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College 101: Personal Injury Basics

I see a lot of ads for personal injury lawyers (just like everyone else does, I’d imagine!), but I don’t really know much about the law. Seeing all the ads around makes me curious, though. I know that Americans love to sue each other, but how does personal injury law actually work? How easy is it, really, to win money just because you were injured? And how easy is it to be the one who has to pay up — is it something that a normal person should worry about? Experts, what can you tell me about the basics of personal injury law?

Americans do have a bit of a reputation for suing each other, and it’s one that’s backed up by at least some of the statistics. But personal injury law is certainly not limited to the United States, say legal experts at law firms Halifax. In Halifax, Nova Scotia — as well as all around Canada and in many other countries besides our own — there are laws designed to protect people who become injured because of someone else’s negligence.

That “because of someone else’s negligence” part is critical here: without negligence on the part of another party, you don’t have much of a case. It’s one of the things the law demands of personal injury cases in virtually all legal systems — so perhaps you shouldn’t worry too much about being sued! Of course, negligence isn’t the only key to a personal injury claim. Let’s talk briefly about what constitutes a valid personal injury suit.

In order to successfully sue for personal injury in Canada, the United States, and most similar legal systems, you’ll have to show a few things. You’ll have to establish that you were injured in the first place and that you were injured in such a way that it caused you harm: lost wages, for instance, or high medical bills. Next, you’ll have to show that your injury was a result of the accident in question. Finally, you’ll have to prove that the party you are suing is responsible for the accident because of negligence.

Of course, not all cases are equally valid. Some are stronger on one point than on others, and some are so weak that they are dismissed before they become a problem for the defendant. Others — most cases, in fact — are settled out of court. The strength of the case will, of course, affect the value of the negotiated settlement, but the case itself would not, in this case, actually be tested in court. Here’s an interesting fact about lawsuits: very few personal injury lawsuits actually make it to court!

So when should you sue, and when should you be worried about being sued yourself?

Well, legal experts say, you should consult with an attorney if you feel you might have a case against another party — and you should do so quickly. Time is of the essence when you’re dealing with a potential lawsuit, because statutes of limitations and time-sensitive evidence could trip you up later on if you’re not careful.

As for the flip side, your best defense against a personal injury lawsuit is to avoid being negligent! Drive carefully (and take defensive driving courses), maintain your personal and business properties, and take reasonable steps to protect the friends, family, and strangers that pass through your space or encounter you in public. You can’t predict everything, though, so you should always make sure that you carry insurance. Business insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and some forms of car insurance can offer at least some protection against some types of lawsuits, and an “umbrella policy” will cover more.

There is, of course, much more to personal injury law in our country, Canada, and elsewhere than we could fit in this response — but if you are interested, you will find plenty of ways to learn more online, at your local library, or in the classroom.

“The best lighting rod for your protection is your own spine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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