Actions have consequences. If someone suffers an injury because of the actions of another person, then that victim deserves to have the costs of their injury covered by the person who is at fault.
But how does one go about getting compensated? Who pays the bills? And what happens if the at-fault party doesn’t want to pay?
What Is a Personal Injury Case?
Not just any injury qualifies for a Personal Injury case. In order to have a valid case, you must prove that your injury was caused by another person (liability) and that you sustained losses because of your injury (damages).
There is also a time limit (known as the statute of limitations) to how long you can wait after an injury before seeking legal compensation. In New Hampshire, you must file your Personal Injury claim within 3 years of the injury.
What Are Some Examples of Personal Injury Cases?
The most common types of Personal Injury cases are things like vehicle accidents or slip-and-fall accidents, but the list is almost unending. Some examples are:
1. Vehicle Accidents
- Medication errors and overdoses
- Surgical errors
- Defective medical devices or medications
- Misdiagnosis/failure to diagnose
- Delayed or incorrect treatment
- Nursing home or hospital negligence
- Childbirth fatality
- Negligence by understaffing
- Vehicle defects (brakes, tires, airbags, seatbelts, etc.)
- Children’s products (car seats, cribs, toys, etc.)
- Electronic devices
- Industrial equipment
- Propane and natural gas appliances
- Unanchored furniture
- Toxic food
- Struck-by hazards (flying, falling, swinging, rolling)
- Caught-in and caught-between hazards
- Hazardous atmosphere (toxic gas or oxygen deficiency)
- Asbestos exposure
- Ice (parking lots, sidewalks, steps, etc.)
- Wet Floors
I Sustained a Personal Injury. Now What?
Your first step is to get a free consultation with a Personal Injury lawyer. They will ask you the right questions to get more information about your injury and will advise you whether or not you have a chance of successfully being compensated for your losses. If your lawyer believes that you have a successful case, then he will help you file a Personal Injury claim.
What Is the Difference Between a Claim and a Lawsuit?
In almost all Personal Injury cases, you and your lawyer will be working with the at-fault party’s insurance company to cover your expenses and losses. The process begins by you filing a medical claim with the insurance company. The insurance company will then assign an insurance adjuster to your claim, and your lawyer will work with them to reach an agreed settlement amount. If your lawyer is able to negotiate a settlement, then you will sign the papers and receive your compensation check. This is how most Personal Injury cases end. The matter never goes to trial.
If your lawyer is not able to reach an agreeable settlement with the insurance company, then he will recommend filing a Personal Injury lawsuit in civil court. This is where each side will argue their case in front of a judge (and possibly a jury) who will determine a ruling regarding the compensation. The at-fault party’s insurance company will be involved in the lawsuit since they are the ones who will be paying if their client loses the suit.
How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?
A Personal Injury lawsuit begins with your lawyer filing a complaint in civil court with you listed as the plaintiff and the at-fault party listed as the defendant. The defendant will be served papers within thirty days of the filing to inform him of the lawsuit. At this point he will most likely hire his own attorney (or the insurance company may appoint one for him) and he will have thirty days from the time he is served to file a response to the complaint.
At this point all communication from both sides will now be handled by the attorneys. There will be gathering of additional evidence in preparation for the two sides to appear in court. There will still be opportunities for the two lawyers to reach a settlement without going to trial, though if a settlement is still not reached before the trial date, then the case goes before the judge and possibly a jury. This pre-trial preparation stage may take up to a year.
To succeed in a New Hampshire Personal Injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed the injured person a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care through negligence or recklessness
- The defendant’s negligent or reckless conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries
- The plaintiff suffered injuries
At the trial, both sides will present their case as to why you should or should not receive the compensation that you have requested. The judge or jury will then decide if the defendant is responsible for your injuries and to what extent. If the defendant is found to be responsible, then the judge or jury will also decide the amount of damages that you are to be paid. Either side may appeal the ruling or file a motion to change the awarded damages once the trial is over.
It is common for trial dates to be postponed (sometimes multiple times) for a variety of reasons. The entire Personal Injury process, whether a claim or a lawsuit, can take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years or more to complete, so be prepared in knowing that it is a lengthy process.
Where Can I Find More Information?
Speaking with a Personal Injury lawyer is your best option for gathering information about a potential case. We at Ward Law Group, PLLC would love to talk to you and answer your questions at no cost to you. You can either fill out our online form or give us a call. To read more about Personal Injury claims and lawsuits, please see our Personal Injury eBook as well as our Personal Injury blogs.