Ask an Attorney: Understanding Personal Injury
The stress and suffering of an injury is so often compounded by sky high medical bills, lost wages, and permanent changes that lead to a decreased quality of life. The worst part: when the injury wasn’t even your fault to begin with.
At McCullers, Whitaker & Hamer, PLLC, our Personal Injury & Wrongful Death team passionately represents clients throughout the Triangle who are dealing with an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. In this post, we’re drawing from our experience in the space to answer a few common questions about what happens during a personal injury claim and what a personal injury attorney can do for you.
In this post:
- What qualifies as a personal injury?
- Is it worth getting a personal injury lawyer?
- What happens in a settlement, and what happens if I don’t accept?
- How does a personal injury lawsuit work?
What qualifies as a personal injury?
Before diving into the meat of the topic, let’s begin by clarifying what a personal injury is and is not.
At a basic level, a personal injury occurs when you’re injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. This means that the other person had a duty to keep you safe, but either ignored their responsibility or simply failed. Examples include car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and other cases where you should have been safe but were not.
If you were also at fault for the accident – say you were speeding, or that you climbed a structure that was visibly broken – your claim may be barred based on North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule. Contributory negligence means that you’re not entitled to any damages if you failed to do your part and look out for your own safety.
Is it worth getting a personal injury lawyer?
The short answer: absolutely. Personal injury can be frustrating and overwhelming – especially if you’re not accustomed to dealing with insurance claims and other parts of the process on your own. By using a personal injury attorney, you gain a dynamic advocate who can easily navigate the back-and-forth while fighting for your fair share of compensation.
Do I have to accept an insurance settlement?
If you choose to settle outside of court, your attorney will begin by putting together a statement, settlement offer, and explanation of the requested amount. This can include facts about the case like costs and medical bills that justify the offer.
After negotiating with the other side to reach a fair sum, your attorney will finalize a written settlement agreement that spells out exactly what you’ll receive.
If a settlement agreement can’t be reached, the case will go to court. For most people, a lawsuit is a less desirable outcome because it requires even more coordination, a longer timeline, and increased costs.
How does a personal injury lawsuit work?
If your case does go to court, here’s what you can expect:
- Claim. First, the personal injury claim will be filed with the court. This will get the process started.
- Response. After the claim has been filed, the other side will be notified of the complaint. They’ll hire their own attorney and, if applicable, let their insurance company know about the lawsuit.
- Discovery. In the leadup to the trial, the case will enter the discovery phase. During this period, each side will dig deeper into the accident to uncover additional information, facts, and relevant documents.
- Trial. Your personal injury case will culminate in a trial. The trial may last one or more days depending on the amount of evidence presented and the number of witnesses and experts who are called to testify.
- Ruling. Finally, the judge will consider all of the arguments and decide who is at fault for the accident and, if necessary, the amount of damages that that losing party must pay to the victim.
Additional questions about personal injury?
There’s a lot more to personal injury law than we’ve discussed today, so feel free to reach out to us to request a consultation or to discuss questions that are specific to your situation and needs.
And if you’re interested in learning about our other areas of expertise, make sure to check out our Judica County Podcast and blog.