Personal Injury Law: How Do I Know if I Deserve Money for my Injury?

March 29 2016

It is not always exactly clear to an injury victim whether they have standing to file a legal claim following an accident. There are specific rules to this determination and many times it takes consultation with a personal injury attorney regarding potential material case facts. Regardless of the situation, it is always necessary to retain an experienced personal injury attorney when injuries are significant and the case could be a high-value claim. Personal injury claims are often strongly contested, and having an effective and knowledgeable attorney can be the difference in actually being made whole or merely receiving a low settlement offer from the respondent insurance company adjuster.

What is “tort” law?

Personal injury claims are classified as tort law, which is essentially judge-made common law. The legal term refers to a “wrong” being perpetrated to the injured party, and the claim is decided by the bulk of the evidence based on a totality of circumstances. Tort claims that are not filed properly from the beginning can be dismissed from court when the judge finds the injured plaintiff has no common law standing to file suit. In a civil tort claim, the plaintiff legal counsel effectively becomes the prosecutor of the case and must prove that an injury occurred to their client and that the respondent party was negligent in some respect to a duty of care or actually caused the injury directly.

Case Evidence Documentation

The importance of documentation cannot be overstated when legal action is necessary to recover damages resulting from an injury. Actually, many injury claims don’t go near a courtroom when the responsible insurance company negotiates the settlement in good faith. The settlement policy of the insurance company is often based on the size of the company and their position on fighting obviously valid claims. However, this is not always the case and having solid legal counsel can be necessary, especially in complicated cases. Always gather as much documentation as possible, such as medical bills and professional diagnosis, and bring them on the first consultation with your attorney. Even though your attorney will have access to all of the necessary paperwork at a later date, this can help your prospective lawyer determine the validity and value of your personal injury claim.

Comparative Negligence

All provinces use comparative or contributory negligence doctrine when settling injury claims. Using an auto accident as an example, all drivers involved in an accident are assessed for their part in the causation of the accident. An injured claimant may then be restricted from receiving the maximum in damages according to the percentage of negligence they share in the accident. In extreme cases, an injured victim may not receive any damage amount when they have directly caused the accident or inflicted the injury. Establishing legal standing is not always as simple as identifying others involved in the crash. Remember, each party will probably have a competing version of events. Statements made to officers who are investigating the incident can also be included on the accident report, so taking fault for an accident during questioning can be problematic.

Collectible Compensatory Damages

Personal injury victims are limited with respect to what actual damages they may claim for recovery. Financial recovery is available for medical bills associated with the injury, as well as expenses for meeting medical and court appointments. Lost wages can also be a significant contributor to the value of a personal injury claim, which will require documentation to support the final damage figure. The primary area where an injured plaintiff can enhance the value of the claim is non-economic pain and suffering claims. These claims amounts are usually based on legal precedents or legislated caps and are usually controlled by the court.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages normally only apply in cases of very bad misconduct by the Defendant or their attorney and are usually assigned by a sympathetic jury. When punitive damages could be achievable, your personal injury attorney can use the possibility of taking a case to trial as a leverage in settlement negotiation, encouraging the insurance adjuster to increase an offer or negotiate immediately. It is important to remember that punitive damages are “exemplary” damages that are not usually assigned by the court. In fact, many times the court actually restricts the level of punitive damages allowable by law. It is still a legal measure that can be used in egregious cases of misconduct, after the fact, by the insurer or their insured.

Anyone in Edmonton and surrounding communities who may have a personal injury claim should contact our law firm and let us investigate the potential of injury claim. Consultations are free and we will do a thorough evaluation of your claim while identifying all potential negligent parties and avenues of compensation. Do not merely assume that you do not have the chance of recovering damages from a personal injury. Let us put our years of legal experience to work for you.