Personal injury claims are governed by state law, therefore what constitutes a personal injury in one state may not constitute a personal injury in another state. When you, or a loved one, is injured it is likely that you will have a number of questions. Some of the more frequently asked questions are answered below.
What is a personal injury claim?
Personal injury claims arise when an accident occurs and someone (plaintiff) is injured because of the actions of another person (defendant). In order to have a viable claim, that injury has to be the result of the defendant’s negligence.
Some of the most common personal injury claims include:
- car accidents
- medical malpractice (injuries caused by a healthcare provider or facility’s negligence)
- slip and falls
- workers’ compensation (workplace injuries)
What should I do first?
If you were hurt in an accident the first step is to seek proper medical treatment. You should keep records of any medical treatment you receive. If you are not severely injured, you should take photos of the scene of the accident and get the name and contact information for any witnesses to the incident.
Should I hire a lawyer?
Lawyers are trained to understand the laws and analyze the facts of a case based on the laws. Most lawyers focus their practice on only a few areas of the law, which allows them to become specialized in that area of the law.
Personal injury attorneys may handle all of the above claims or they may limit themselves to only one or type of claims. A personal injury lawyer is trained to interpret state law based on the facts presented.
There are times when it might not be necessary to hire a personal injury lawyer. For example, if you accidentally hit a parked car in a Charlotte, North Carolina, parking lot. In that case, where liability is clear and there is no injury, except for car damage, dealing directly with an insurance company is likely fine.
If there is any question of liability or there are damages, then it might be best to consult with an attorney. You should make an appointment to consult with an attorney to discuss your case shortly after your accident. Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation. That attorney will discuss the facts of the case with you, review any documentation you have and analyze your claims under North Carolina law. That attorney will be able to advise you if they believe you have a case. They will tell you who you can bring a claim against, explain how the law pertains to your particular facts, and advise you as to what damages they believe you might be able to recover.
Is there a certain time frame in which I need to file a claim?
Yes. The statute of limitations is the time frame in which you have to file a claim. If you do not file within that time frame, then your case may be kicked out of court. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. In North Carolina, most personal injury claims will need to be filed within three years of the date of the accident, or the discovery of the injury. There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, therefore it is important that you discuss your claim promptly with an experienced attorney who can advise you about the appropriate statute of limitations.
Is there insurance in a personal injury claim?
There may be insurance to cover the cost of some of the claims. For example, in a car accident case the driver of the other car should have car insurance. In a medical malpractice case, the doctor should have medical malpractice insurance.
It is important to keep in mind that when dealing with an insurance company, the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, not you. The insurance company will gather information, with the aim of paying the least amount possible. Therefore, if you are contacted by an insurance adjuster it might be best to have that person call your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, then you could have the adjuster contact your insurance company.
Can an attorney tell me how much I can get if I bring a personal injury claim?
No attorney can tell you how much you will recover. Personal injury claims, like most legal claims, are dependent upon the specific facts of the case. An attorney can, based on experience, tell you what they have seen other people in similar situations recover.
What if the accident was partly my fault?
Whether you can recover damages if you were partly at fault depends largely on what state you are in. North Carolina is one of only a few states that follows a pure contributory negligence theory. Under the pure contributory negligence theory, if you were partially at fault for the accident and your injuries then you will likely be unable to recover any damages. Once again, this is a situation where it would be best to consult with a personal injury lawyer promptly.
How long does it take to bring a personal injury claim?
This is a question to which there is no straightforward answer. The majority of personal injury cases end in a settlement, rather than a trial. Settlement can be with the defendant or with the defendant’s insurance company. Settlement is often quicker than going to trial but it can still take a long time. Simple cases, where liability is not in question and the injuries are minor, settle more quickly than those where the injuries are more substantial and liability is in question. This is particularly true in a contributory negligence state like North Carolina where the plaintiff’s fault is critical.
Will I need to sign anything?
Yes. In order to get your money you will need to sign a release. A release is exactly what it sounds like, a release (or forfeit) of any legal claims you may have against the defendant. If you sign a release, and then later discover additional injuries, you will not be able to recover for those injuries.
Discuss Your Personal Injury Case with Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys
The Charlotte, NC lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal injury lawyers. They are available to discuss your personal injury with you and help you navigate the legal process if there is a legal claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.