When Do You Have a Personal Injury Case?
If you receive an injury because of something another person did or did not do, you may have a personal injury case. For a claim to provide the basis for recovering financial damages, specific requirements of Virginia law must be met.
Negligence of Another Person or Company
Most personal injury cases rely on demonstrating the negligence of another person or company. Generally, that means someone else’s conduct fell short of the legal standard that applies in the circumstances.
Negligence does not necessarily involve the intention to cause harm. It can arise from reckless or careless conduct as well. However, the existence of negligence is not sufficient to provide the basis for a personal injury case. The person’s negligence also must actually cause the injuries suffered.
The circumstances of an accident or injury determine whether negligence existed — and whether it caused the injury. Proving any personal injury case involves a fact-intensive investigation into the situation in which the injury occurred.
Existence of an Injury
Most often, a personal injury involves physical harm to a person. However, a claim also can include emotional or mental injuries documented by medical professionals.
Injuries occur in many different ways. Some of the most common types of personal injury cases involve:
- Injuries from automobile accidents, truck crashes, and motorcycle accidents, as well as bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Injuries suffered in an accident on business or private property (referred to as premises liability cases)
- Injuries inflicted by dog bites
- Injuries received because of a defective product or inadequate warnings on a product (referred to as product liability cases)
The existence of an actual injury is one of the requirements for a personal injury claim. An actual injury is one for which there is a financial loss, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Damages in a Personal Injury Case
The term damages describes the financial recovery in a personal injury case. Compensatory damages include two kinds of compensation:
- Special damages or economic damages reimburse the victim for monetary losses caused by the accident. They include compensation for medical and hospital expenses, lost wages, and lost earning capacity.
- General or noneconomic damages cover items that are more difficult to calculate or quantify. This category of damages includes compensation for pain and suffering, emotional and mental distress, and permanent impairment or disability.
In rare cases, punitive damages, which punish the at-fault person rather than compensate the injured victim, are part of personal injury compensation. Punitive damages are not available in most personal injury cases.
Contributory Negligence of the Injured Individual
Under Virginia law, contributory negligence of the injured individual prevents any recovery for a personal injury claim in most situations. This strict rule sometimes causes unfair results. Unfortunately, it applies to all personal injury cases in the state.
If the victim’s own negligence caused the accident or injury — even if another person was more at fault — the victim recovers nothing. Virginia is one of only five jurisdictions that follow this rule. Other states use a comparative negligence standard, under which a victim’s own contributory negligence does not always prevent recovery.
When Should You Talk With a Lawyer About Your Personal Injury Case?
If you suffered injuries in an accident that someone else may have caused, you probably wonder if you should talk with a lawyer. Sometimes it is important to consult an attorney, and other times it is not necessary.
Generally, you do not need to talk with a lawyer if:
- Your injuries are minor
- You recover quickly
- Your own insurance pays all your financial expenses and losses
- You have no long-term negative effects from the injury
On the other hand, if you suffer severe injuries and long lasting, long-term effects, discussing your case with a lawyer is in your best interest. Without an attorney, you may not recover the full compensation that you and your family deserve.
You should not try to analyze the legal issues (or even the factual issues) in your case by yourself. Determining negligence and contributory negligence depends on fully evaluating the evidence and circumstances of your accident. A personal injury lawyer has the necessary experience, knowledge, and skill to make that evaluation.
Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for your initial consultation, so you lose nothing by talking with an experienced personal injury attorney about your accident. Lawyers also usually take personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, so the settlement or verdict pays the fees and costs.
If you suffered significant injuries in an accident, and someone else may be legally responsible, your primary concern should be recovering from your injuries. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate and analyze your case, handle all the discussions and negotiations with insurance companies, and represent you in court if necessary.
When you have severe injuries, talking with the at-fault person’s insurance company is never a good idea. Insurance companies and adjusters have just one goal: to pay you the lowest possible amount. They use tested strategies and techniques to convince injured victims to settle cases for much less than the victim is entitled to under the law.
Finally, Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury actions. The right to make a claim is lost after that time expires. Talking with an attorney as soon as possible after a serious accident is always advisable.
Talk With a Trusted Virginia Beach Personal Injury Attorney
Jeffrey Brooke is a trusted, respected Virginia Beach attorney who dedicates his practice to helping injured victims and their families. If another person caused your serious injuries, The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help. We always focus on your and your family’s interests and rights and aggressively pursue your case to get the full compensation you deserve. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.