Most people don’t think about a personal injury lawsuit until they’re involved in one. For someone unfamiliar with a personal injury lawsuit, it can make a difficult time even harder.
One of the most famous personal injury cases in the US is that of Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who suffered serious burns after an accidental spill of McDonald’s overheated coffee. The case came after more than 700 prior complaints of burns from too-hot coffee by the company. Ms. Liebeck, who was 79 years old at the time of the injury, was eventually awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages.
While Ms. Liebeck’s case is unusual, it’s just one example of how a person can become injured by someone else’s actions and/or negligence.
What Is A Personal Injury?
Anytime someone is injured by another person’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, it’s called a “personal injury.” This can include physical injury, mental injury, or property damage. They can take the form of:
- Vehicular accidents, including:
- Two cars or trucks
- A car and a truck
- Multiple vehicles
- Premises liability on personal or commercial property, such as:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Negligent security that leads to injury
- Dog, cat, and other animal bites and attacks
- Swimming pool accidents
- Elevator/escalator accidents
- Inadequate property maintenance or hazardous conditions
- Toxic fumes and chemicals
- Workplace and construction accidents
- Product liability, including design and manufacturing defects as well as improper instructions that lead to injury or death
- An establishment that over-serves customer alcohol, leading to a drunk driving accident or other incidents, known as a dram shop case
- Medical malpractice, including:
- Birth injuries
- Prescription drug injuries
- Defective medical devices (i.e., hernia mesh)
- Wrongful death that results from negligence
These are just some examples of personal injuries that can lead to a claim or lawsuit.
A lawsuit isn’t filed immediately. After getting medical attention for your injuries, your next step is to meet with a personal injury attorney. In the initial consultation, you’ll discuss your accident, find out if you have a case, and decide on the next steps. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation and work on a contingency fee basis.
Once you’ve decided on an attorney and agreed to work with them, they will begin an investigation that includes gathering evidence.
When the investigation concludes, the attorney will submit a demand package to the other party. This may be an insurance company or a corporation responsible for the accident. Both parties will negotiate a settlement, which will take some time. Most claims are settled in this negotiation stage without any further action. Those that don’t settle are taken to court.
Going To Court
Preparation for filing a lawsuit includes discovery, depositions, and other hands-on activities in which you will be more personally involved. Mediation follows, with a neutral third party involved to attempt settlement. If mediation does not yield a settlement, a petition is filed, and the case goes to trial. At this point:
- A court date is set
- A jury is picked (if it’s a jury trial)
- Both sides give opening statements
- Both sides present evidence
- Both sides offer closing arguments
- The judge and/or jury award damages
A lawsuit is a long process that will depend on the court’s caseload and other factors. Your attorney will keep the process in motion and keep you apprised of developments.
Why You Should Hire An Attorney
Begin working with an attorney immediately after your accident to protect your interests and preserve your rights. Texas’ statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. Building a case takes time, so it’s important to start immediately.