If you’ve been injured in an accident and you’re thinking about filing a personal injury claim, you might feel overwhelmed by the process at first. This is particularly true if you haven’t been involved in any lawsuits or legal proceedings before. Although it’s likely in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney Atlanta, Georgia trusts about your situation during a free case evaluation, here’s a brief look at some concepts that may help you better understand personal injury litigation.
Complaint: The first step in a personal injury case is to file a complaint. This document details why the plaintiff is filing a lawsuit and against whom they are filing. Many personal injury complaints never actually make it to the courtroom; instead, both sides agree to negotiate a settlement through mediation or arbitration.
Burden of Proof: In personal injury cases, the injured party seeking financial damages (the plaintiff) will be responsible for proving that the party against whom they are seeking damage (the defendant) is liable. In civil cases, the plaintiff needs to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant is liable; this is a slightly less strict requirement than in criminal cases where the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty.
Liability: In criminal cases, the prosecution aims to prove that the defendant is guilty of a crime; in civil cases (including personal injury claims), the plaintiff aims to prove that the defendant is liable for their actions. Strict liability is another common phrase you may hear when discussing personal injury cases. This is the concept that someone might be held liable for causing injury even if there was no wrongdoing or malicious intent. Strict liability is more common in product defect cases, where a manufacturer or retailer might be held responsible if their product injured a consumer.
Negligence: This is a key component in the majority of personal injury cases. In the legal industry, negligence refers to someone’s extreme carelessness, lack of inaction, or blatant wrongdoing. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove four key things:
- The defendant had a duty of care toward the plaintiff (i.e., the defendant had some sort of responsibility to act with a reasonable amount of care)
- The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care
- This failure resulted in the plaintiff’s injury
- The injury resulted in real damages, such as medical bills or extreme pain and suffering
Intentional Torts: The majority of personal injury cases are considered unintentional torts or negligent torts because they involve someone’s accidental wrongdoing. However, personal injury lawsuits can also be filed for intentional damage, and these are called intentional torts. Examples of intentional tort offenses include assault and battery, sexual assault, false imprisonment, and trespassing. When a plaintiff wishes to file an intentional tort case, it’s likely that the defendant’s actions also constitute a criminal offense. This may result in two separate legal cases for the same incident. The plaintiff will likely want to hire a personal injury lawyer to handle the civil case but a separate prosecutor would likely take over the criminal case.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into personal injury and legal terms.