Every tort claim, (that’s what we call personal injury or negligence actions), regardless of its basis, whether intentional, negligence, or strict liability, has two basic issues–liability and damages. Was the defendant liable for the damages you sustained, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of your damages? If you can prove liability and damages, our system of justice will award you compensation for your loss. There may be cases where there is clear liability but no damages. For instance, you are rear-ended by a negligent driver. Your car is damaged but you do not sustain any injuries. Other than recovering property damage to your vehicle there is no claim for personal injury.
What are some typical personal injury cases?
Perhaps the most cases fall in the automobile accident case category. Medical negligence, product liability, intentional tort in the workplace, slip and fall on premises, products liability, and assault and battery are perhaps the most common.
Do I have a certain amount of time to file a personal injury claim?
The answer is yes. There are no exceptions if you permit the time limits to pass. Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” that govern the period during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit. In some states, for example, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit from an automobile accident. If you miss the statutory deadline for filing a case, your case is thrown out of court. In Ohio, there is a two-year statute to file an automobile accoident case in court. What this all means is that you have to either settle your case or file it in court before the expiration of the appropriate statute of limitations.
What happens after a case is filed in court?
You become the plaintiff in the case and the person who injured you becomes the defendant. Lawyers for each side (and for the insurance company) typically begin gathering facts through exchange of documents, written questions (interrogatories) or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases get settled before trial. Only a small percentage of personal injury actions, maybe 5% or less, ever go to trial. If you do go to trial, a jury of 6 in Ohio will hear your case. Or it may be heard by the judge. The jury will then decide the issues. Was the Defendant negligent? In some cases the plaintiff’s own negligence will factor in. On Ohio we have comparative negligence. If the plaintiff’s negligence is 50% or more, then he or she cannot recover. If it is less than 50% then that percentage is applied to the award of damages to determine your recovery. The amount of damages is determined by the jury after hearing all of the evidence. Damages in a typical auto accident case include medical bills, lost wages, property damage to vehicle, and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is an add-on which the jury determines over and above the actual or pecuniary damages.
Do I need to get an Attorney?
Most people go through an auto accident or personal injury claim once in their lifetime. They have no experience dealing with insurance adjusters who have been doing this work for years. Most people are no match for the insurance company adjusters whose main goal is to pay as little as possible on a claim. The adjuster is banking on the fact of inexperience on the part of the injured party. Hiring a lawyer is the right decision. The lawyer doesn’t get paid until you do. Fees normally are contingent, that is, based upon recovery. No recovery, no fee. the 1/3 contingency fee is the industry norm. Once you hire a lawyer, he will do all of the negotiation and presentation of your claim, and if need be, will file the case in court to protect the statute of limitations from running out. Our office will give you a free consultation. So call our office at 330-792-2336