Personal injuries can occur in a myriad of ways and under a variety of circumstances. However, all personal injuries can result in devastating physical and emotional repercussions, often leading to significant financial losses. Suppose you suffered an injury caused by someone else in Utah and have questions about your ability to recover compensation. In that case, you may benefit from speaking with a Utah personal injury attorney about your legal options. First, consider the specifics of your accident and how they relate to personal injury law.
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law, commonly called tort law, is a legal avenue provided by the local civil court, allowing victims of an accident or incident to seek a remedy for the losses incurred. You can file a claim against the individual or party who caused your injury. The types of cases that fall under the umbrella of personal injury vary, but there are some foundational categories into which all personal injury cases fall.
Foundation of Personal Injury
Every case has unique elements, but they will each fall under one of three basics of personal injury:
- Accidents caused by negligence. If the at-fault party in your case acted negligently without malice, the court recognizes that as an accident. However, even without ill intent, the individual who caused the accident and your injuries is still responsible for the resulting damages.
- Intent-to-harm incidents. When the other party in your case intentionally caused you harm, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses and possibly more.
- Defamation. When someone makes a statement publicly defaming your name and reputation, this is still a personal injury, even without a physical element.
As the plaintiff in a tort case, you are responsible for proving the other party’s fault. For example, if you sustained an injury in an accident, you must present evidence that the defendant owed you a duty of care, and their breach of that duty resulted in the accident that caused your injuries. This means you must also provide evidence that the accident was the direct cause of your injuries. How you prove negligence or intent depends on the type of personal injury.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Virtually any accident or incident in which someone harms another individual is a personal injury case. However, the court categorizes each case to ensure state laws for that type of tort are applied. Some of the most common cases regularly handled by personal injury attorneys include:
- Auto accident cases are the most common, making up more than half of personal injury claims. These can include cases involving cars, motorcycles, commercial trucks, and ridesharing vehicles. Sometimes these cases include pedestrians or bicyclists, but the most devastating auto accident cases usually involve trucks and motorcycles.
- Slip and fall accident cases fall under the legal concept of premises liability. According to tort law, a property owner is legally responsible for maintaining their property to keep lawfully present visitors safe from harm. So, for example, if you slip and fall in a restaurant, suffering an injury, you may be able to sue the owner for the damages your injury caused.
- Product liability cases are among the most challenging claims to prove and almost always require the help of a legal representative. If you suffer an injury from using a product as the manufacturer or distributor instructed, you could sue for damages. The challenging element of a product liability case is collecting sufficient evidence to prove fault.
- Dog bite cases in Utah fall under strict liability, meaning the dog owner is responsible for their dog’s actions regardless of their knowledge or expectations of the dog’s behavior. As a result, there are very few acceptable defenses in a dog bite case, but every case is different and requires situational consideration.
- Medical malpractice cases involve the misconduct or negligence of a healthcare professional resulting in injury to the patient. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical staff involved in patient care can face medical malpractice claims. These cases are often challenging to prove, but the most common include birth injuries, surgical injuries, misdiagnosis, failure to treat, and prescription drug errors.
- Wrongful death cases can stem from any personal injury case. The basis of a wrongful death claim is that another person’s negligence resulted in the death of a loved one. For example, if you lost a family member to injuries incurred in an auto accident, you could sue the at-fault party on behalf of the deceased.
This is not a comprehensive list of personal injury cases. If you have questions about your case and how you can recover the damages you lost, most personal injury attorneys offer a free case evaluation where you can ask questions and find out if you have a strong claim.
What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
In the broadest sense, a personal injury lawyer represents you in all elements of the legal process to ensure the protection of your rights and to secure a fast and fair settlement for your case. Should your lawsuit go to trial, your attorney will prepare for court and represent you there as well. Some other tasks they perform include:
- Handling all communication with the insurance companies and other attorneys
- Advising you of your rights through each stage of the lawsuit and helping you avoid making mistakes that could be a detriment to your case
- Investigating your accident to collect evidence supportive of your claim
- Interviewing witnesses
- Preparing questions for the defense during the discovery phase
- Sometimes accessing relative experts to analyze your accident
- Preparing all the paperwork for the lawsuit and ensuring there are no mistakes that may delay your case
- Offering a professional presence and a friendly, supportive understanding during a difficult time
One of the most valuable contributions an attorney can make is identifying and calculating your damages. Insurance companies are known for using any means available to avoid a costly payout. One common tactic they use is to undervalue your claim. A personal injury attorney understands the balance of identifying damages, collecting the evidence needed to support them, and calculating the value of the non-economic damages.
What Are the Recoverable Damages From a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Damages are the specific losses incurred in a personal injury case. They vary based on the incident’s type and severity, but most claims have some commonalities. Every case involves compensatory damages. As the name implies, these damages compensate the victim for the losses sustained during the accident. Fewer cases involve punitive damages.
Together, economic and non-economic damages make up compensatory losses. The economic damages are more objective, whereas the non-economic damages are less easily calculated. For example, victims of auto accidents often sue for damaged property, medical expenses, lost income, and any other expenses related to the accident, including the cost of household services or transportation to and from doctor visits. If the victim was the primary childcare provider, they could request compensation for the cost of childcare.
Non-economic damages are more subjective and vary in value based on the severity of the incident. Some common examples include:
- The physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
- Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
- Damage to reputation, typical in defamation cases
- Disability or disfigurement, including amputation
Wrongful death cases have some damages specific to that type of case. For example, in Utah, the deceased person’s heirs or an estate executor can file a wrongful death claim requesting compensation for losses incurred from damaged property, lost income, medical expenses, and funeral and burial costs. They can also claim loss of companionship, consortium, inheritance, healthcare benefits, future income, and the love and nurturing the deceased provided. A personal injury attorney may use a variety of tactics to prove and value non-economic claims.
Punitive damages are not common in personal injury cases because the grounds for an award of punitive damages is proof that the defendant acted with the intent to harm or with gross negligence. For example, assault or defamation cases may include a punitive damages award. Drunk or reckless driving cases can also result in further financial punishment for the defendant. Ordering punitive damages is meant to deter the defendant from similar behavior in the future.
When Should You Contact a Utah Personal Injury Attorney?
It is never too soon to contact a personal injury attorney about your accident and injuries. In Utah, the statute of limitations for the majority of personal injury cases is four years, but filing your claim as soon as possible betters your chances of reaching a settlement with less pushback. At Siegfried and Jensen, our team of personal injury attorneys has experience in every type of case. We understand that not all claims warrant a lawsuit. However, having legal representation can sometimes be the only thing standing between you and a fair settlement, especially in more complex cases. Contact Siegfried and Jensen today for your free consultation. We will discuss the details of your case and help you better understand how to get your life back on track.