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Personal Injury Law Basics

By Aghabegian & Associates on October 14, 2021

You’ve suffered an injury and you think someone else caused it. What do you do? Situations like this happen all the time, and the best course of action you can take is to hire a personal injury attorney to help you file a personal injury claim. Personal injury claims can be filed for a wide variety of disputes, ranging from accidents and defective products to defamation and intentional acts. Some of the most common examples of personal injury issues include bicycle, car, trucking, and motorcycle accidents, dog bites, slip and fall accidents, and wrongful deaths. In this article, we will help you gain a better understanding of how personal injury law works, the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, and the rights that you have as an injured party filing a personal injury claim.

How Does Personal Injury Law Work?

Personal injury law, sometimes referred to as tort law, allows an injured person to file a civil lawsuit that seeks to recover damages (compensation) for the losses relating to an accident or other event. Every personal injury claim, whether the incident was intentional or caused by negligence, is centered on two basic principles: liability and damages. Most personal injury lawsuits come down to if the defendant was liable for the damage sustained by the injured party, and if so, what the nature and severity of the damages (both physical and emotional) are. If the claimant can prove both liability and damages, then they are likely to be awarded compensation for the losses they have suffered.

In terms of the process for filing a personal injury lawsuit, it goes like this: First, you will meet with a personal injury attorney and explain your situation to them. They will explain the legal options available to you and ask for greater details on your case, as well as answer any questions you may have. Should you agree to work with that attorney, it’s time to start the case, which begins by filing initial papers with the court called pleadings. This will be followed by the fact-finding and discovery phase, whereby each side of the lawsuit aims to obtain as much information and evidence as possible about the opposing side to establish the facts of the case. Common methods used in the discovery phase include written discoveries, depositions, and document production. The next phase is called Court Motions and such a motion can allow your case to be resolved without going to trial. It’s not uncommon for cases to get solved by a motion to dismiss and other types of motions that end the case before it ever gets to trial. Another reason your case wouldn’t reach the trial stage is if a settlement is agreed to. More personal injury lawsuits end in settlements than trials. However, if a beneficial settlement cannot be reached then your case will go to trial, where a final ruling will be made. If you “win” your civil court case, whether in court or via a settlement, the final stage of the process is to collect the compensation you were awarded or agreed to. At this point, you will also need to pay your personal injury attorney. Many attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case. Their legal fees will need to be paid out of the compensation you receive from your lawsuit.

Personal Injury Definition

As mentioned above, personal injury law is a field of tort law that allows an injured party to seek compensation for the hurt they have been caused. The purpose of personal injury law is to compensate the injured party financially in an effort to make them “whole” again after they have suffered physically or emotionally due to someone else’s negligent, reckless, or even intentional conduct.

The situations in which personal injury law applies can broadly be divided into four categories: accidents, intentional acts, defective products, and defamation. Accidents, as you might suspect, are situations where someone acts carelessly or negligently and it ends up causing harm to another person. Examples of accidents include car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and slip and fall accidents. Intentional acts are the opposite of accidents in that the intentional conduct of the defendant is what caused harm to another person, not their carelessness. Assault and battery is one example of an intentional act where personal injury law could apply. Defective products relate to when a product (it could be a consumer product, such as a children’s toy, a medical device, or even a car component) is defective or unreasonably dangerous and the use of the product causes harm. Finally, personal injury law can be used to file a defamation case, when one person’s defamatory statement causes harm to someone else. As you can see, personal injury law is a complex field that covers a wide range of circumstances. The defining characteristic is that each incident must have caused harm to another in the form of physical or emotional injury.

Personal Injury Rights

Any injury or accident victim has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages from the party responsible for causing them harm. That said, there is a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits in the United States. State laws vary, but in California for example, injured parties must file their claim within two years of the accident. This is extended to three years if property damage was involved and is reduced to just six months if the accident involved a government employee or vehicle. As such, while all injured parties have the right to file a claim against the at-fault party, they must do so within the window of time designated by law. Further, some states such as California are comparative fault states, meaning that multiple people can be found responsible for an incident. As such, we recommend speaking with your attorney to analyze your own liability compared to the at-fault party’s. If you’re confident the at-fault party will be found at least 50 percent liable, then you will still have a chance of receiving compensation.


If you were injured in an accident that you were not at fault for, you likely have a high chance of receiving compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve been caused. Whether you were bitten by your neighbor’s dog or got into a car accident and ended up in the hospital, hiring a personal injury attorney to handle your case is the wisest decision you can make. 

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