A personal injury occurs when a person is harmed as a result of another person’s negligence, carelessness or intentional conduct. Such injuries can include physical, mental or emotional harm. Personal injuries may happen anywhere. They most frequently occur in motor vehicle accidents, but also can occur in private homes, businesses, public areas or the workplace. Injuries caused by medical malpractice or dental malpractice are also considered personal injuries. Personal injury lawyers are here to help you understand your personal injury case.
Anyone who has a personal injury can file a lawsuit against the person or organization that caused the injury. If the injured person is so badly hurt that he or she cannot bring an action on their own, the injury lawsuit can be brought by a spouse, parent, close relative or person with a power of attorney.
Generally, this type of lawsuit seeks to recover monetary damages so that an injured person can pay to fix property that has been damaged (for example, to repair a damaged car) and pay for medical expenses, lost wages or any other expense caused by the injury. The lawsuit can also seek the payment of money to compensate the victim for pain, suffering and/or emotional distress caused by the injury. Stated another way, the purpose behind the lawsuit is to have the person or business responsible for causing the loss pay money so that the victim can be placed in the position he or she would have been in if the injury had not occurred.
In extraordinary cases, where it is proven that the defendant’s conduct is intentional or particularly reprehensible, it is possible to get punitive damages in addition to general (or monetary) damages.
Winning a personal injury lawsuit and receiving appropriate compensation requires the injured person to prove three key facts:
- Who was negligent
- That the accident caused the injuries
- And that the injuries deserve compensation.
Compensation Following a Personal Injury
Compensation in an injury lawsuit is intended to assure that an injured person is restored–as much as possible–to the level of health, work, activity and life style that he or she enjoyed before the injury. In cases of serious injury, catastrophic injury, or wrongful death, a personal injury lawsuit may also include an award for the physical and mental pain and suffering caused by the accident as well as the economic and personal consequences of the injury.
An injury can be so severe that the person will never have the same level of health or ability to perform normal activities that he or she was able to perform before the accident. In those cases, the personal injury settlement will often include:
- The costs of long-term medical care.
- The costs of physical rehabilitation.
- The payment of wages the victim would have earned if he or she had not been injured.
- The costs of vocational training so that the victim can find work in a different field with the long-term disability.
- Additional compensation for long-term pain, as well as mental and emotional anguish.
If you or someone close to you has suffered medical and other expenses as a direct result of injuries from an accident, a personal injury lawsuit may be a reasonable and effective way to assure that you have the resources to fully recover. For more information, contact a California personal injury lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers to discuss your situation.
Many accidents involve hidden factors that play a significant role in causing accidents and that may be completely invisible at the accident scene. These factors can include defects in a dangerous product (such as a truck that was not properly maintained or used, or equipment at work that causes an accident), mechanical errors (someone made a mistake using equipment) or design flaws (the equipment is just not suitable for its intended use). The accidents can also be caused by human decisions, misjudgments or crimes. An experienced injury lawyer knows what these hidden factors may be and has the resources to find out if any of these “hidden” factors could have contributed to your accident and injury.
What Are the Types of Personal Injuries?
An injury can be any physical, emotional or mental injury. They range from relatively minor physical injuries to more serious injuries to the eyes, brain, spinal cord, arms or legs.
Severe personal injuries may even cause death. In a personal injury lawsuit where the injured person has died, the lawsuit will recover only the medical and other costs incurred before death. A special lawsuit, called a wrongful death lawsuit, must be initiated so that the family can recover other losses, such as the future earnings, that the person could have provided to the family if he or she had lived.
Personal injuries that occur in homes, public places and businesses can include injuries from a wide range of causes including falls, fires, falling objects and dog bites.
Recently, practical jokes and malicious postings on the Internet have caused mental and emotional injuries that have led to lawsuits. Injuries caused in incidents of workplace violence and crime are also on the rise.
Personal Injury Statistics
Accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States (2011The National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). However, injuries are the number-one cause of death among people between the ages of one year and 44.
Injuries had caused 37.9 million people to seek medical care and caused more than 180,000 deaths in one year. Motor vehicle accidents caused more than 33, 000 deaths, with firearm deaths causing more than 31,000 deaths and falls causing more than 26,000 in the same year (2010).
The estimated cost of these accidents in 2009 was more than $693 billion. Almost half of this amount is attributable to motor vehicle accidents, with work-related motor vehicle accidents accounting for $20 billion. Accidents in public places, the home and the workplace account about equally for the rest of these costs. In recent years, the number of injuries in the home and public areas has been increasing more rapidly than injuries in the motor vehicle accidents and in the workplace.
In California, accidental injuries are the fifth cause of death. Motor vehicle accidents rank first as the cause of these deaths.
What Should You Do After You Have Suffered a Personal Injury?
In any accident, time is critical. This means that you should gather as much information and document the facts at the accident scene when it happens.
Once you leave the scene of any accident and the area is cleared, the witnesses and details of the accident scene disappear. Gathering as much information as possible immediately assures that you have the best opportunity to pursue and win an injury case, if you have been the victim of an accident.
Here are some guidelines for documenting what happened:
- Note the time, date and location of the accident.
- Describe any unusual conditions. Rain, fog, ice, construction, heavy traffic, etc. in a motor vehicle accident. Any hazards, wetness, construction or other condition in case of accidents in a workplace, home or public place.
- Gather as much information at the scene as you can. Be sure to include contact information for people involved in the accident, witnesses or owners of the vehicle or property.
- Take pictures. Cell phones and computers have cameras. Use them to document the details of the scene. Pay particular attention to any hazards or unusual conditions in the area.
- Identify witnesses. Get their names and contact information.
- Get medical care for yourself and anyone else involved in the accident. Even if you feel ok, see a doctor or visit an urgent care facility immediately after the accident.
