Q: What is a personal injury?
A: An injury is considered a personal injury when:
- You have experienced an injury or damage to your property, body, rights or reputation
- That injury has resulted in medical expenses, emotional distress or suffering, lost wages or damage to your property
- The injury was caused by the negligence or actions of another party
If you meet some or all of those requirements you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit so you are compensated for the damage and costs.
Q: What are common personal injury claims?
A: Every personal injury case is different, but these are some of the most common claims a personal injury lawyer helps people with:
- Premises liability – If you sustain an injury or are involved in an accident on a property that is not yours, your claim may be considered a premises liability case. Examples of this include construction accidents, dog and other animal bites and slip-and-fall accidents.
- Traumatic brain injury – Any brain trauma is serious, and sometimes even a small trauma can have significant, long-term implications. Brain injuries are not always immediately obvious but can be life-altering in many ways. If you have suffered brain trauma, you may be able to file a personal injury claim.
- Wrongful death – If your relative or loved one has died because of the fault of another person or entity (like a car or drug manufacturer), you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This lawsuit would be an attempt to seek compensation for their loss.
Q: What factors are considered in my personal injury claim?
A: Factors that could be considered in a personal injury claim include automobile accidents, product liability and medical malpractice. Your responsibility related to the injury, as the plaintiff, will be also considered.
If you have questions or concerns about your personal injury claim and the factors involved, a Wilson, Reives & Silverman personal injury lawyer will be able to discuss them with you during your free initial consultation.
Q: If I do get an attorney for my personal injury case, who pays for the service?
A: At Wilson, Reives & Silverman, your personal injury claims will be handled on a “contingency fee” basis. That means we generally take 25 percent of the recovered costs, plus expenses and other costs. We do not charge any fees until there is a recovery of benefits.
Q: What types of accidents qualify for a personal injury case?
A: Personal injury accidents include:
Q: What’s the first thing I should do if I’m injured or have been involved in an accident?
A: If you’ve been injured or involved in an accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. By getting medical care immediately, it may be less of a problem to prove that your injuries resulted from the accident. When you seek medical care, be sure to tell the health care professional the day, time and circumstances surrounding your injury or accident.
Q: After seeking medical treatment, what should I do for my personal injury case?
A: After seeking medical treatment, it is in your best interest to file a personal injury claim if you feel your accident or injury is the fault of another person or entity.
By speaking to a personal injury lawyer, you can learn if you have a case and how strong it might be.
You should write down everything you remember about the injury or accident. This includes:
- Names and phone numbers of witnesses
- Names of the law officers who responded to the accident
- Names and company information for the insurance company representatives
Q: Should I communicate with an attorney before giving a formal or recorded statement to an insurance company?
A: Yes, before communicating with an insurance company, talk with a personal injury lawyer. An insurance company may pressure you to give and sign a formal statement shortly after the accident or injury occurs, but your lawyer will be able to advise you on your rights.
Q: Is it possible to file a claim against a property owner for a personal injury?
A: Yes, it is possible to file a claim against a property owner for a personal injury. This would be considered a premises liability accident. These accidents occur at commercial buildings such as stores, schools and offices, in rental or private homes or on public property like parks, streets and public transportation vehicles.
Personal injuries that would fall in the category of premises liability injuries include:
- Dog and other animal bites
- Head, neck and spine injuries
- Broken bones
Q: What are some examples of premises liability accidents?
A: Examples of premises liability accidents include:
- Slip-and-fall accidents – These types of accidents are the leading cause of premises liability accidents. A slip-and-fall accident can occur because of unsafe property conditions such as liquids or other foreign substances on the floor, unsafe aisles or other areas meant for passing through a facility, or faulty stairs. Beyond those examples, these accidents can occur due to any poor or negligent maintenance. Building code violations can also become a factor in slip-and-fall accidents.
- Construction site accidents – These types of accidents do not affect only construction workers. They can happen to anyone who is injured as a result of activity at a construction site. For example, there have been accidents resulting in personal injury from poor electrical wiring, faulty scaffolding and inadequate security.
- Animal bites – Animal bites may not be as devastating as a construction site or slip-and-fall accident, but they can cause you to accrue medical bills, lose time from work and experience suffering. Millions of animal bites occur every year, and a large number involve small children. In North Carolina, if you are an animal bite victim, you can recover compensation if you can prove negligence on the part of the owner.
Q: How common is it for dog bites to be considered a personal injury?
A: For people in Apex, Sanford and throughout North Carolina, you may not hear about dog bites often. Our state, however, was one of the top two states in the United States for fatal dog attacks in 2012.
