If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident, it’s important to understand the basics of what the personal injury lawsuit process entails. Far too often, injury victims assume that they either do or do not have a strong case to make, based on a misunderstanding of the ins, out, and aims of this process. As a result, they may dismiss the opportunity to seek compensation to which they are rightfully entitled or they may fight too hard for too little reward.
By familiarizing yourself with the basics of this process and then seeking personalized feedback from an attorney in re: your unique circumstances, you’ll place yourself in the best possible position to make the right choice for you and you alone. Just keep in mind that every personal injury case is different and that without personalized professional guidance from a lawyer, it will be virtually impossible to determine how the general “rules of the game” will apply to your specific circumstances.
Causation and Fault
As an experienced car accident lawyer – including those who practice at Davis, Johnson & Kallal – can explain in greater detail, the personal injury process turns on the notion of fault. The first step in building a personal injury case involves an accurate determination of what caused the collision in question. Once these causes have been identified, a skilled attorney can assess who – if anyone – may be held legally and financially liable for the harm resulting from the crash. This liability determination is essentially known as “fault.”
Someone can only be held legally responsible for being at fault for a crash if three particular legal criteria can be proven:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care under the law (in a car crash case, this usually refers to the obligation that all motor vehicle operators have to drive safely)
- The defendant breached that duty by engaging in reckless, negligent, or intentionally dangerous conduct
- The defendant’s conduct directly caused the victim’s injuries.
If all of these standards can be proven, the victim likely has a strong case to make. However, it is worth noting that some states limit a victim’s ability to seek compensation in the event that they were partially responsible for their own harm. For example, the state of Wyoming only allows victims to pursue compensation under these circumstances if they were 50 percent or less responsible for their own injurious circumstances.
Every state also imposes a so-called “statute of limitations” on personal injury lawsuits. This means that if a victim does not file civil action within a specific period of time – usually two or three years – they will be barred from seeking compensation thereafter.
Yet, it’s important to speak with a lawyer far sooner than months or years after a crash. Lawyers need to start collecting and preserving evidence as quickly as they can for a client’s benefit. Failing to make proactive effort in this regard could ultimately compromise or – to be blunt – tank a victim’s opportunity to seek any compensation that they may deserve.