Every day, unsuspecting victims are injured in often preventable accidents. The National Safety Council reports that approximately 55 million injuries occur across the nation every year. These injuries cost billions in damages and alter the lives of millions of victims and their families.
Personal injury law covers a wide range of cases. For example, victims of vehicle collisions, severe burns, dog bites, premises liability accidents, or manufacturer neglect are all eligible to file personal injury lawsuits. Each personal injury lawsuit’s unique circumstances will affect the overall timeline and outcome of the case; however, the following guidelines will explain the various factors of filing a personal injury claim and how they will affect individual cases.
Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases
A statute of limitations refers to the deadline by which a plaintiff must file their claim. Each state has different statutes of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Most states have a two-year statute of limitations; in some cases, however, the statute of limitations may be up to four years or as little as one year. If you have been in a major accident, you must understand your state’s statute of limitation for personal injury claims.
Does Waiting Hurt Your Case?
Generally, the sooner you file your personal injury claim, the better. The closer you file a claim to the date of your injury, the more likely you and witnesses to the incident will accurately remember the details of your accident. Specifically, you must file your claim before the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in your state expires; otherwise, you may forfeit your right to seek compensation.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
You know that you need to file your claim within two years of your injury. However, how long will it take before you see compensation for your injuries? Every personal injury lawsuit is different, so there is no set timeline. However, most personal injury lawsuits are handled within a few months or up to two years.
What Affects the Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit could take 8-18 months to make it to court. One factor that may affect the timeline of your personal injury lawsuit is the state where you are filing your claim. Every state has different procedures in place that may affect the amount of time it takes to bring your case to court.
Additionally, your financial situation could influence the timeline of your claim. Victims in dire need of compensation are more likely to want to settle their claim pre-trial. Settling the case also means that the plaintiff will not be required to pay court costs or a filing fee.
Another factor that could prolong your lawsuit is the issuance and service of the defendant’s summons. The defendant must be alerted of the lawsuit through an official court summons. The summons could take weeks after the claim is initially filed.
What Happens When You Win a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Winning a personal injury lawsuit means that the jury was presented with sufficient evidence to establish the defendant’s liability for your injuries and other losses. Once a defendant is determined to be liable, they or their insurer will pay you directly for the decided settlement amount. The settlement could be paid to you in one lump sum or installments (i.e. a structured settlement).
What Happens If You Lose a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In most cases, the plaintiff in a lawsuit wins all or most of the damages they claim. However, if there is not sufficient evidence to establish the defendant’s liability, it is possible for the plaintiff to receive no compensation. If the court decides that the defendant is not responsible for your injuries, the responsibility for paying for your medical bills or other expenses falls entirely on you. This is the primary reason it is so important that you hire a quality personal injury attorney to represent your claim; once a jury decides that the defendant is not liable for your injuries, you will likely not be able to sue them for compensation again.
However, accident victims who lose their personal injury lawsuit may have other options to seek compensation. Victims can file a claim with their own insurance policy or apply for disability benefits to cover the costs of their medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, look for local organizations that help low-income individuals receive free or low-cost medical care to offset your losses.
Are Personal Injury Settlements Public Record?
The answer to this question depends on how your personal injury claim is negotiated. The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court in pre-trial negotiations. If your personal injury claim is negotiated pre-trial between your attorney and the defendant’s representation, any proceedings (including the final settlement) will be kept out of the public record. That means all of the proceedings will be kept a private matter between you and the defendant.
On the other hand, any personal injury claims that make it to trial will be considered public record. This means that any information submitted to the judge and jury during the course of your trial is made accessible to the public. Submitted information could include information regarding your damages, witness testimonies, and circumstances of your accident. If there is any information you do not want on the public record regarding your case, discuss settling your claim pre-trial with your attorney.
What Happens if My Case Is Dismissed?
There are various reasons a personal injury case may be dismissed. For example, your case could be dismissed if you were alerted of a hearing or trial and failed to show up. Cases are also dismissed due to “want of prosecution.” However, a dismissed case can be retained or reinstated in some cases.
What Happens to Payments if the Case Is Dismissed?
If your personal injury case is dismissed, the defendant will not be required to pay for your losses. There will be no settlement awarded to either party.
How Is a Dismissal Different From Losing Your Case?
Losing a personal injury case means you will not have another chance to seek compensation. On the other hand, if your case has been dismissed, you may still be able to file again. However, filing again means you will need to pay another filing fee.
What Kind of Records Remain After a Case Is Dismissed?
If a civil case is dismissed, no records of your claim will remain on the public record.
Can I Appeal the Ruling?
Appealing a ruling means taking your case to a higher court and asking an appellate judge to review your personal injury case. Judges of the appellate courts can only review the evidence and documentation from the original claim– no new information may be submitted.
