When an individual is injured in an accident, the first challenge is dealing with the injuries and damages the accident causes. That can be a significant ordeal, and even with insurance the out-of-pocket costs can add up quickly. When the accident is clearly another person’s fault and that person refuses to take responsibility, the injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit.
If you’re considering filing a lawsuit, this blog post discusses several important considerations. Although it focuses on New York law, the concepts apply virtually anywhere.
For example, statutes of limitations govern how long you have to file a suit. While most statutes of limitations for personal injury are three years, there is some variation from state to state. In addition, there are exceptions to the three-year limit. In New York, for example, claims against public agencies need to be filed within 90 days; and most states have liberalized the statutes of limitations for injuries that may take years to develop.
There’s also the question of who has the burden of proof. In most personal injury cases, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. In other words, you need to prove that the other party acted negligently, failed in a duty, or was otherwise at fault for the accident. The more complex your case is, the longer it is likely to take. If the proof is blatant, the case may settle much more quickly.
Especially in cases where the fault is obvious and the proof incontrovertible, many plaintiffs elect to pursue lawsuits on their own, thinking that they will benefit more from the settlement if they don’t have to pay an attorney. While this is technically acceptable in most jurisdictions, having an attorney on your side dramatically reduces the likelihood that your case will be dismissed due to a procedural error; it improves the presentation of evidence and the production of compelling legal briefs; and the presence of an attorney almost always increases the amount of the award significantly.