Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer
When you are injured in an accident caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness, you could find yourself facing significant financial losses. These injuries can range from fairly minor, like scratches and bruising, to life-changing, like spinal cord and brain injuries. The former often require topical medication and bandaging while the latter can lead to permanent disabilities that prevent you from working from the rest of your life. These are the two extremes; most injuries fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, requiring a victim to take some time off from his or her job to recover and causing him or her to need some medical treatment. Knowing how your injury will affect your future is an important part of handling your personal injury claim. By working with a personal injury attorney, you can get a better sense of the types of expenses you will face in the future and how to prove them in your claim.
The Importance of Medical Intervention After an Accident
After you are involved in an accident, you need to seek medical attention in a timely manner. Do this regardless of how severe you perceive your injury to be – even if you do not think you are injured, have a doctor examine you anyway to determine this conclusively. Some injuries take a long time to become evident. Others become much more severe as they are left untreated. The longer you wait to seek medical attention for your injury, the more difficult a recovery you will face. Put your health and well being first by getting yourself to a doctor as soon as you can after you are involved in an accident.
Your health is not the only reason why you need to seek medical care in a timely manner. Your prospect of receiving an adequate settlement amount through your personal injury claim can also depend on how proactive you are about receiving medical attention for your injury. This is for two reasons:
- You need to show that you are truly in need of the compensation you are seeking; and
- You need to file your claim before the statute of limitations expires.
In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is one year from the date of the accident. This means that you must file your claim within one year. If you miss this deadline, you miss the opportunity to receive compensation for your losses.
You also need to demonstrate that your injuries truly warrant the medical bill compensation you are seeking through your personal injury claim. By taking your time to receive a diagnosis and medical treatment, you are showing the insurance company that you were not in severe pain. Show that you care about your recovery by doing just that – caring enough to get the medical intervention you need to make a full recovery.
Examples of Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury law covers a wide variety of accident types. Basically, any time you are injured because of another party’s negligence, reckless behavior, or failure to remove or warn you of a hazard inherent to his or her property or creation, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses through a personal injury claim. Examples of personal injury claims include:
- Car accidents. When two or more cars are involved in a collision, one or more of the drivers and their passengers may suffer from injuries. Car accidents are one of the most common types of personal injury claim filed in the United States;
- Bicycle accidents. Because of their lack of a protective chassis, bicycle riders can easily suffer serious injuries when involved in collisions with cars and other accidents;
- Dog bites. In Tennessee, dog bites can be complicated. Whether a dog’s owner knew that the dog could potentially be dangerous or not and the geographic location where the dog bite occurred play important roles in determining whether the dog’s owner may be held liable for the victim’s injury;
- Slip and fall accidents. Slip and fall injuries can happen in a variety of situations. A broken step, an unsecured carpet, a loose extension cord, or an uneven area of pavement can send a victim crashing to the ground, suffering injuries like broken bones and head trauma;
- Product liability claims. Manufacturers have the responsibility to protect consumers by ensuring that their products or safe or, as is the case with certain inherently dangerous products, adequately warning consumers of the risks of using these products. When a product is defective or consumers are not made aware of the potential hazards of its use, the manufacturer may be liable for injuries that occur;
- Premises liability claims. Property owners have the responsibility to ensure that their properties are reasonably free of hazards. When an injury occurs because of a hazard that a property owner could have removed or properly cautioned guests against, that property owner may be liable for a victim’s injury;
- Medical malpractice. When an individual is injured or experiences a worsened condition because of negligence or errors on the part of a doctor or other medical staff, he or she may seek compensation for his or her losses through a medical malpractice claim;
- Boat accidents. Boats, like cars, can collide with each other and stationary objects. When an individual is injured in a boat accident, he or she may seek compensation from the negligent party’s insurance provider;
- Pedestrian accidents. Like bicyclists, pedestrians can be injured in collisions with cars and suffer serious injuries; and
- Truck accidents. Tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. This makes it 20 to 30 times heavier than the average passenger car. Collisions between cars and commercial trucks can often be fatal for those in the car because of this extreme difference in power.
What Kinds of Damages May I Seek Through a Personal Injury Claim?
There are many types of damages that a personal injury victim can seek through his or her claim. They are:
Compensation for medical costs. This can include doctor’s visits, hospitalization costs, the costs of medical treatments themselves, prescription drugs, and any medical devices that are deemed necessary for the victim’s recovery or life thereafter.
Compensation for lost wages. When an individual has to leave work because of an injury, he or she may seek compensation for his or her lost wages through a personal injury claim. Depending on the severity of the injury and its impact on the victim’s ability to return to work, this type of compensation can also be sought for missed career opportunities and the loss of future earnings.
Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refers to the economic losses that can be difficult to pinpoint. Examples of pain and suffering include the cost of psychological counseling to work through mental distress after an accident and the cost of topical treatments for scarring and bruising.
If the victim dies as a result of his or her accident or injuries sustained in the accident, his or her loved ones may file a wrongful death claim to recover damages caused by the death. Damages that may be sought through a wrongful death claim include the following:
- Funeral expenses;
- Compensation for the medical care the victim received before he or she died;
- The loss of the victim’s earnings and contributions to his or her household; and
- The victim’s loved ones’ loss of his or her companionship and consortium. This refers to the loss of his or her guidance, mentor ship, and role as a spouse or parent.
What if a Minor is Injured?
If a minor is injured in an accident, his or her parent must file the personal injury claim on his or her behalf. The statute of limitations is “tolled,” or paused, until the victim’s 18th birthday, essentially giving him or her until his or her 19th birthday to file a personal injury claim.
Proving your Personal Injury Claim
With a personal injury claim, you need to prove the following to recover monetary compensation:
- That you suffered an injury that was directly caused by the allegedly negligent party’s actions; and
- That the expenses you are seeking compensation to cover exist because of the injury you suffered.
Which types of evidence are most useful to prove these facts depends on the type of accident that occurred. Some examples of evidence that you may use to prove your personal injury claim’s validity include the following:
Photographs of the accident scene and your injury on the date that it occurred. These photographs tie your injury to the date that you claim you were injured. They can show the scene exactly how it happened, which is especially useful in car and truck accident claims;
Eyewitness testimonies. If any other parties were present when your accident occurred, their testimonies can be very useful in proving to the insurance provider that the negligent party’s actions directly caused your injury. If it is possible to do so, take down the contact information for every individual who was present at the scene of your accident so you can call upon them later for their testimonies;
Your medical records and bills. This is one of the most important pieces of evidence to use in a personal injury claim. Your medical records show that your injury occurred and your bills show exactly how much your treatment cost. Your medical record can include your doctor’s comments confirming the extent of your injury and that it was caused by the accident you sustained;
The official police report. If a police officer attended to your accident and filed an official police report, this can be a very useful piece of evidence for your personal injury claim. The official police report further underscores the fact that you and the negligent party were involved in an accident on the date that you claim you were injured. The official police report might also include the weather conditions and any other environmental factors that were present when your accident occurred;
A record of your lost wages. If you are seeking compensation for lost wages, you will need to prove that you have been out of work because of your injury and that it has affected you financially. You can do this by showing a pay stub or documentation from your employer of your absence from your job; and
A digital reconstruction of your accident. This is generally used for car and truck accidents, but it can be applicable to other types of accident as well. A digital reconstruction is a short animated video that an accident reconstruction specialist creates to show how an accident occurred. The specialist enters all of the contributing factors, such as the negligent driver’s speeding and the wet pavement, into a computer program that then realistically portrays how those factors led to your accident.
As the claimant, you have what is known as the “burden of proof.” This means that it is up to you to prove that the allegedly negligent party’s actions caused your injury and subsequent expenses, rather than the burden being on him or her to deny his or her responsibility for them.
What if I Was Partially At Fault for my Accident?
Few accidents are caused solely by one party’s negligence. Often, more than one party plays a role in creating the conditions that foster an accident. When this happens, it is important to determine the percentage of the responsibility for the accident each party holds.
Tennessee personal injury cases are governed by the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which means that it is possible for a partially negligent party to recover damages for his or her losses in an accident, but these damages are reduced in accordance with his or her level of fault. For example, if two drivers are involved in a collision and one driver is found to be 40 percent at fault, the settlement amount that driver may recover is reduced by 40 percent. So, if that driver sought $100,000 in damages, he or she may only recover up to $60,000. It is important to note that an injured party may only recover damages if he or she is found to be less than 50 percent at fault for his or her accident.
Why Should I Work with a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Although you are not required to work with an attorney to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim, it is in your best interest to do so. Why? Because an experienced Memphis personal injury attorney knows things that you do not know about the process of seeking compensation.
An attorney can help you obtain all of the pieces of evidence you need to support your claim. Although you can provide your medical bills and documentation from your attorney yourself, you might have a more difficult time finding an accident reconstruction specialist or getting in touch with all of the witnesses who were present at your accident. An attorney has the resources necessary to provide you with all you need to support your claim.
An attorney also knows how to negotiate with insurance providers. When you are dealing with a negligent party’s insurance provider, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and agree to a settlement offer that does not cover all of your needs. It can also be easy to make a statement that harms your claim when you do not mean to do so. An attorney can guide you through the interactions you face with insurance providers and coach you about how to answer the questions you might face. Your personal injury attorney will also be able to examine any settlement you are offered and determine whether it is a fair settlement or not. If not, he or she can fight to get you the compensation amount you deserve.