Sometimes it seems as though life just isn’t fair. One minute you’re minding your own business, shopping for your family’s groceries; next thing you know, you’re skidding on a slick floor, landing painfully on your hip or coccyx, and then being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
What was that slippery stuff, anyway? And why the heck hadn’t anyone cleaned it up? After all, doesn’t the supermarket have a responsibility to make sure that its customers are safe while doing their shopping?
The answer to that last question is a resounding yes, and this concept — that an entity such as a grocery store has a duty of care to its patrons — forms the basis of a branch of law known as tort law, or personal injury law. Let’s take a closer look.
Injury Due to Another’s Negligence
At the heart of personal injury law is the notion of negligence. Negligence, in legal terminology, means that someone didn’t do what they should have. (It can also refer to a person or entity doing something that should not have done.)
When someone’s negligence leads directly to an illness, accident, or health-related issues, you have the right to receive compensation. Not only can you be compensated for lost wages, loss of future wages, and general pain and suffering, but you can recoup the cost of doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgery, physical therapy, and other treatments.
For negligence to be legally actionable, it has to fulfill four criteria:
- The defendant must have had a duty of care — in other words, an obligation to act in a safe and reasonable manner in the situation in question.
- The defendant must have breached that duty by failing to exercise care, prudence, or caution that are expected of them in that circumstance.
- The action or failure to act on the part of the defendant must have caused or been a contributing factor in the plaintiff’s injury.
- There must be an injury or property damage on the part of the plaintiff.
If one or more of these elements cannot be proven, there is no negligence at play and therefore no grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness, the first step to take is visiting your primary care physician, as well as any specialist medical providers that can help you, and documenting your injuries.
Getting treated right away, and developing an ongoing medical treatment plan, is essential for recovering your good health. The next step is to start looking for a personal injury attorney to take your case.
It is important to understand that personal injury lawyers get paid on a contingency basis. This means that they don’t charge you by the hour or require a retainer.
Rather, they choose to take cases that they believe they can successfully settle out of court, or win in a trial. Once that settlement or verdict has been achieved, the attorney will take a percentage of the plaintiff’s damages.
The contingency fee structure offers clients two major benefits. The first is that they needn’t pay for their lawyer’s expertise upfront. Secondly, if the attorney agrees to take the case, it’s because she thinks it’s strong enough to result in damages being paid out.
Therefore, she will work hard to get the justice her client deserves — after all, her paycheck is riding on it.
Attorneys at David W. Singer & Associates, one of the best Hollywood Florida personal injury law firms, say that whether you require car accident lawyers or an attorney to handle a wrongful death suit, the basic process of consultation remains the same.
You’re under no obligation to hire a law firm after meeting with them initially, and you won’t pay for that consultation, either.
The Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim
Defendants in personal injury lawsuits, along with their attorneys, will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying damages. If a judgment is rendered against them, they will similarly do whatever it takes to keep the compensation totals as low as possible.
On the other side of the coin is the plaintiff’s legal counsel, using all of their skills and expertise to drive the amount of damages as high as possible.
As you can imagine, this head-to-head legal combat is a lengthy process. It’s not unusual for a civil lawsuit to drag on for many years. Very few claims actually make it all the way to a trial; nevertheless, this is not a speedy or an easy process.
When you are consulting with attorneys, bear in mind the fact that you will likely be working with a particular lawyer (and usually, other employees of the firm, such as paralegals and legal secretaries) for a very long time.
Make sure that you are comfortable with a long-term relationship. If there are any personality conflicts, it may be smart to seek out another firm or another attorney within the same firm.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
The information we’ve covered today is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; personal injury law is an extremely complex area of law.
Filing a claim after a motorcycle accident, slip and fall incident, or occurrence of medical malpractice is not something that the average person can tackle without the services of an attorney.
Be sure to do your research, interview as many law firms as possible, and be prepared to call on all of your patience as the process gets under way.