The aftermath of an injury can be filled with confusion and uncertainty as you figure out how best to manage your physical, emotional, and financial recovery. One important question that can arise is whether you have a personal injury case that could result in financial compensation.
Keep reading for more information, then contact Johnson & Groninger PLLC for personalized advice.
What is a personal injury claim?
A personal injury case is a legal dispute between an injured plaintiff and the person or company, such as a business or government agency, that’s responsible for the injury (the “defendant”). If successful, the plaintiff can be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
While filing a personal injury claim can be an effective way to begin rebuilding your life after an injury, not all injuries give rise to a valid personal injury case. There are strict legal requirements that an injured plaintiff must satisfy in order to have a valid case. The best way to determine if you have a personal injury case is to speak with a Durham personal injury attorney, but understanding the basics can give you an idea of what you can expect.
Elements of a personal injury claim
To have a successful personal injury case, you must be able to prove that all elements for the cause of action are present. Most personal injury claims are based on negligence which has four elements that must be proven. When you consult with a lawyer, they’ll be looking for evidence of each of these elements.
Duty of care
All people and entities owe certain “duties of care” to other people. These exact duties depend on the type of plaintiff and defendant. For example, doctors owe a higher duty of care to their patients than strangers do to each other. However, even strangers owe each other a duty to act in a way that keeps them from causing harm to others.
Example: Drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care when driving, which includes obeying traffic laws, being alert, and avoiding distractions.
Breach of duty
The breach of duty element requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant failed to fulfill their duty of care.
Example: If a driver was texting while driving, ran a stop sign, and crashed into your car, they would have breached the duty of care that drivers owe each other.
The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused their injury. In other words, if it hadn’t been for the defendant’s breach, then the plaintiff wouldn’t have been injured.
Example: You were obeying the speed limit and had the right of way when a distracted driver ran a stop sign and crashed into you. As a result, you were injured. The other driver’s breach of duty caused your injury, so the causation element is satisfied.
Finally, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that they suffered damages as a result of the incident. These may include medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, physical pain, or other losses.
Example: You were injured in the collision and needed extensive medical treatment. You also had to take time off work to recover, resulting in lost wages. Later on, you also developed chronic pain due to the incident. All of these damages could qualify for compensation in a personal injury case.
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time you have to file a claim. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years. If you wait too long to file, you may not be able to recover anything in a personal injury case, even if you have an otherwise valid claim.
The clock starts ticking from the date that you discovered the injury, but there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the injury wasn’t discovered right away, or if the injury is caused by an ongoing pattern of behavior, the statute of limitations may be extended to begin on the date that the injury’s connection to the defendant’s actions should have been discovered.
Documents needed for a strong case
No matter how strong your claim may seem, it can only be successful if you have evidence to back it up.
There are several types of documents that may be helpful when pursuing a personal injury claim, including medical records and bills, police reports, photos or videos of the incident and its aftermath, witness statements, pay stubs for lost wages, and any communication between you and the defendant.
The more you can provide to your lawyer, the better. They’ll be able to use these documents to build a strong case on your behalf. However, if you don’t have all the necessary documents, you should still speak to a lawyer — they may be able to help you collect them.
Find out if you have a case today
Keep in mind that the above information is only a general overview of what makes a valid personal injury case. Every situation is different, so you should speak with a qualified attorney to determine if you have a valid claim.
When you contact a Durham personal injury attorney at Johnson & Groninger PLLC, we’ll be able to evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action. From there, you can decide if you’d like to pursue a claim and start the process of seeking justice for your injury. Contact our Durham office at (919) 240-4054 or our Charlotte office at (704) 200-2009 to schedule a free consultation.