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A person injured by another's negligence may file a lawsuit against the party at fault to pursue compensation. The person filing the lawsuit is the plaintiff. The party being sued is the defendant. Defendants in personal injury lawsuits can hire a personal injury defense attorney to represent them.
Personal injury cases are frequently based on the legal theory of negligence. In such cases, plaintiffs need to prove that the defendant was negligent. This involves showing that:
A personal injury defense lawyer is often tasked with disproving one of these elements to have the case dismissed or succeed at trial. The lawyer may attempt to get a case dismissed on procedural grounds, like failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
In personal injury cases, there are some common defenses that a defense lawyer often employs. These include:
In a few jurisdictions, if plaintiffs were in any way responsible for their injuries, they are completely barred from recovering damages. This is called pure contributory negligence. For example, a plaintiff who is found to be even only 1 percent at fault for the accident while the defendant was 99 percent at fault could not recover any damages.
This is rather harsh, so many states have comparative negligence laws instead. These laws allow plaintiffs to prevail in a lawsuit, but the damages will be reduced based on the percentage of responsibility they had causing their injury. For example, take a plaintiff that was 10 percent at fault for an accident that resulted in $100,000 in damages. The maximum amount of compensation would be $90,000. In some states, those who are 50 percent or more responsible for their injuries are barred from collecting damages, while in others it has to be greater than 50 percent.
Sometimes it makes more sense for a plaintiff to settle out of court than to go to trial. Publicized litigation can affect a business's reputation, for example. To reach a settlement, the plaintiff and defendant, with their respective attorneys, negotiate for the defendant to pay the plaintiff a specific amount. A settlement is often much less costly for the defendant as attorney fees may be much less than a verdict.
In some situations, the defendant's insurance policy will pay for a defense attorney. This may be the case when car insurance or homeowners insurance is involved. In such cases, the insurance company will hire the lawyer, so contacting the carrier is often a good first step after an accident or injury.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury defense attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.