What is personal injury law?
Every member of our community has a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent harming others. When we fail to exercise reasonable care (e.g. choosing to send text messages while driving) and as a result, another person is injured, the person who failed to exercise reasonable care is responsible for the harm caused. Personal injury or “tort” law exists to enable those who have been hurt to seek compensation for their financial losses and pain and suffering from the persons or companies responsible for the injuries.
The object of Pennsylvania’s tort law is to modify behavior by imposing the financial risk on the party in the best position to prevent the harm. Personal injury / tort claims are part of the civil justice system, which basically means that personal injury cases are separate from any related criminal cases, and only deal with harms and losses or injuries to person or property.
Seeking compensation through personal injury law means more than just filing a lawsuit. The legal rules and the knowledge of attorneys experienced with injury law also shape the investigation of the claims and the process of settlement negotiations.
Personal injury cases usually begin with attempts to resolve claims without going to court and, even if a lawsuit is filed, the majority of cases are resolved before trial. Attorneys for the injured claimaint and insurance companies engage in informal settlement negotiations. The injured person’s lawyer demonstrates the extent of the injuries, financial loss, and suffering and the reasons the other party is likely to be held responsible. The injured person’s attorney may “demand” a certain amount of money, while the responsible party may “offer” a lower amount, and the parties negotiate back and forth. The injured person is always involved in settlement decisions. In the end, the parties may reach a settlement in which the responsible party agrees to pay a certain amount and the injured person agrees not to proceed with a formal lawsuit.
Although most cases are resolved prior to filing a lawsuit, in some circumstances an injured person may still need to file a civil complaint, a formal document that initiates a lawsuit and explains the injured person’s claims. Often a suit is filed even though settlement negotiations are ongoing. The complaint and other formalities of a lawsuit can be technical and confusing—and it is important to get them right. An attorney can help you jump through the hoops and, if necessary, make your case to a jury at trial. Having an experienced personal injury attorney who is prepared and willing to go to trial on your behalf also strengthens your position in settlement negotiations.
Statutes of Limitation
Statutes of limitation give a deadline for filing a lawsuit (and these time limits affect informal settlement negotiations as well because no one will agree to pay a settlement if the statute of limitations has expired and they cannot be sued). Under Pennsylvania Code, section 5524, personal injury cases in Pennsylvania generally must be filed within two years after the injury occurs. In some situations, that time may be extended if there was a good reason you were unaware of your injuries, but you should always seek legal help promptly. It is easier to gather evidence about the extent of your loss and about the responsible party’s actions if you act quickly.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases
Some situations occur commonly enough to become recognizable types of personal injury cases. Although we can help you with any injury case, our personal injury practice sorts cases into several categories:
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Slip & Fall/Premises Liability
You have probably heard of “slip and fall” cases. The legal term for most such cases is “premises liability,” and the cases don’t necessarily involve slipping or falling. Any time someone is injured by a dangerous property condition—such as trip hazards, ice or snow, malfunctioning equipment like elevators and escalators, even inadequate lighting or security that leads to a criminal attack—the property owner might be liable in a premises liability claim.
Accidents on the roadways because of distracted driving give rise to millions of personal injury claims per year in the United States, and handling these cases requires a special understanding of the law. Car accident cases involve particular kinds of investigation, legal rules, and insurance relationships. Even more particular issues arise when the responsible party was driving under the influence or the injured person was a pedestrian. An experienced attorney can navigate all of these special circumstances.
Nursing Home Negligence
An all-too-common type of case involves residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers suffering harm because of inadequate care. Failures related to nutrition, medication, other medical treatment, hygiene, and supervision of residents for their own safety lead to many personal injury cases.
Wrongful death claims present a very particular set of legal issues. Even though the victim is no longer here to pursue a claim, a surviving spouse, parent, or child can sue for wrongful death and seek compensation for lost income, funeral expenses, lost companionship, medical expenses, and even the victim’s pain and suffering prior to death (which is technically part of a “survival action” on behalf of the victim, while a wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the loss suffered by the victim’s loved ones).
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have a personal injury case, you may very well need an attorney, and you will benefit greatly from finding an attorney who has extensive experience with your type of case and with pursuing claims through settlement negotiations and trial.
May, May & Zimmerman attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients. We have the experience to handle your case with skill, diligence, and compassion. We work on a contingent fee basis, so you pay no fees until we win your case, and you can start by arranging a free phone consultation now.
This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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