Personal Injury Case Checklist

What is a personal injury case?

A personal injury claim does not require physical injuries. Personal injury refers to a defendant’s failure to exercise care in a way that results in injury to another person or their property. 

Have you been involved in an accident? Follow the personal injury checklists below. They will help you through the claim process: 

  • Get safe. If you or others are in danger, move.
  • Get help. If anyone is hurt or a danger continues, call 911. Err on the side of caution. 
  • Get information. If you are safe and well enough, get party and witness contact information.  Take a few pictures. If the police respond, they will probably do this.
  • Give required information. If you have trouble remembering details, you may have a serious injury. 
  • Notify your insurer as soon as you are able to do so. Your policy may require early notification.
  • Get seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Your body may be masking the pain of an injury.
  • If needed, go to the hospital or urgent care.
  • If your symptoms change, tell your doctor. 
  • If you suffer side effects, tell your doctor.
  • Keep your medical and therapy appointments. 
  • Take drugs as prescribed. 
  • Delayed medical care, failure to keep appointments, and failure to take prescription medication all decrease the perceived seriousness of your injury, and therefore the damages recovered.
  • Get legal advice. You may be able to resolve your case yourself, by negotiation or in small claims court. But the only way to be sure you are not missing something legally important is to talk to a lawyer.  Most will be happy to talk about your case without charge. 
  • Call ahead and ask what information to bring to the appointment.
  • If you want to stop treating or switch providers, tell your lawyer first.

Types of Recoverable Damage

You may recover damages for:

Physical injury;

Psychological injury:

Emotional injury;

Damage to one’s reputation or credit rating;

Injury-related medical expenses;

Lost wages;

Lost earning capacity;

Permanent disability and related expenses

Damage to quality and enjoyment of life;

Properly damage;

Loss of consortium (by a plaintiff’s spouse or domestic partner).

Fault Issues 

More than one party to an accident may be at fault to some degree. Your degree of fault may affect the ability to recover at all in some jurisdictions. It will certainly affect the amount you can recover. Get a local attorney’s advice about the rule in your state.  

Remember that while a police incident report l may give an opinion about who is at fault, this is an issue for the court, so you can contest it. But a report against you will complicate your case.

How many personal injury claims are there each year?

Over 30 million people are injured in the United States each year. Of course, not all of these injuries are someone else’s fault, but millions are, and there is a fair chance that you will be a party to a personal injury claim. 

While there are no precise numbers, one 2016 estimate puts the number of personal injury claims at 409,000. 

This number is based on a federal estimate of slightly over 16,300 tort trials per year,  and a Department of Justice estimates that 4% of cases go to trial. 

But other research puts the trial rate at 2%, meaning the number of claims would be twice as high.  

There were an estimated 3.1 million automobile accidents in 2019, involving 5.2 million drivers and generating 4.5 million injury-related medical consultations. While not all of these will give rise to claims, even a ten percent rate would be more than the estimate.  

Automobile accidents account for only sixty percent of personal injury claims. So, if only 10% of accident-related medical visits led to claims, there would still be another 300,000 non-automobile personal injury claims. The 10% figure seems unreasonably low, but there are no data either way.

The 2016 estimate does not account for those claims that never reach court at all. These are resolved by negotiating between a party or attorney and the insurance adjuster, or through early mediation. 

Based on these facts, this author believes that there are millions of uncounted personal injury claims each year.

What’s the average recovery in a personal injury case?

Department of Justice statistics say the average recovery in a personal injury case is $31,000. But this number is limited to cases passing through the courts.  It is brought down by cases the plaintiff loses. Also, it covers many different types of cases. Each type of case has a different average payout:

Auto accident cases average payouts of about $6300, according to insurance industry sources. But this includes cases where the plaintiff is partly responsible and those where the only issue is property damage. 

Attorneys say most auto accident recoveries range between $19,000 and $75,000.

The average medical malpractice payout is $242,000.

The average dog bite payout is $44,750

The average premises liability settlement of a case that goes to court is $74,400.  Attorney estimates of the average slip and fall settlement (the most common type of premises liability) range between $13,000 and $45,000.

Intentioned wrongdoing, such as assault, battery or discrimination results in a median settlement of $100,000. There is no insurance coverage for intentional wrongdoing.

These averages do not cover all types of personal injury. They are only a guide. Your recovery will depend on the circumstances of your case.

How are settlement amounts determined?

Damages someone can quantify, such as:  

Present and future medical bills;

Car repairs; Other property loss or damage 

Injury-related household services;

Adaptive equipment; 

Past and future loss of income

Loss of earning capacity.

These makeup part of the settlement. 

General damages are for items that have no fixed value:

Pain and suffering, 

Loss of enjoyment of life;

Emotional distress;

Loss of consortium.

Determining a value for general damages is more difficult. Usually, it is multiple medical bills. This ranges from 1.5 to 3 times medical special damages in mild to moderate injuries all the way up to 5 times and sometimes more for severe cases. What multiple to use is mostly a matter of experience. Many factors are considered

The intensity of physical, mental, or emotional pain;

The duration of physical, mental, or emotional pain:

Expected future physical, mental or emotional pain;

Length of any hospital stay;

Nature and duration of any treatment for a physical, mental or emotional injury;

Nature and duration of any physical, mental or emotional disability;

Demand letters and negotiations 

After the evidence has been collected, the next step is to send a detailed demand letter clearly describing the incident, your damages, and a high but reasonable demand for settlement backed up by supporting evidence.  Be careful, because evidence that helps you on one point may hurt you on another, and this will not always be obvious. 

Be aware that you will have to make concessions during the negotiation process. Otherwise, the defendant

If you have suffered moderate to severe injury and a significant amount is at stake, if you are allegedly to blame, if liability is seriously contested, or if there are serious insurance coverage issues, you owe it to yourself to retain an attorney for your personal injury claim. But where injuries are minor and liability is clear or even uncontested, many people do successfully pursue their own claims.

Whether you retain an attorney or negotiate independently, the information and advice in the checklists above will help you better understand the process of personal injury cases as you move forward.

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