Personal injury lawsuit’s statute of limitations vary from state to state and dependant on who is the defendant. This article delves into the elements involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit and the types thereof.
The purpose of personal injury law is to protect the victims of negligence, inaction, or recklessness of another individual. Personal injury law extends to a wide variety of cases which can include: dog bites, car/boat accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, wrongful death, worker’s compensation, nursing home abuse, and slip and fall injuries. Before you file a personal injury claim it is important to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who will be familiar with state specific regulations for filing and will help you understand your rights under the law.
Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you are contemplating filing a personal injury claim it is important to file in a timely manner. All claims are subject to statutes of limitations which will vary from state to state. The statute of limitations is the timeframe a plaintiff has to file for damages, and often this time period is from one to three years.
The only exception to the statute of limitations is when the plaintiff is filing for damages against the government. In this case, the statute of limitations is often reduced to thirty days up to one year after the injury. Typically, the statute of limitations begins on the day of the injury. If a dog bit you yesterday, then your statute of limitations began yesterday as well.
However, sometimes as is the case with certain medical malpractice and drug injury lawsuits, the cause of injury is not identified for weeks, months, or years afterwards. For example, a form of birth control has recently been linked to an increase in cancer among some women. The statute of limitations for those women affected by this side affect begins when their symptoms are linked to taking this drug, and not when they initially began taking the medication.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Prior to filing a personal injury claim, a plaintiff must always be able to prove that the person charged (the defendant) is legally responsible for the injury and that the injury suffered is truly the result of wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. In other words you cannot file a claim against a doctor who never treated you, nor can you seek damages for a broken leg you received while mountain biking from a doctor that treated you for gum disease.
There are several elements which may be helpful in establishing whether the person you are charging is actually responsible for your injury:
- Negligence – the defendant failed to prevent your injury, and is therefore responsible for causing it. An example might be a horseback riding instructor who asks you to take your horse over a series of jumps without first warning you that the ground is muddy. If your horse slips and falls on you, perhaps resulting in a broken arm or debilitating back pain, your instructor may be deemed negligent and therefore responsible for your injury.
- Strict Liability – this type of liability applies regardless of negligence, and is also known as product liability. If you use your electric razor as instructed in the owner’s manual and you get electrocuted or suffer cuts/bruises then the manufacturer of the razor may be held liable for your injury.
- Intentional Wrong – civil claims for an intentional wrong may be filed in addition to criminal charges. Most often victims of sexual assault or other forms of abuse will file their personal injury claims based on intentional wrong.
Types of Damages from Personal Injury Lawsuits
When seeking damages for a personal injury, your accident lawyer may pursue compensatory or punitive damages. In some cases a judge may award both types of damages depending on the severity and type of crime committed.
1) COMPENSATORY DAMAGES – ACTUAL OR ESTIMATED
Compensatory damages can be actual or estimated and are meant to reimburse the plaintiff a pre-determined monetary value.
- Actual values for compensatory damages can be calculated based on medical bills, lost wages, or money paid to repair damaged property from the accident (a boat or car, for example).
- Estimated damages are calculated based on the pain and suffering endured by the plaintiff as a result of the accident. An indirect victim, such as a spouse, may also seek compensatory damages for lost wages to their spouse’s household contributions. Punitive damages are meant to punish the person responsible for the accident.
2) PUNITIVE DAMAGES
Punitive damages do not provide any monetary gain to the plaintiff.
If you feel that you are the victim of a personal injury it is important to consult an accident attorney as soon as possible. An accident attorney in Phoenix will offer much different advice than an accident attorney in Boston with regards to statutes of limitations and determining the at-fault party. Failure to file your claim in time and present proper evidence may cost you the case entirely and prevent you from filing for damages altogether.
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