Personal injury law is a subset of civil law that focuses on damages to your body, reputation, or emotions. This is in contrast to civil wrongs like property damage. There are three types of wrongs that can be claimed in a personal injury case: intentional wrongs, negligence, and strict liability.
Under the intentional wrong standard, you allege that you were purposely harmed by the defendant. This is the civil version of a criminal charge like assault but may also include defamation or other nonphysical harm claims. By contrast, negligence alleges that the defendant did not act as a reasonable person would have and as a result, you were harmed. A common example of negligence would be a lawsuit after you slipped on a wet floor and broke your hip because there was not a “wet floor” sign. Finally, there are strict liability harms. Strict liability does not take the mental state of the defendant into account because it does not matter. For example, if a manufacturer created a faulty product that injured you, that would be a strict liability charge.
In general, when you feel that you have suffered a bodily, emotional, or reputational injury you should look for a personal injury attorney to advocate for you. If you are in a situation where liability seems unclear, you should hire an attorney to ensure that you are not unfairly assigned liability for the incident. Finally, you may want to hire a personal injury attorney in the event that you are dealing with an insurance company that will not pay out a fair amount to you.
Most personal injury attorneys are paid using a payment structure known as contingency. Contingency is a very pro-client payment format in which a law firm takes no up-front payment or retainer fee. Instead, attorneys working on contingency take their payment from the settlement or verdict amount.
This means that the law firm will absorb any costs associated with the case such as fees for hiring expert witnesses, filing costs, and any ongoing costs for the litigation. In exchange, the law firm will take between 15% and 50% of the verdict amount. While this may seem high, the client will never have to pay their attorney out of their own pocket. Additionally, if they do not win, then the attorney has essentially worked for free.
There is no exact answer as to how long a personal injury law case can take to settle. In some cases it can be a matter of months if both sides are willing to negotiate. However, if one side is not willing to settle, the case will likely drag out for months and go to trial.
While the case is going to trial it can be settled at any time. However, even if you are awarded a verdict for your injuries, the opposition can still appeal the decision. If the appellate court decides to hear the case, you could be looking at a timeline measured in years as opposed to months. Many less scrupulous individuals may attempt to get you to throw in the towel by stretching the case out as long as possible.