Beyond this alarming frequency, dog bites are also the fifth most common cause of emergency room visits for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 368,000 people visit the hospital because of an injury related to a dog bite.
In North Carolina there is the “one-bite rule.” This means a dog owner with a dog that has not previously been dangerous will not be liable for the dog’s actions if it is involved in an attack or bites someone.
After the first incident of biting or an attack, the dog is labeled “potentially dangerous” and the owner will be responsible for all dog bite incidents in the future.
The “previously dangerous” label can apply to a dog if it:
- Terrorizes a person while off the owner’s property
- Kills or seriously injures another animal while on the owner’s property
- Bites a person and causes broken bones or disfiguring tears in the skin or flesh that require hospitalization or even plastic surgery
Q: What information do I need to gather if I’ve been bitten by a dog?
A: If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you should gather the answers to the following questions:
- Can you confirm whether the owner was aware that the dog was dangerous to others? For example, if a dog had previously bitten a person or another animal, or had been trained to fight, a personal injury lawyer could probably prove that the dog’s owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous.
- Even if the dog had not specifically been involved in a previous dog bite case, can it be labeled as “potentially dangerous”? For example, if a dog was following you for more than 50 feet while barking and growling, it could be considered a dangerous dog. Or if the dog has injured, killed or bitten another domesticated animal, such as a dog or cat, it could be labeled a dangerous dog. Additionally, if neighbors or others have previously complained to the owner that a dog has threatened someone, the dog could be considered dangerous.
- Was it nighttime and was the dog running alone? In Apex, Sanford and the entire state of North Carolina, dogs over the age of six months are not allowed to run at large at night. If the dog is running free at night, any damage done by it, either to another person or to another person’s property, is considered to be the owner’s responsibility.
Q: What reports and other paperwork should I gather in the case of a motor vehicle accident?
A: If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident and may have sustained a personal injury because of it, you should request copies of any and all law enforcement reports related to your accident.
Some reports may be part of the public record, and others are available for a small fee. A police report is usually not required to file an insurance claim, but sometimes insurance companies will want the report if they need to pursue or defend a lawsuit.
When you request a police report, review it to see if it includes the content of a standard police report, which could be:
- A diagram of the accident scene
- A detailed description of the accident
- Names of everyone involved, including the drivers and owners of the vehicles, owners of any property involved in the accident and all witnesses
- A summary of all injuries
- The location where injured people received medical attention
- Road conditions and factors that may have affected the accident such as weather and visibility
- Property damage that occurred as a result of the accident
If you cannot obtain copies of the reports you need, call a car accident attorney.
Q: Can I seek reimbursement for all the expenses and repercussions following a car accident?
A: Yes, as part of your personal injury claim, you can seek compensation for all expenses related to the accident. You should keep a record of any expenses including:
- Rental car costs
- Tow truck and vehicle storage fees
- Repair or full replacement of your damaged vehicle as well as damaged items inside or attached to your vehicle (e.g., bike racks, tow hitches, stereo equipment or anything carried inside your vehicle)
- Cost to purchase a new car if necessary
- Work days lost as a result of your injury or handling the logistics of the personal injury and vehicle replacement or repair
- Emergency room visit following the accident and subsequent doctor office visits
- Therapy to alleviate or cure the injury caused by the accident
- Drugs prescribed by your doctor or other health care professional
- Increased insurance costs
In the case of a motor vehicle accident, insurance companies may attempt to deny payment for these expenses, so it is important to keep your documentation and receipts.
Q: What should I do if it’s a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident?
A: A hit-and-run motor vehicle accident can be a shocking and alarming event. It’s important that you write down as much information as possible, as soon as possible. Record information about the car that hit you, including the make, model, color and (if possible) license plate number. Anything you remember about the car, such as unique identifiers like existing damage or bumper stickers, as well as the driver’s appearance, should also be recorded.
Before you leave the scene, do the following:
- Write down the location and time of the accident
- Take pictures of the accident scene and of your car, especially if you can see the other car’s paint on it
- Find witnesses and ask them to tell you what they saw
Q: Why do I need witnesses in a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident? Isn’t the damage enough evidence?
A: Witnesses can act as powerful allies in helping you record evidence. Get the names and contact information of all witnesses. If the accident occurred in a neighborhood or residential area, knock on doors and ask if the people in the homes are familiar with the car that hit you. It’s possible that someone may be familiar with the car and its driver.
