Thousands of individuals are injured in accidents in the United States every year. When injuries are caused by the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of others, it is possible to obtain compensation by pursuing a personal injury claim. Some of the more common types of injury cases include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Slip, trip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
It is important to note that there is a time limit for bringing a personal injury lawsuit – known as the statute of limitations, and the rules vary from state to state. In addition, if the claim is against a public entity or employee, the time limit for filing a claim is typically much shorter.
Damages in a Personal Injury Claim
In a successful claim, injury victims can recover damages to compensate victims for their losses. Generally there are two types of damages, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are designed to compensate injury victims for financial losses such as lost wages, medical expenses and property damage. The purpose of non-economic damages is to compensate victims for their pain and suffering. Finally, punitive damages may be awarded if the at fault party acted intentionally or maliciously
Common Defenses in a Personal injury Case
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the defendant in a personal injury case may be able to raise certain defenses. One is known as the assumption of risk. Here, the plaintiff may be barred from recovering damages if he or she knew, or should have known, of the inherent dangers of an activity. This is a common defense in sports injury cases.
Another defense is that the plaintiff contributed to his or her injury. In this situation, most states rely on the doctrine of comparative negligence to determine damages. In short, the damages awarded to the plaintiff will be reduced if he or she is partially at fault for the accident. For example, if the court or insurer determines the total damages in a claim are $10,000 and finds that plaintiff is 20 percent at fault, then the amount of the award will be reduced to $8,000. In states that use the contributory negligence standard, however, the plaintiff will be barred from recovering damages if he or she is partly at fault for the accident that caused his or her injuries.
In sum, pursuing a personal injury claim is complicated, and obtaining compensation requires showing that another party’s negligence caused the injuries.