Personal Injury Rights Explained
The Initial Steps
When you hire personal injury attorneys, you are hiring a law firm that will act as a team working closely with you and your family for some time to come. You should hire a firm with whom you feel comfortable because they will be guiding you and your family through a difficult time. The firm should be one which has been there before and knows the ropes – one that has successfully handled many similar cases. That firm must also be able to bear all of the considerable up-front costs necessary for the team of lawyers, paralegals, clerks and experts necessary to prepare and successfully litigate your case.
There are a number of firms which possess these qualities. Perhaps the most important decision for you is to choose the firm which best suits your particular needs.
There are several actions a personal injury law firm must accomplish as soon as it begins working on the case:
- Ensure that the injured person has received all necessary treatment and that all of the relevant records and bills are procured and organized
- Determine which individual and/or entity is or may be at fault
- The personal injury attorney may also have a choice as to whether to file in federal or state court, and thus is able to select the more advantageous forum.
- Determine which “notice” provisions are required
- Develop a discovery strategy
Selecting the Jurisdiction and Choice of Law for Filing the Personal Injury Claim
An essential consideration in a case is to determine which courts are legally empowered to hear the case. These courts are said to have “jurisdiction” over the causes of action and the parties. The personal injury attorney looks at all the states that could hear the case and selects the state in which the resultant law will best encompass your interests. The personal injury attorney must balance the applicable states’ laws, the profiles of the judges who might hear the case, and the jury makeup of the various courts in which the suit may be filed. Only after weighing and balancing these factors can an appropriate decision be made as to where the action should be filed. Then, of course, the attorney must scrupulously follow whatever detailed procedural rules apply to the chosen jurisdiction.
The Preparation and Prosecution of the Claim or Suit
Traditionally, defendants settle claims favorably to a claimant only when they must; they tend to hold onto a claim as long as possible in order to keep their money actively earning interest for them and in anticipation of possibly a less expensive settlement later. Optimum settlements usually occur because the defendants recognize that your law firm will be ready to conduct an aggressive, vigorous trial if they do not come to reasonable settlement terms.
To counter this tendency, the attorneys representing the claimant must maintain constant pressure on the defendants. This is done by successful preparation and prosecution of the claim.
Damages in Personal Injury
When injured by someone’s negligence or careless conduct, the law entitles you to payment for your “damages” (losses). The law on damages varies from state to state, but the different kinds of damages that the law allows you to receive are:
1. Compensatory Damages:
2. General Damages: Money for all the physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, shock, shortened life expectancy, predisposition to future injury, and disruption of your life. These damages are very often the largest dollar value in a personal injury case but vary widely due to individual circumstances, e.g., a scar on a model may be very different in value from the same scar on a boxer.
3. Loss of Consortium: Money paid to your spouse because of the loss of your love, care, services and cohabitation (sex) while you are recovering from your injuries.
4. Dillon vs. Legg Damages: Named after a famous case, this is compensation to an immediate relative who saw, heard, or immediately came upon, a serious injury to a close family member as payment for their emotional shock and trauma from witnessing the injury.
5. Punitive or Exemplary Damages: Punitive damages are a monetary penalty deemed necessary to punish and deter a defendant and other potential wrongdoers from committing the same or similar willful, malicious and intentional acts. The amount of punitive damages is usually based, in part, on the net worth of an individual or company. These damages can, and often do, amount to many millions of dollars against wealthy companies in the rare cases when such damages are awarded.
The respective defendants and their insurance companies will most certainly be represented by legal experts and claims adjusters with years of experience in just this area of law. They will have the research staff, nationwide databases, the ability to conduct legal research in all of the fifty states, and the financial means to vigorously defend your case for their own ends. Baum Hedlund can and will, given the opportunity, level the playing field and do the same for you.