- In a vehicle accident or act of violence, make a police report, if there were no police at the scene. This creates a record of the accident and the parties involved. Avoid admitting any responsibility yourself or blaming others for what happened. Just discuss the facts of the accident: Who, what, where and when. Again, avoid admitting any responsibility yourself or blaming others for what happened.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer immediately.
You should also let your insurance company know that there has been an accident, but talk to your lawyer before settling with them.
If you have an accident in your workplace, follow the company’s guidelines for documenting and reporting an accident. Get the names of any witnesses and note unusual conditions or hazards. Report the accident immediately. See a physician, even if you do not believe you have a serious injury. Follow the company’s procedure for reporting and accident and file all paperwork promptly.
Why Contact The Injury Lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers?
In many personal injury cases, the people injured choose to represent themselves, without consulting a lawyer. This is especially common when the claim involves a relatively small amount of money and the people who caused the accident have insurance.
However, it is impossible to know the seriousness of your injuries at the time of an accident. What at first appears to be a relatively small event can turn out to be something, much, much worse.
Small injuries can grow into problems that have huge long- and short-term costs. Talk to a lawyer who specializes in injury cases even when the injury seems minor because an experienced lawyer will understand all the factors that could have contributed to the accident and all the potential long- and short-term effects.
Here’s why you should contact a lawyer any time you are involved in an accident no matter how minor it may seem at first.
- A lawyer can determine the “hidden factors” that might have contributed to the accident. A delay of even a day or two can mean the loss of critical information.
- Injuries and damage may not be apparent at the accident scene. People experience an adrenaline rush immediately afterwards that can mask injuries for 36 to 48 hours.
- While we all like to believe everyone is honest, quite often people try to modify their stories after they realize that they might be financially responsible for an accident. Other people might innocently forget details of an accident with the passage of time.
- Insurance companies may act too quickly to settle a claim in order to manage their costs.
- Responsibility for an accident can be more complex than it first appears. If a vehicle accident was caused by a defective part or shoddy repair those causes would not be obvious at the scene.
Consulting a lawyer who specializes in these types of cases soon after an accident can assure that you have the information and advice necessary to receive fair treatment and recovery in any accident. With lawyers affiliated with Jacoby & Meyers, the initial discussion is free.
Who May Be Liable for Your Personal Injury?
Reimbursement for the healthcare and property costs caused by an accident depends on who was negligent or at fault in causing the accident. That determination is often not as clear cut as it seems when the accident happens.
Many factors may be involved in causing an accident. A number of these may not be apparent at the time of an accident. A good injury lawyer will know what these factors may be and will have the resources to research and document them in your case.
Here are examples of individuals or organizations that may be liable for a specific accident and personal injury.
The owner of a vehicle or property.
The business that rents a space.
Parents, if the person who caused the accident was under age.
Service organizations. Organizations that provide services to buildings and parks may be responsible for a personal injury if their carelessness or other action contributed to an accident.
Employers. Employers may be held liable when their employees cause an accident. In cases of workplace injury, Workers Compensation sets conditions and compensation. However, employers may be held liable beyond these limits if they knew about an unsafe condition and did nothing, disabled a safety device or caused employees to deliberately take unsafe shortcuts in performing their jobs.
Third parties at a worksite or business. A “third party” is a business that produces products purchased by a company or that provides a service to another company. If the product or an employee of a third party causes an accident, that business may have liability for resulting personal injuries. An employee injured because of a third party, may pursue a personal injury lawsuit outside the conditions set by Workers Compensation.
Government agencies. Different governmental agencies have responsibility for care and maintenance of streets and public areas. A local, state or Federal agency could be liable if there are unsafe conditions in an area they are responsible for, if the area has become unsafe or if construction creates hazardous conditions.
Some government agencies are responsible for overseeing the actions of certain industries or organizations, like the trucking industry. If that agency does not identify unsafe or hazardous situations, the agency may be held responsible for personal injuries that result.
Manufacturers. Manufacturers may be responsible for personal injuries caused by the design or manufacture of a part or product.
Repair Services. Repair services that improperly repair a vehicle or other product may also be liable if the faulty repair contributed to an accident.
Claims involving sources of compensation beyond insurance require knowledge and research. Reliable Los Angeles attorneys like those affiliated with Jacoby & Meyers specialize in personal injuries and know these potential sources of responsibility. They have investigators who know how to research the specific aspects of the accident as well as the legal experience to pursue a claim to final settlement.
What Damages Can Be Awarded for a Personal Injury?
A PI lawsuit is intended to reimburse a person for the mental, physical, economic and emotional injuries he or she has received as the result of another person’s decision or action. In cases where the injuries are severe or life changing, the compensation can consider the cost of changes that affect a person’s ability to care for him or herself, hold a job, maintain personal relationships or pursue interests that he or she had before the accident.
The damages covered in a personal injury case fall into two categories: special damages and general damages.
Special damages are specific, measurable costs that can be documented, primarily medical costs and lost wages.
General damages are not as easy to measure because they include factors like pain and suffering, emotional distress and long-term costs because a person can no longer work or follow the lifestyle he or she had before the accident.
Punitive damages are awarded for wrongdoing and are not usually allowed in accident cases. Punitive damages can be appropriate in cases of law breaking or deliberate injuries.
Compensation for a personal injury primarily depends on the severity of the injury. A serious injury like loss of a limb, a spinal cord injury or brain damage will receive the greatest injury settlements because those injuries often have long-term physical effects combined with intense physical pain and suffering and cause major lifestyle changes.
Determining the recovery appropriate and those responsible for an accident and the resulting injuries can quickly become a complex process. Lawyers who specialize in these types of cases have the experience and resources to make these calculations and determine how to best pursue a claim for these costs.