When you’ve been in a serious accident it’s natural to want to take the offending party for everything they’ve got, pursuing a personal injury claim rather than (or in addition to) an insurance claim. But this isn’t always possible.
To make a personal injury case you must prove three things: injury, negligence, and financial losses.
Not sure you can prove those things? Figure it out by asking yourself these questions about personal injury lawyers:
1. Did you receive a personal injury?
A personal injury is legally defined as “an injury to your mind, body, or emotions”. If you’ve suffered a severe concussion caused by the accident, you’ve had a personal injury. If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety after an incident, you’ve had a personal injury.
If you’ve been in a minor accident and you suffer no bodily or psychological harm, you only have a property damage case. This can be dealt with through an insurance or small court claim.
The injury and related treatments must be thoroughly documents, and those documents must be show a direct connection between your injuries and the incident in question.
2. Did another person or entity cause your injury through their negligence?
Negligence is defined by the law as “failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances”. To establish negligence you must prove four things:
- Duty: The other person/entity had a legal responsibility to behave a certain way towards you under the circumstances
- Breach: That duty was breached by the other person/entity acting or failing to act in a certain manner
- Causation: The other person/entity’s actions were the legal cause (also known as proximate cause or cause of effect) of your injury
- Damage: You were injured or otherwise harmed due to the other person/entity’s action or inaction, and this harm can be remedied by medical compensation.
If you’re not sure that you can prove negligence, consult with a lawyer.
In some circumstances, you may also be able to make a personal injury case based on another person/entity’s wilful misconduct. Always speak to a lawyer before you attempt to make this charge.
3. Did this incident cause financial losses?
“Damages” is legalese for the sum of money awarded to an injured party as compensation for their injuries. In a successful personal injury case you will be awarded money either by the court or by an insurance company.
You can claim any or all of the following items as financial losses:
- Medical bills related to the injuries caused in the accident
- Wages you lost because you couldn’t work during recovery from the injuries
- Loss of lifetime earning potential
- Disability accommodations for your vehicle and/or home
- Lowered quality of life
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, and mental anguish caused by the accident
- Loss of companionship and support
Most of these damages are easily calculated, but things like emotional suffering and mental anguish are difficult to measure. Working with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury suits can help you estimate a reasonable claim for your suffering.
4. Will you actually be able to recover those lawyers?
This is more of a sanity check than a legal problem. If your accident was caused by a poverty-stricken person in a beat up old car with no assets, you’re unlikely to get your money back. If you got into an accident with a BMW owned by a CEO, you’ll definitely be able to get the compensation you deserve.
Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit when the negligent party can’t pay out is only going to cost you a lot of money and stress everyone out for several months—maybe even years. And that just leaves you more damaged than you were after the original accident.