The Basics of Personal Injury Law, Part 1

Posted on behalf of Henness & Haight on Feb 02, 2015 in Personal Injury News

In cases where a preventable accident or injury happens due to another's negligence, you may seek compensation from the other party. In this two-part article we will look at the basics of personal injury cases, how the law works and what sorts of damages you may be able to recover. If you think you may need representation from a trusted personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, contact us today.

Defining the Personal Injury Case

Cases that are covered by personal injury law are those where one party is injured in some way, and another party is responsible for the damage. The laws governing personal injury vary from state to state, but there are certain factors that are near universal. Personal injury cases can be pursued through formal lawsuits, but the vast majority of cases are resolved out of court through informal settlements. This latter method saves a lot of time and heartache for both parties.

Informal Settlements

An informal settlement occurs when those personally involved in the dispute, their insurance representatives (if any) and their lawyers sit down and work out the details of the compensation. These agreements involve varying degrees of negotiation followed by a written settlement. This agreement usually forbids either side to undertake any further action in the dispute. It also outlines the agreed-upon resolution of the matter.

Formal Lawsuits

When informal negotiation fails to settle the matter out of court, a lawsuit may occur. There are different rules in place to handle these "civil suits" than those that define how criminal cases work. A formal case begins when the plaintiff, or injured party, files a lawsuit. This suit is a civil complaint against the defendant, who may be a person, corporation, business or government agency. The suit states that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care and failed to do so. This failure to exercise care directly resulted in the injury in question.

Negligence and Proof

One of the key factors in personal injury cases is that of establishing negligence and proof. There are four distinct elements that come into play in a personal injury suit. 1. Duty of Reasonable Care: The defendant owed a legal duty of care to the defendant. Proving this issue depends on the relationship and situation. A doctor's duty is to provide competent care, while a business owner has a duty to keep sidewalks clear of ice and debris. 2. Breach of Duty: Not only did the defendant owe the duty, it must be proven that they neglected that duty. The plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant was in violation of this duty at the time of the accident. 3. The Cause of the Accident: Next, it must be shown that the defendant's breach of duty was the direct cause of the accident. For example, the defendant was texting while driving, and the associated distraction directly led to an accident that caused injury to the plaintiff. 4. Damages: After the first three aspects are proven, the court must then determine which damages are appropriate for the plaintiff to recover. Our next blog will look at laws, the statute of limitations and how to know if your case has legs.