Here are two worrisome truths about the potential for personal injuries in Louisiana right now:
First off, the number of fatal crashes is higher than the national average.
Secondly, collision frequency is significantly higher in Louisiana than anywhere else in the country.
This tells you that the rise in accident frequency and severity in places like Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Metairie means the likelihood of you being involved in a personal injury is also on the rise.
Personal injury lawsuits (such as those involving vehicle accidents) are a common way for victims to seek justice and compensation for the harm they have suffered. However, these are serious cases and you may not always know whether your injury qualifies for a personal injury lawsuit.
In this guide, you'll learn what constitutes a personal injury and how to protect your legal rights if you find yourself involved in a personal injury case.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit and How Does It Work?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action to recover damages for injuries or death caused by another person's negligence.
The injured party must prove four elements to claim damages:
- Breach of duty
In other words, the plaintiff needs evidence that proves:
- Who breached their duty (for example, it could be a negligent employer who failed to follow safety provisions),
- How they did so (the most common being when work-related equipment malfunctions), and,
- What kind of effect it had on the innocent party (how you were affected physically, financially, etc.).
Types of Personal Injury Claims
From dog bites to car accidents, slip-and-falls to medical malpractice, and even assault, situations leading to personal injuries are all-too-common.
Even something as simple as a fall can be serious — just ask construction workers who have a one in 10 risk of injury every year and a one in 200 risk of fatalities over the course of a 45-year career. Falls, are in fact, the most common cause of fatal construction injuries.
To help victims of a personal injury receive justice, there are six common types of personal injury claims to pursue:
- Negligence — a form of personal injury claim in which the defendant failed to take proper care while doing something, and this negligence caused the plaintiff's injuries.
- Assault and Battery — an intentional act that leads to physical harm, typically done by one person against another.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) — refers to when someone intentionally causes emotional distress or mental anguish to another person through extreme and outrageous conduct.
- False Imprisonment — occurs when someone restrains another individual without legal justification.
- Defamation — a statement that damages an individual's reputation, whether it be made verbally or in writing, online or offline.
- Property Damage — can occur from several sources, including natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, accidents such as car crashes, vandalism, fire damage, and theft. It usually involves financial compensation for the victim who has suffered a loss due to these events.
The Difference Between Intentional and Unintentional Injuries
Intentional injuries are those that result from immediate action. An extreme example is a situation in which someone punches you in the face. There's no question behind the intent of the action, which could become a personal injury case.
On the other hand, unintentional injuries are those not caused on purpose and there was no malice behind the actions that preceded them. Unintentional injuries can cover injuries because of long-term actions taken before the injury occurred. For example, exposure to asbestos or a toxic chemical released over time could be considered unintentional injuries.
Victims who incurred unintentional injuries can file a personal injury case against the at-fault party because as long as it meets the four elements to claim damage.
Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases
There are three main types of damages in personal injury cases:
- Economic damages — awarded to victims to claim/get the compensation and recover from their financial losses due to the injury. This includes medical expenses incurred due to the accident, lost wages if you were unable to work due to injuries sustained during the accident, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages — These are difficult to measure and assign a monetary value on. As a result, insurance companies are hard-pressed to award a specific amount to these types of damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, impairment of quality of life, or reputation.
- Punitive damages — Awarded in a personal injury case to punish an offender who has acted maliciously against another person's well-being without regard for their safety or welfare.
How to Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Accident
To qualify to receive your personal injury claims, you must prove that your injury was due to someone's carelessness or malicious intent.
For example, if the injury occurred while an individual was riding a vehicle that was involved in an accident, then they can file a case against the driver under these factors:
- Duty — Drivers have a responsibility to take utmost care of their passengers and their vehicles.
- Breach of duty — If the driver tried to beat the red light and was met with an incoming vehicle from the other side, s/he was not practicing care as part of his/her duty.
- Causation — The result of the car accident was physical damages incurred by the passenger.
- Damage — The severity of the damage depends on the accident.
When More Than One Person Is at Fault
Not all accidents are as cut and dry as the one above. There are times when more than one person is responsible for the accident taking place.
If the carelessness of at least one driver caused the car crash, they would have to decide how to split the expenses among the victims.
Now, if not all of the at-fault parties have insurance, you can reach out to the insured at-fault party and get paid the full amount of damages by the company. If all the individuals involved are insured, you will only get your claim from just one insurance company.
If Your Carelessness Resulted in the Injury
If your carelessness was somewhat responsible for the accident and your injury, can you still get the compensation you deserve?
You're still eligible to receive compensation, but the amount really depends on how much your actions contributed. If you're liable for a large portion of the event, you'll receive less and the other party may receive the lion's share of the compensation. Insurance companies call this comparative negligence.
For instance, let's say you were driving a vehicle at moderate speed and suddenly stopped because you didn't notice the truck in front of you stopping as well. This caused the car behind you to also rear-end you.
