When you’re laid out and recovering from some sort of accident or injury, you have a lot of time to think. Depending on your mood, you may be thinking about what exactly landed you in this situation in the first place. In some cases, you only have yourself to blame, like tripping over something you left on the floor and having an awkward landing at home. When it comes to accidents out in public, though, there’s a bit more of a question there. Yes, there was an accident, but who caused it? Was it your mistake, or someone’s negligence putting yourself in this situation? This question is the heart of what is and what isn’t a legitimate personal injury claim.
What Qualifies As A Claim?
There are a lot of famous personal injury claims out there. Remember the woman who sued because her McDonald’s coffee was too hot and gave her major burns? As things turn out, her diligence paid off and ended up with her getting $2.7 million in punitive damages, because the coffee was hotter than that served in other restaurants. Big paydays like this are the exception, not the rule, but there are certain commonalities in all successful personal injury claims.
First, you need to establish that the company or entity you are suing has some sort of legal duty or obligation to you. In the coffee case, the legal duty would be preparing food safely. The second property is failing to act in a manner that breaches said legal duty. This would be the people in that particular McDonald’s making excessively hot coffee and giving no warning. This is why, if you buy a coffee there now, there is a written warning on the cup. Then, you need to prove causation between the two factors and explain your damages. In the Liebeck vs. McDonald’s case, the woman had extensive burns on her body that needed medical treatment.
The most common personal injury claims tend to involve motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and product liability. This case fell under the third category.
Getting Your Due Compensation
Now, the question of whether you have a case is one thing, but you can’t pull a number for damages out of thin air and expect to get paid. So, exactly how do you put together the amount of damages you can earn. This varies by case. For example, when it comes to car accidents, let’s hear some advice from JR Reyna, who practices personal injury law in Corpus Christi:
“There are certain limitations on the types or amounts of damages that may be recovered in a personal injury case. For uninsured drivers, it is important to realize that you are not entitled to noneconomic payments suffering damages. This is true even if the other driver is totally at fault for the accident. Non-economic damages include payments for things like disfigurement, pain and suffering, inconvenience and physical impairment. An uninsured driver is able to recover non- economic damages if they are in an accident with a driver who is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that driver is later convicted of DUI associated with that accident.”
The basic concept of compensatory damages is to make up for whatever you lost in the accident financially. In some cases, like lost income or damaged property, this is relatively easy to put together. In others, like pain and suffering or emotional distress, this number can be difficult to quantify. Punitive damages can also happen when the conduct of the defendant is extremely careless.
In many cases, though, the amount of money you end up getting is in the hands of your lawyer. This isn’t in terms of what they are charging, but how good of a job they do proving your side of the case. Remember, negligence is a difficult case to prove because there’s a fine line between your fault and someone else’s. To do this, you want to make sure that your lawyer does a proper job of investigating the scene of the accident, getting all related documents and information, and is well informed on the law not just in general, but for your area. For example, a work-related personal injury case is far different from you slipping down at the mall. If there’s a lack of transparency or clarity, your lawyer may not be a good fit for your case.
John Miller is a home improvement and design expert who loves sharing what he has learned throughout his career on various online media and websites.