You were in an accident — perhaps a car accident, construction accident, or a slip and fall accident. You were injured. While you may feel that another person is responsible for your accident and your injuries, you may not be sure if you have a personal injury case.
Factors of a Personal Injury Case
There are 4 factors that must exist in order for you to have a case: you must have suffered an injury, your injury must be the fault of another person, there must be source of financial recovery, and your claim must not be too old.
- Do you have an injury? You must have an injury that can be documented by a medical professional. It is not enough to say that your back hurts or that you have a headache. Your injury must be diagnosed, treated and formally documented by a medical professional. In other words, you have to show that you are not pretending to be injured.
- Was the accident another person’s fault? Your injury cannot be purely due to your own negligence. For example, if you are walking down the street texting and accidentally walk into a telephone pole, ending up with a huge gash on your forehead, only you are at fault.
As Rhode Island is a comparative negligence state, in order for you to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit another person must have been at least partially at fault. Even if you were 99% at fault and another person 1%, it is possible for your to recover damages. However, your damage award will be reduced by the amount of your fault compared to the fault of the other person.
- Is there a source of recovery? In order to have a claim, there must be a source of recovery to pay any damages that you are awarded should you prevail. Typically, the money will come from insurance such as auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, malpractice insurance, or business insurance.
- Have you waited too long? Your accident must have occurred within the past 3 years. With a few exceptions, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Rhode Island is 3 years from the date of the injury. If you fail to bring your claim within that time period, your case will be considered stale and you will be forever barred from bringing your claim. This is true even if evidence overwhelmingly points to someone else as the cause of your injuries.
Factors in Establishing the Value of Your Claim
Once it is established that you do have a claim, you may wonder how much your claim is worth. While it is hard to assess the amount of damages to expect, factors that will impact a personal injury damage award include:
- Seriousness of Injury. In any personal injury case, the successful plaintiff will be awarded compensation to cover past, and in some cases, future medical expenses. The more severe the injury, the more you will be awarded for medical expenses.
- Your Job. Another common component to a damage award is lost wages. The higher your income was at the time of the injury, the higher your damage award for lost wages. If you are not able to continue work at the same type of job earning the same money, you may also receive compensation for loss of earning capacity.
- Type of Injury. Some injuries are particularly painful, incapacitating or disfiguring such that you may be awarded a significant sum for pain and suffering. For example, if your injury results in a limb being amputated or a permanent scar on your face, you will likely receive more for pain and suffering then if you broke your arm.
- Shocking Behavior. Your total award may also include punitive damages. Punitive damages are occasionally awarded in cases where the actions of the defendant that caused the victim’s injuries, were so shocking, so egregious that the court feels that defendant needs to be “punished.” Examples, of egregious or shocking behavior is drunk driving.
- Source of recovery. The amount of insurance or other resources available will impact the amount of award. If the pockets are deep, the award is likely to be higher. If an employee of a local superstore is negligent causing you to be injured, while you could sue that the minimum wage employee, it would be more lucrative to sue the superstore as you would be able to recover more money.
We Can Help You Decide
Do you think you might have a valid personal injury claim? The Providence, Rhode Island law firm of Gemma Law Associates, Inc., will thoroughly evaluate your case and provide you with all your legal options. Contact Gemma Law Associates, Inc., today at 855-631-1448.