Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Claims
What is a Personal Injury claim?
A Personal Injury claim seeks a settlement or court award of damages (money) for injuries caused by the careless or negligent act (or failure to act) by someone else, called a Third Party. These claims are also called Negligence or Third Party claims. The injured person is the ‘first party’. The ‘second party’ is usually the person or company providing insurance for the injured person. For example, a second party might be the injury victim’s employer, or the person who is the ‘named’ insured on a car or homeowner’s insurance policy which provides coverage for medical treatment. The Third Party is someone other than the person injured and the person or company providing insurance for the injured person.
What does Negligence mean, and why does it matter?
Negligence means that a person or business failed to act with the degree of care and responsibility that a ‘reasonable’ person would use, and the failure to act with a proper degree of care is the reason why someone else (YOU) were injured. For example, the driver of another car was not paying attention, ran a red light or stop sign, or followed you too closely, so they were unable to stop before hitting your car. A property owner might be negligent for failing to repair or remove a known defect – such as a loose staircase or railing, slippery surface, uneven floorboards or tiles (etc.) – and the dangerous situation caused someone (YOU) to get hurt. A doctor or Hospital can be negligent for failure to properly diagnose or failure to provide correct treatment to a patient, causing patient to suffer injury.
Negligence must be proven as a necessary element of a Personal Injury case. A claim does not exist for every injury. The person or business must have acted (or failed to act) with a proper degree of care before they can be found liable or responsible for causing the injury. Again, for example, a doctor’s clear and obvious misdiagnosis of your medical condition may not allow for a Medical Malpractice claim, if you went to another doctor or hospital so quickly that you suffered no injury from the initial improper treatment. The important point is that a claim requires evidence to prove that a Third Party did something negligent/inappropriate and that your injuries occurred as a direct result of that Third Party’s negligent behavior.
Can I sue my Employer if they were negligent?
The Workers’ Compensation Act states that employers and co-workers are immune from liability for negligent acts. An injury at work limits the injured worker to workers’ compensation benefits – even if the employer or co-worker was negligent. There are some rare exceptions, and the CERTIFIED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SPECIALISTS* at SKR can explain whether and how you can pursue a claim for work injuries.
What are my injuries worth?
Every injury claim is unique. People with a very similar injury may have a different ‘value’ for a similar appearing claim. Was your condition made worse due to other medical conditions you have? Did the injuries cause you to lose time from work, miss out on other financial opportunities, or cause other economic losses (such as out of pocket costs for treatment)? Did a child’s injury cause them to miss time from school – or make you miss time from work to care for them? These questions are just a small fraction of the many issues that impact how much your particular claim is worth.
Another important factor is the amount – and type – of insurance coverage available. Even ‘catastrophic’ injuries and permanent, lifetime injuries are limited to the insurance available.
In car accident claims, the amount of coverage bought by the negligent driver, and even the insurance coverage on your own vehicle, will affect how much you can recover. There are situations where the negligent person had no insurance, or an insufficient amount insurance, which are called Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Under Insured Motorist claims (UIM). For example, if the careless driver only carried $15,000.00 ‘policy limits’, then that is the amount of money ‘available’ against that person’s insurance. Unless that person has property or assets available to pursue, it is unlikely they can pay for damages greater than the available insurance. If you then seek UIM benefits from your own policy, that amount is limited by the level of coverage you, or the policy holder – purchased.
Also, the choice of ‘Limited Tort’ may affect whether you can pursue a claim. Full “coverage” does not mean Full Tort. Limited Tort essentially limits your right to sue for pain and suffering damages.
Our experienced Personal Injury Lawyer knows to explore every fact of Your Case to obtain the maximum value – and all insurance coverage available – for your specific circumstances.
How does the court system work, and how long does it take?
Personal Injury claims provide ONE chance to obtain a settlement or court decision. Once a case is settled, or the value decided by a judge or jury, that is the amount you can recover. If the doctors identify more serious injuries later, you cannot return and seek more money later. For this reason, it is necessary to carefully monitor your treatment before starting the settlement process to ensure that the full extent of your injuries and damages have been identified and included in the settlement demand (and reflected by the evidence if a trial is required). The delay can be emotionally and financially frustrating – but the process is necessary to get the full, fair value for your injuries.
If the defendant in your case fails or refuses to meet the terms you, and we, feel appropriate for your injuries, the court process can take even longer. Most types of negligence lawsuits have a deadline, called a Statute of Limitations, to start the lawsuit, usually two year after the date of injury. This is the latest a formal complaint can be filed with the court. After the Lawsuit is filed, the process of discovery – exchanging evidence and taking depositions – varies by each court. Some lawsuits can take more than a year to get to the actual trial.
What kind of P.I. claims does SKR handle?
We handle all types of ‘injury claims’, including
- Car, Truck and Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and Fall claims
- Premises liability claims
- Construction Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Products Liability
Finally, when a negligence claim has occurred while you are working (such as a car accident caused by a negligent Third Party while you were working), our Certified Work Injury Specialists and Personal Injury Lawyers work hand-in-hand to maximize the total value of your claims. We do not “farm out” different parts of your case – which can cause confusion, and Conflicts of Interest.