informal settlement is the more common method of resolving disputes in relation to personal injuries. Most of the time, an early settlement is reached within discussions, which take place between the plaintiff, the defendant and their respective legal representations. Usually, to reach a settlement, a negotiation first has to take place. After negotiations, a written agreement will be drafted that outlines the settlement itself. Both parties have to sign this agreement and in so doing, they also sign away their right to take on further action, including a full lawsuit, against the other party. Essentially, they decide to agree on an amount of money to be paid or course of action to be taken without the requirement of a judge.
There is also an opportunity to go through arbitration or mediation. This is, effectively, a middle ground between formal lawsuits and the informal settlement option. It is a slightly more formal method of resolving a dispute, without going as far as going through the court system.
The Statute of Limitations
One very important thing to be aware of is that a lawsuit has to be filed within a given period of time. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations. Each state has its own regulations in terms of how long the statute of limitations is, although it ranges from between one year and six years, with two years being the most common. Another thing that makes the statute of limitations differ from one state to the other is the date from which the clock starts ticking. Often, it is the day of the injury itself, or it is the day at which it could be reasonably expected that the plaintiff knew he or she had sustained an injury.
A final variation in statute of limitations is based on the type of injury. For instance, in Texas, someone who was physically injured in an accident has to file a suit within two years. If, however, the injury was sustained as a result of a sex crime, the statute is extended to five years. And if the injury was sustained due to slander and/or libel, the statute of limitations is just one year. Each state has different rules and regulations on this. As you will usually have to file a claim in the state in which the accident occurred, looking into the statute of limitations is a good idea.
Laws Surrounding Personal Injury Cases
The laws surrounding personal injury are classified under tort law or common law. This means that they were, in the main, put in place not through bills and government decisions, but rather by previous decisions made in courts, as well as through treatises that have been and are still being written by legal students. In most states, there are now written statutes that provide a summary of the personal injury laws that are in place. However, practically speaking, the reality is that previous court decisions are the main source of the law when it comes to legal cases that come up following an injury or accident.