Can You Appeal the Result of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Accident victims have the right to appeal a jury ruling in a personal injury lawsuit. In order to appeal, however, you must have grounds for challenging the jury’s verdict. Appropriate grounds could include mishandled evidence, improper court proceedings, or ineffective counsel.
How Many Times Can You Appeal?
In most cases, accident victims can appeal the verdict of their personal injury claim just once. Therefore, the choice of attorney for your appeal is especially important– your appeal is the last chance you will have to win compensation for your injuries.
Can You Use the Same Attorney for Your Appeal?
You have the right to retain the same representation for your appeal. However, if your claim was unsuccessful due to poor quality legal representation, you may consider hiring a new attorney to better represent your case. Even if your attorney was reliable and provided quality representation, appeal claims often require a separate set of skills than ordinary personal injury claims. In most cases, it is advised to find an attorney with experience in your state’s appellate courts.
Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?
If you win your personal injury lawsuit, will you need to plan ahead for a taxed settlement? While most lawsuit settlements are taxable, victims are not required to pay taxes on personal injury lawsuit settlements. Fortunately, accident victims are entitled to keep the entirety of their personal injury settlement without worrying about deducting this income from their taxes.
If You Pay a Personal Injury Settlement, Can You Report it as a Loss?
Paying a personal injury settlement can be a major financial blow, but there are some ways defendants in personal injury lawsuits can find relief. In most cases, settlement losses are considered tax deductible. Therefore, defendants who are ordered to pay a personal injury settlement to the plaintiff can write these losses off. Before deducting this expense from your taxes, consulting with a tax professional is a good idea to avoid potential tax consequences.
What Kind of Income Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
As stated above, personal injury settlements are not considered taxable income. As such, you will not bear a tax burden for your settlement payment, which will not affect government assistance or disability eligibility. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you claim punitive damages as part of your settlement, you may be required to pay taxes.
Does the Court Care How You Spend Your Personal Injury Settlement?
The court has no jurisdiction over how you spend your personal injury settlement. After you receive your settlement money, you can allocate the money how you choose. However, you must spend the money wisely, as the final settlement amount is the only compensation you will receive from the defendant.
What can you use your personal injury settlement for? Accident victims and their families could choose to spend the settlement money on:
Assistance to family
Before spending any of your settlement, make sure you have a cohesive plan. Consider your current financial profile and any impact your accident has had on your wage-earning abilities. In some cases, it may be advisable to meet with a financial advisor (especially in the case of a large settlement) to make a plan for your settlement.
What Factors Into a Settlement Amount?
The cost of personal injury settlements varies greatly from case to case. How, then, can victims estimate the total worth of their damages? The following factors will all contribute to your final settlement amount.
The first and most important component that is factored into a personal injury settlement is the extent of the injury itself. An accident could cause a singular primary injury or result in secondary complications or infections.
Some accidents also cause damage to the victim’s property. For example, in a car accident injury claim, the victim may be eligible to seek compensation for the damage to their vehicle.
Distribution of Fault
Was the defendant entirely to blame for the accident or did the victim share some degree of fault? In some cases, even if the victim is partially liable for the accident, they can still seek compensation proportionate to their distribution of fault.
Pain and Suffering
Some of the worst aftereffects of serious accidents are often invisible. The pain and suffering of accident victims are difficult to quantify but will be a major factor in the final settlement amount.
One of the foremost consequences of a serious accident is the cost of medical attention, surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation victims require. These costs can be staggeringly high and affect not just the victim but often their entire family.
Accidents can result in long-term or permanent injury and/or disability. These severe accident injuries can impact or entirely restrict victims’ short-term or long-term wage-earning abilities. Victims who have been unable to work after their accident can claim the approximate value of their lost wages in their settlement.
Who Pays in a Personal Injury Lawsuit: When and How
Each party in a personal injury lawsuit has different obligations regarding financial responsibility. The obligations depend on the timeline of the personal injury lawsuit and the final verdict.
The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is the party who was injured in the accident. The plaintiff is responsible for paying the lawsuit filing fee and associated court costs.
If the defendant is found to be responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, they will be required to pay the plaintiff within a certain period of time. The court will make the payment deadline clear to the defendant. Failure to pay within this timeline can result in further penalties.
How Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid
Personal injury attorneys generally operate under a contingent-fee contract. These contracts specify what percentage of the final settlement your lawyer will be paid. Therefore, instead of paying your attorney directly, they are compensated based on the total settlement amount.
How Long It Takes to Get a Personal Injury Settlement
Typically, accident victims who have been awarded compensation for their damages will receive a check within six weeks after the verdict. If your check takes longer to arrive, check in with your attorney or the court to make sure your settlement has been processed correctly.
Can I get a pre-settlement loan for my personal injury case?
Yes, there are many options for accident victims who need their settlement money as soon as possible. If your settlement is pending, you can get an advance of your settlement from specialized lenders.
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