Personal Injury FAQ
Answers to Common Questions About Personal Injury Cases
When we're injured, we face not only physical pain and emotional trauma from the incident itself but a future rife with financial complications from mounting medical bills and lost earnings if we miss work. At Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, LLP our mission is to help the injured not only by providing quality legal counsel but by offering helpful information that can help them make the right decisions early on. You can read through the following questions and answers to learn more about personal injury law and can also contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to seeing how we can help you.
What is a personal injury?
A personal injury is defined as a physical or psychological injury that is caused by another. An individual or company may act negligently or intentionally or may be held strictly liable for causing injury to a person. Lawsuits involving personal injuries are handled in civil court, where financial penalties are enforced, as opposed to criminal court where criminal penalties such as imprisonment are enforced.
What is negligence?
General negligence may be described as any failure to act with proper caution or care, when this causes harm to another. A good way to determine whether a person was negligent is to ask oneself: "Would a reasonably prudent person have acted in the same manner if put in the same or similar circumstances?" If the answer is no, the person may have been negligent.
What is liability? How do I know who should be held liable for my injuries?
According to Encarta Dictionary, liability is defined as: "legal responsibility for something, especially costs or damages". If someone else caused your injuries, intentionally or unintentionally, they may be held liable. This means they would pay for your medical care, lost earnings and other damages associated with your injuries.
What does it mean that someone can be held "strictly liable"?
Strict liability involves a situation where a party is held legally accountable for causing injury to a person regardless of that party's particular intention or negligence. For example, manufacturers of defective products are held liable if consumers are injured while using a product as directed. The injured consumer does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent or intentionally produced a poor product, only that the product itself was defective and caused the consumer's injuries.
What is financial compensation?
Financial compensation is a term used to describe money paid by an at-fault party (the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit) to the injured party or representative of the injured party (the plaintiff). This money is meant to compensate the plaintiff for the losses and/or injuries that the defendant caused.
What is the difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages?
Compensatory damages are paid to a plaintiff in a personal injury suit in order to help the plaintiff rebuild to the same or similar situation as before the injury occurred. Compensatory damages may include money for medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering and future medical expenses. Punitive damages are meant to penalize the defendant. Whether a plaintiff may receive punitive damages will vary depending on state law and the particular case at hand.
I slipped and fell on someone else's property. How can I know whether it is their fault or mine?
If you were injured in a slip and fall accident on another's property, they may be held responsible for your injuries if their negligence caused your accident to occur. For example, the property owner may have known of a missing stair but failed to post a warning sign or get it repaired in a timely manner. If you fell while walking down that staircase, it is possible that the property owner would be held accountable. Because every case is different, it is important to have your lawyer thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your accident to determine who is to blame.
What are some of the factors that will influence what my personal injury case is worth?
The primary factor that will influence the value of a personal injury case is the extent of physical injury that you have experienced. More serious injuries result in higher medical bills, more time away from work and long-lasting consequences such as a permanent disability or an inability to return to work at all. The value of a personal injury claim may be determined based on medical bills, lost earnings, future medical care, future loss of earnings and the extent of emotional trauma you have experienced.
If I lost a loved one, can I move forward with a lawsuit against the at-fault party?
If you lost a loved one, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or company that caused your loss. For example, a drunk driver may have claimed the life of your spouse or another loved one. In this situation, the drunk driver may be held accountable for your loved one's medical bills, funeral costs and lost earnings as well as your pain and suffering, loss of companionship and other losses.
If I was injured at work, do I file a personal injury lawsuit?
Depending on the cause of your injuries, it is possible that you may be able to seek workers' compensation benefits and financial compensation by way of a personal injury lawsuit. This would apply if a third party (someone other than your employer or a co-worker) is to blame for your injuries, such as a manufacturer of a defective tool or piece of equipment.