Q: What is personal injury law?

A: Personal injury law is sometimes called tort law. Torts are wrongs committed to the person or property of another and are recognized as legal causes of action because they are an infringement on the rights of an individual. Injury or harm received by the victims of such wrongs provides the basis for a claim for damages by the injured person.

Q: Are there different kinds of torts?

A: Yes, they are generally grouped according to the nature of the wrongdoer’s conduct:

They are as follows:

Intentional tort – the defendant knew injury could occur as a result of his or her actions or inactions.

Negligent tort – the defendant failed to act prudently.

Strict liability tort – a specific action by the defendant caused the injury or damages rather than negligence on the part of the defendant.

Q: What are the most common personal injury lawsuits?

A: The most common personal injury lawsuits involve motor vehicle accidents or car wrecks; however dog bites and slips and falls are a close second. Sexual abuse and wrongful death may be some of the most heartbreaking cases to be heard in the court system. Denial of civil rights and unfair employment practices, medical malpractice, professional malpractice, product liability, slander and damage to property are just a few of the categories under this umbrella of personal injury law.

Q: What do the courts allow as far as monetary compensation for injuries and losses?

A: Monetary compensation in a personal injury case is called damages. Damages in a personal injury case may include medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, physical pain and mental anguish, disfigurement, and impairment. In cases involving a death, damages may include, pecuniary loss, loss of companionship and society, mental anguish, loss of inheritance, and funeral and burial expenses. A court can also assess punitive damages which serve to “punish” the defendant and deter wrongful conduct rather than compensate the victim for losses. Damages are not for financial gain; they are to compensate the tort victim for human losses in an attempt to restore him or her to some semblance of their former condition.

Q: I think I am being offered a pretty good settlement by the insurance company. Do I really need a lawyer?

A: It is in your best interest to see a personal injury attorney before signing any papers or accepting any settlement amount from the insurance company. Ask yourself, “Does the insurance company have an attorney?” Then ask yourself whether the insurance company has your best interests in mind.

Q: I’m not sure that I want to go to court over this, but I would like to reserve my right to do so. Is this possible?

A: It is advisable to see an attorney experienced with personal injury claims as soon as possible. Although you may not want to file suit right away, be aware that there is a “statute of limitations” for filing a personal injury claim, so your time to file is limited by the law.

Also make certain that, even though you are not sure you want to file suit at this time, you document your injuries and what happened to cause those injuries while the events are still fresh in your mind. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit at a later date, writing things down when they are fresh will make it easier to recall the important details later on.

Q: Will my child or I lose Medicaid if I receive money from a lawsuit?

A: Not if the money you receive is placed in a special needs trust which allows you to receive money and still maintain your Medicaid. You should be aware that a special needs trust does place some restrictions on uses of the money.