How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Personal Injury Case?

If you have suffered a personal injury, then you may not necessarily have legal recourse. As an example, consider an act of God: a severe, unanticipated natural event for which no human is responsible. It may be possible to file a successful claim following damages sustained as a partial result of an act of God (e.g. lightning struck your home, which created the circumstances necessary to prove that your lightning rod was incorrectly installed). But when an act of God is the sole cause of your pain and suffering, a judge is highly unlikely to dedicate any of the court’s time to your case. (Furthermore, serving the defendant in such a case would be just as impossible as it is inadvisable.)

Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Identifying an earthly defendant isn’t enough to guarantee that a personal injury case is valid. The claim must also be filed within a certain period of time, starting when the harm was discovered (or should have been discovered).

The statute of limitations varies depending on the offense, as well as the state it was committed in. In Utah, the statute of limitations for the majority of personal injury cases is four years. If you file a claim for an injury that you suffered more than four years ago, if you were not a minor at the time, the court will nearly certainly dismiss it without further consideration.

Don’t interpret Utah’s four-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims as license to delay filing your own. Immediate action is advised, as that will give your attorney additional time to prepare the strongest possible claim.

The Legal Standard of Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

Negligence is the basis for the majority of personal injury claims. In order to demonstrate that negligence took place, it is necessary to establish four things: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

  • Duty – The defendant owed the plaintiff a legally recognized duty of care. This relationship isn’t necessarily established because the plaintiff purchased the defendant’s product or engaged their professional services. Everyone is obligated to treat everyone else with reasonable care, which they must exercise by avoiding careless acts that could foreseeably cause harm.
  • Breach – The defendant failed to satisfy their duty of care to the plaintiff. The word “breach” is often associated with contract law, but it applies equally to personal injury law. If someone breaches their duty of care to you, they failed to act like a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. For example, if someone lights off fireworks in a public park and hits a bystander with a Roman candle, then they quite likely breached their duty of care to that person.
  • Causation – The plaintiff’s injuries directly resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty. It isn’t sufficient to demonstrate that the defendant acted carelessly. To file a successful claim against them, the plaintiff must additionally show that their injuries were in fact caused by the defendant’s actions. For example, if you incurred a neck injury while playing football in high school, and are then struck by a car years later, you will have to show the injuries came from the crash and not from football..
  • Damages – The plaintiff was harmed as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. The most obvious type of damage in a personal injury claim is the physical injury itself, but it is seldom the only one. Damages typically fall under one of two categories: economic, and non-economic. Examples of economic damages include medical expenses, lost income, and lost potential for future earning. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.

Damages may do more than merely compensate the plaintiff for their injury. In cases where the defendant’s actions are deemed particularly egregious, they may also be ordered to pay punitive damages. In addition to further indemnifying the plaintiff, punitive damages serve a cautionary purpose. They illustrate to the general public that appalling behavior will not go unpunished – even in situations where criminal charges aren’t deemed appropriate.

Free Personal Injury Attorney Consultation

Determining whether a personal injury case is valid is a complex and nuanced process. Though the information in this article provides a rough guideline, only a personal injury lawyer can sift through the facts and arrive at a legally valid conclusion. And even if an attorney does build a rock-solid case, its validity is ultimately decided by the court.

Would you like your best chance at receiving compensation for a personal injury? Then we welcome you to contact Hillyard, Anderson & Olsen today. Our personal injury law firm represents plaintiffs throughout Utah and especially the greater Logan, UT area and Southeast Idaho, and our experienced attorneys are standing by to help you attain justice.