Personal injuries can happen in many ways, and some can be devastating for your work and family life. But it isn’t always easy knowing whether you have a legitimate injury case. If the event is difficult to pin on a responsible party, a lawyer might hesitate to retain you. Similarly, if you didn’t suffer significant financial or personal hardship, you might not need a lawyer to resolve your situation. Here’s how to determine whether you need legal help.
What Qualifies as a Personal Injury?
Life is full of hazards that can cause injury. Everyone must learn to avoid certain dangers, such as inclement weather conditions. These dangers are unfortunate, but they can’t be pinned on any one human party. When dangerous manmade conditions are both avoidable and egregious, such as a slippery floor in an office building, they are ultimately someone’s fault.
In the United States, most personal injury cases boil down to negligence. What is negligence? It can be defined as “the failure to meet a standard of behavior established to protect society against unreasonable risk.”
When someone ignores their social responsibility, the law says, they must provide compensation for any damages they have caused.
Negligence has been a cornerstone of tort, or rights-infringement law, since at least the Roman times. While French and German societies continued this tradition, English and American legal conventions only began emphasizing negligence in the 1800s. Today, the first step to proving your personal injury case is proving negligence and damages.
Was the Other Party Negligent?
After any breach of responsibility, an attorney must take a few steps to prove his or her case. These include:
- Identifying the duty the offending party owed
- Recognizing a clear breach in his or her duty
- Showing that injuries resulted from this breach
Not everyone, of course, owes a duty to everyone else in the world. You can’t, for example, sue a person watching you from across the street for distracting you, causing a slip-and-fall accident. A stranger on the street has no duty to ensure your care. But if the sidewalk is covered in ice, it may reflect your municipality’s failure to properly salt and clear pedestrian walkways.
Such a failure may indicate a breach of duty if it is recklessly irresponsible. This means that a reasonable person would have acted to mitigate the danger but the individual or group of individuals in question did not act. When considering a breach of duty, the other party’s intention is not usually important — only that they recklessly endangered another person.
For a lawyer to successfully demonstrate that an injury resulted from a breach of responsibility, the evidence needs to indicate that the bodily harm reported in the suit was a direct result of the breach, not a result of some other factor. If the injury occurred much later or was otherwise difficult to link to a responsible party, it can be hard to make a case for negligence.
Were You Seriously Injured?
If you’ve determined that another party negligently harmed you, you must also determine the extent of your injuries. Sometimes, the severity of an event isn’t immediately apparent, so you should always seek professional medical advice as soon as possible. This way, if your condition worsens, you have proof that you initially saw a medical provider because of the incident in question.
Some injuries are stressful and injurious but not severe enough to warrant a lawsuit. If you’ve sustained relatively minor injuries that have resulted in damages totaling several thousand dollars or less, you may be able to handle your case through small claims court. In Utah, small claims can total up to $11,000. If your case straddles this line, you can discuss your eligibility with an attorney.
How Long Do I Have To File a Claim?
If you’ve been seriously injured, there’s a chance you’ve been too distracted with medical procedures and recovery routines to think much about a lawsuit. This is understandable, but you should know that all bodily damage cases are limited by a statute of limitations.
If you live in Utah, you’re fortunate to enjoy a relatively long reporting period. As long as you file a claim within four years of most injurious events, your case may be heard. Still, it always pays to be proactive in collecting information, receiving treatment, and discussing your options with a lawyer.
What Are the Most Common Personal Injury Cases?
Sometimes, negligence can take strange and unexpected forms. Other situations are more cut-and-dry. As long as your situation meets the criteria outlined above, it’s worth exploring your legal options. Here are a few of the most common types of injury cases.
Doctors and other medical practitioners don’t always get things right. This is why most doctors are required to carry malpractice insurance. Suing a doctor who seemed to have good intentions for your treatment can feel like a treacherous act, but malpractice can cause far-reaching complications, costing many thousands of dollars and many hours of pain and suffering. You’re entitled to compensation, and there are systems in place for obtaining it.
Combining human error, large machines, and extreme physical forces, motor transportation is a recipe for disaster. Today, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children and young people. Survivors of serious auto collisions often experience lingering or intractable medical woes, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal damage, internal hemorrhaging, and broken bones.
Luckily, such events are often the most well-documented, as police officers usually arrive to take notes at the scene, and ambulance workers can provide both prompt medical treatment and further documentation.
Slip and Fall
Slip and fall events cause over one million emergency room visits in the U.S. every year. When these accidents occur on ice or other slick surfaces, they can cause serious nervous system trauma. When slick surfaces are left unremedied in a workplace, public facility, or public walkway, this usually means that someone is being negligent.
The death of a family member or loved one is a tragedy that can’t be undone. Since the person can no longer advocate for their closest relations, those relations can file a lawsuit to compensate for financial damages and emotional suffering resulting from a loss. Wrongful death suits are a unique category of injury cases, since the family must piece together evidence of negligence. This is usually overwhelming, so when warranted, a lawyer can take over this responsibility.
Can I Afford a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Because most people in need of compensation can’t pay upfront costs to a lawyer, personal injury lawyers only get paid if you win your case. This cost comes as a percentage of your total winnings. Since this “contingency” practice requires that the law firm take on a degree of risk with each client, the firm must make sure that your case is both valid and likely to win, before deciding to take you on as a client.
An experienced lawyer can dedicate significant time and energy to your case, giving you the best possible chance of earning compensation. A contingency fee, therefore, is well worth the peace of mind of knowing your matter is in good hands.
If you’ve recently been injured in Utah as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. To see if your case is right for our team, call or contact Sigfried and Jensen online today.