Taking the accident at face value, the driver behind you should pay you 100% of the damages. However, it was your fault that you weren't driving with enough distance between the other cars or did not stop slowly enough to give others enough time to react.
Because your negligence played a part in your injury, you won't be entitled to 100% of the payment for the damages in the accident. The amount will vary from case to case, but this is how the law works in these types of situations.
Legal Rights During a Personal Injury Lawsuit
There are many rights granted to you by federal and state law during a personal injury case. It's important to know which among the different legal rights apply to your case.
For example, the court must provide written notice before holding your trial. You have the right to be present in court for these proceedings unless it's not possible due to safety or health reasons.
There is no fee charged for filing a claim if you don't recover any damages from the incident. However, there may be costs associated with winning your case, such as attorney fees.
If someone else was injured because of this accident, they also could file a suit against the at-fault party. The law allows this as long as their injuries were covered under certain legal covers (i.e., workers' compensations act).
Overall, your rights will depend on a variety of factors and a qualified personal injury attorney can help walk you through all of these.
How to Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer for You
The laws protecting and guiding your personal injury case are just one part of the equation. Another, equally significant factor, is choosing the right personal injury lawyer.
Their skill, expertise, and the process they guide you in will determine how much you receive from your personal injury claim.
Consider the following factors in your search for an attorney:
- Check their experience — Browse their website, review testimonials and client ratings, for insight into your attorney's effectiveness and experience.
- Vet their process — As you reach out to your chosen legal team, check to see how they respond to your case. Did they hop on a call with you immediately or respond to your email in minutes? Did they offer legal advice on how you should proceed? This is where the attorney-client relationship begins, and you should feel you can trust sensitive or confidential information with them from the get-go.
- Determine their payment structure — Pricing should be clear, transparent, and reasonable.
- Look for additional services they're offering — Find out if the legal team offer additional services such as property damage valuation or investigative services, so you don't have to search someplace else.
Following the tips above should help you narrow down your search for the best personal injury lawyers who can work your case.
What Happens if I Don't Have an Attorney?
If you don't have an attorney, the court will assign one to represent you — especially if you can't afford a lawyer. If you're unable to hire your own counsel for other reasons, such as work conflicts with trial dates, you may still be eligible for “court-appointed” representation.
However, court-appointed attorneys may not always handle personal injury cases on contingency. This is when attorneys take a percentage of whatever monetary recovery results from the lawsuit.
What Are the Costs of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The costs of filing a personal injury lawsuit vary depending on the type of case. In general, you will pay lawyer fees and court-related costs.
For a basic car accident claim, you may seek money for pain and suffering, property damage expenses, and medical bills. In this case, the cost could be as low as $500. However, seeking a greater amount for damages, such as punitive damages, will also likely increase your costs in kind.
What Can You Expect if You Win or Lose the Lawsuit?
If you win, your attorney will receive an award and pay for any expenses incurred when filing the suit on your behalf. On the other hand, if you lose, your personal injury attorney can't charge you any expenses or awards. However, that's only true if they work on contingency.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Qualifies as a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury claim can be filed when the injured person believes they have been harmed due to an accident caused by someone else's negligence (typically).
This includes harm from car accidents and other types of property damage such as slips and falls. Also included are the following:
- Workplace injuries that occur because of unsafe conditions in your workplace
- Medical malpractice occurs when doctors make mistakes during surgery or prescribe incorrect medication — this could include improper treatment for cancer patients.
- Construction site accidents where people are not wearing safety gear like hard hats, etc.
Basically, any injury that doesn't happen on purpose but was still preventable through reasonable standards is subject to.
What Are Considered Personal Injuries?
A personal injury is the result of an accident caused by another person or company. A car crash, slip and fall, and dog bites are all examples of a personal injury claim.
What Are the Chances of Winning a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Most people think that winning a personal injury case is all about filing your claim in time, or being diligent with following up on the scene of an accident, but there's more to it than that.
The odds of winning a lawsuit depend on the circumstances. What caused your injury or loss? Who were you suing, and what was their cause for negligence? Did you have enough evidence to prove they were at fault?
As with any case, there's no guarantee that you'll win after covering all your bases. That's why hiring the best possible lawyer for the case is your best bet to winning.
What Is the Average Time to Settle a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
It depends on the case, but it typically takes between one and two years to settle a personal injury case.
When it comes to filing a successful personal injury lawsuit, the best way to find out if your injury qualifies is to consult an experienced attorney. Your chosen legal team will be able to protect your actions from prosecution or help receive a proper financial settlement.
If you're ready to give your personal injury lawsuit the best chance of success, book a consultation with Schwartz Law Firm in Louisiana today. As a proven personal injury law firm with over 25 years of combined worth of experience, we can give your case the expertise, attention, and legal guidance that your case needs.