When someone is injured and it appears to be the fault of another person or party, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “do I have a personal injury case?” Essentially, they want to know whether or not pursuing a personal injury claim is in their best interests.
There are numerous factors that come into play in determining whether or not you have a viable claim, and to really know for sure, it is best to have a conversation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Whether you decide to retain legal representation or not, a skilled and knowledgeable attorney will be able to thoroughly review the specifics of your case and advise you of your legal rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
Important Factors that go into Personal Injury Cases
There are several things that will be looked at when you discuss your case with an attorney. These may include:
The Extent of your Injuries/Medical Treatment
How badly were you injured? Did you just have a few minor scrapes and bruises, or were your injuries more extensive? Whenever you are involved in any type of accident where you may have sustained an injury, it is important to seek medical treatment right away, so your injuries can be properly diagnosed, treated, and documented. Insurance companies will look for any way they can to minimize the amount of compensation they pay out to injured parties, and one way they may do this is by poking holes in your medical claims.
For example, the insurance company might tell you that your injury is not related to the accident in question, because you waited too long to seek treatment. They might also tell you that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries, because they have not been officially documented. Finally, they might say that you failed in your legal duty to mitigate your losses by not getting treated right away.
The bottom line here is that if you seek immediate medical attention, it makes it much harder for the insurance company to dispute your injuries. At the end of the day, if you do only have some minor bumps and bruises, a legal claim may not be worthwhile. But if you suffered moderate to severe injuries, you could be eligible for damages not only for economic losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering and psychological distress. Your medical report will be very helpful in determining whether or not you have a case.
Evidence of Negligence/Liability
Even if you have suffered significant compensable losses because of your injury, you will still need to prove that another party was liable. Sometimes, this is fairly cut and dry, such as if another driver ran a red light and crashed into you. At other times, however, fault may be in question. When this is the case, a thorough investigation will be needed, which may include reviewing the police report, interviewing witnesses, reviewing any available visual evidence, and bringing in accident reconstruction experts and other specialists for assistance.
Proving liability is especially important in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident or event that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering damages. You can be sure that insurance companies will attempt to use Alabama’s defendant friendly legal standard against you, so if there is any question at all over who was at fault, it is absolutely essential to retain strong legal counsel.
Time Elapsed Since the Injury
In Alabama, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury. This means that you have a two-year deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit, otherwise, your lawsuit will most likely be thrown out of court. There are times in which the statute of limitations is shorter, such as if you are suing a government entity, in which case it could be six months or a year depending on which entity you are suing.
The clock starts on the statute of limitations as soon as the injured party knows or should reasonably have known about the injury. There are some cases, such as with repeated exposure to toxic substances for example, when an injury is not discovered until years later. Generally, the clock would start at the first sign or symptom.
If you have extensive injuries, strong evidence of negligence, and you are within Alabama’s statute of limitations, you may have a viable personal injury case. However, you will still need to find out if there are recoverable assets that are worth pursuing. In most accident injury cases, damages are recovered through the defendant’s liability insurance policy. But if the defendant was uninsured or did not have a sufficient amount of insurance, then you may be able to recover compensation through the uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) portion of your own auto insurance policy. If there is not enough available from these sources, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the defendant if he/she has assets that can be recovered.
Unfortunately, there are some instances in which none of the aforementioned sources are available, or there is some available, but it does not come close to covering all of your losses. In such cases, it may not be worthwhile to pursue a personal injury claim, or you will need to significantly lower your expectations. Before deciding anything for sure, however, your lawyer will explore every potential avenue for recovering compensation.
Contact a Seasoned Alabama Personal Injury Attorney Today If you or someone close to you has been injured because of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions, you may or may not have a personal injury case. To find out for sure, get in touch with Alsobrook Law Group today. Call our office at 334.737.3718 or message us online to schedule a free consultation.