The term “personal injury” is a little vague. That vagueness can make it hard to tell what, exactly, a personal injury suit even is. Are there “impersonal injuries”?
Personal injury means your “body, mind, or emotions” have been injured, not your property. If someone gets in a car wreck and it breaks their leg and totals their car, then the personal injury suit is designed to cover the harm from the broken leg, not the harm from the totalled car.
Let’s take a closer look at who can file a personal injury suit, as well as how those suits generally unfold.
The injured party
This may seem obvious, but the first person who can file a personal injury suit is whoever got hurt. But there has to be a reasonable belief that they were hurt due to another person’s conduct. Let’s use a couple hypothetical accidents to explain this.
In Accident 1, a man is walking down the street when he drops a bag of groceries. He then trips over that bag and breaks his leg in a way that requires surgery. However, no one else was around at the time. There’s no apparent reason why he fell beyond a brief loss of balance. In other words, it’s bad luck, not malicious or negligent conduct on someone else’s part.
In Accident 2, a woman is walking down the street when a car veers onto the sidewalk and hits her. She’s knocked into the air and lands several feet away. She also has a broken leg that requires surgery. When police investigate, they find out that the driver of the car fell asleep right before the accident. This is an example of possible negligence. While negligence isn’t the only possible cause for a personal injury claim, it’s still a significant one.
The woman in the second accident may want to consult with lawyers about filing a suit against the car’s driver. However, she can’t wait too long to do this. Per the Davis Kelin Law Firm, you have three years from the date of injury to file a personal injury suit in certain states like New Mexico. And if that lawsuit is against a governmental entity, you only get two years to file.
A spouse or family member
There are also situations when a spouse or family member can file a type of personal injury suit. This is common in cases where the injured party dies. If that happens, family members should look into filing a wrongful death suit against the potentially responsible person or entity.
And often, it does have to be the deceased’s family. You generally cannot file a wrongful death suit if you were friends with the person who died. In most states, these suits can only be brought by the spouse and children of the person who died.
Wrongful death suits are about obtaining financial compensation for the loss of a family member. If the family member who died had a well-paying job, then their survivors might seek compensation for the loss of that income.
Such cases do not go directly to trial, because a discovery process must happen first. The discovery process allows both the plaintiff and defendant to gather critical information about the case. This information is often obtained through depositions. Depositions don’t happen in a courtroom; they often take place in an office or conference room.
Depositions allow a lawyer to ask questions while a local court reporter transcribes the answers. For instance, if the deposition happens in Fort Lauderdale, then one or more Fort Lauderdale court reporters will be needed. Once all the witnesses have been deposed, a couple things can happen.
The defendant might offer a settlement to avoid a long and complicated trial. If no settlement is reached, then the case will head towards a trial.