Personal injury cases result from injuries to a person are caused by the negligent or intentional acts (or failures to act) of another. Also known as torts, they fall into two classes: negligence and intentional torts. Negligence cases include automobile accidents, slip and falls, products liability, and medical malpractice cases. Intentional Torts include cases arising out of intentional acts such as assault, battery, wrongful imprisonment, defamation and abuse of process. The injuries to the person can be physical and/or emotional. The injured person may incur two types of damages: “special damages” including medical bills, lost wages, travel expenses; and “general damages”, also known as pain and suffering, which includes the loss of enjoyment of life resulting from the physical injuries caused by the other person’s actions or failure to act.
A claim begins on the day a person is injured as a result of an act or omission by another. These are, of course, unfortunate incidents which can result in anything from minor bumps and bruises to life altering injuries and even death. Hopefully, the injuries are minor, require little or no treatment, resolve in a short period of time and leave no residual pain.
Injuries are not always minor. In those cases where treatment is needed, the most important thing for the injured person to do is to begin treatment immediately. There are serious medical and legal detriments caused by delaying treatment for an extended period of time. Your health should be the primary concern whether or not you are making a claim against another party. In some cases, delays in treatment or terminating treatment too early can make recovery time longer and lead to a less than full recovery.
Sometimes treatment begins at the scene of the accident with first aid or treatment by paramedics or ambulance staff. Sometimes treatment will begin later. It is not unusual for a person not to feel injured at the time of the accident and begin to feel pain later. We rely on the expertise of doctors and medical providers to make the best treatment decisions for each person and to determine what injuries were caused by the accident. We can discuss the treatment options with you and/or the health care providers, but medical decisions are, ultimately, made by the patient and the doctor(s). We can also recommend doctors who are familiar with treating injuries that arise during personal injury claims.
Investigations by the potentially responsible parties, their agents or insurance companies begin at various times after the injury. Remember, none of these people are on your side – it is their job to limit the amount of exposure to damages they may have to pay. In cases such as automobile accidents involving commercial vehicles or taxis and slip and falls on business properties, the investigation begins at the scene. In those cases, the potentially responsible party or its agents may take photographs, measurements or statements at the scene. Under these circumstances, it is important to be precise in any statements you make regarding what you saw, heard or felt. The need for accurate statements applies to witnesses as well as injured persons.
Understand that the other party, its insurers and their agents do not want to pay out more than they should – they are all in business to make a profit. They want to ensure that the potentially responsible party was at fault for causing the accident and that the claimed damages (i.e. medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering) are reasonable, necessary and related to the accident.