If the accident is in a parking lot, you should ask business owners and store managers to check their video cameras. Sometimes an accident can be recorded by a security surveillance camera. There is also the chance that the camera recorded an image of the driver and car as they left the scene around the time of the accident. If you need help gaining access to the video footage, ask your hit-and-run accident lawyer to help. Make sure to report the accident to the police and follow up with them for a copy of the police report.
Q: If I’ve experienced harmful side effects of medication, does that qualify for a personal injury case?
A: Yes, if you’ve experienced harmful side effects of medication, you have the grounds for a personal injury case. Medication manufacturers have a responsibility to produce drugs that are effective and safe. If these medications cause serious injury, you should seek compensation for your injuries. These injuries can be caused by defects in the manufacturing process, the product’s design, or if the packaging did not include detailed information, warnings or instructions.
Q: How can I know if I have a potential case for personal injury?
A: If you experience a personal injury related to medication and feel that you have a legitimate claim, you should meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can discuss the strengths of your case with you.
Q: How is the amount for my case determined?
A: An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine the possible worth of your claim. With any personal injury case, the person or entity who caused the accident that injured you could be responsible for:
- All medical expenses, which will factor in the value of medical expenses from the time of the accident into the future
- Lost time from work, such as time spent at doctor or physical therapist appointments
- Changes to your future earning ability due to your injury
- Damaged property, such as your vehicle
- Costs related to your disfigurement or permanent disability
- Costs associated with hiring someone to do your household and caregiving chores if you are no longer able to perform them
- Costs associated with your emotional suffering and physical pain
- Expenses for funerals
- Any costs that are a direct result of your injury
Q: How common is it for a traumatic brain injury to be considered a personal injury?
A: According to the CDC, in 2010 alone, 2.5 million traumatic brain injuries occurred as an isolated injury or along with other injuries. Brain injuries can be caused by a jolt, bump or blow to the head. They could also be caused by a penetrating head injury. Any traumatic brain injury disturbs the standard functions of the brain, and they can range in intensity from “mild” to “severe.” With traumatic brain injuries, symptoms can appear right away, but they may not be apparent for days or weeks after the injury.
Traumatic brain injury may fit into these categories:
- Mild brain injury, which is defined as one resulting in loss of consciousness for anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours. It would register on the Glasgow Coma Scale with a score of 9 to 12. This type of brain injury is called “mild,” yet its effect can be devastating for both the injured person and his or her family.
- Severe brain injury, which is defined as a brain injury resulting in loss of consciousness for longer than 6 hours. This injury would be a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3 to 8.
Q: What are symptoms of mild or severe brain injuries?
A: Mild brain injury symptoms can include:
- Head pain or headaches
- Disturbances to vision
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Loss or decreased sense of smell
- Memory loss
- Difficulties paying attention and concentrating
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Sleep disorders
- Emotional disorders or disturbances
- Frustration triggered by day-to-day occurrences such as work tasks or common household tasks
A severe brain injury may present symptoms more closely related to pain or cognitive functions, such as:
- Slowed speed of processing thoughts or interactions with other people and things
- Being impulsive
- Loss of cognitive functions
- Difficulty paying attention and concentrating
- Memory loss
- Speech and language difficulties (such as slurred speech and aphasia)
- Difficulties writing or reading
- Difficulties with sensory interpretation
- Difficulties with vision and hearing
- Lost or reduced sense of smell or taste
- Dependent behaviors
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
Q: What damage or loss caused by a traumatic brain injury could be recovered if a personal injury claim is filed?
A: If a personal injury claim is filed because of damage or loss caused by a traumatic brain injury, a monetary settlement may be an option. While this will not help you heal sooner, it can help you cover the cost of recovery. It will provide some support as you attempt to move forward with life after the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney specializing in brain injuries may be able to help claim the following damages related to your accident and injury:
- Rehabilitation, ongoing nursing help and other medical expenses associated with your injury
- Wages lost as a result of the injury
- Earning capacity lost as a result of the injury
- Physical suffering and pain
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
Q: Does North Carolina have a statute of limitations for personal injuries?
A: Yes, the state of North Carolina has a statute of limitations for personal injury cases. It is 3 years from the date of injury. Within this time frame, you need to file a lawsuit by going to civil court with a personal injury attorney.
With products liability claims, the statute of limitations is 6 years to initiate any action, which begins from the date you purchased the defective product.
If you do not get your lawsuit filed before the limitations period ends, the courts will most likely refuse to hear your case. You will lose your right to any compensation or benefits that you may have been entitled to.
Q: Is it possible that my personal injury claim will be denied?
A: Yes, it is possible for a personal injury claim to be denied. Legitimate personal injury claims are denied for any number of reasons. A denial, however, does not mean that your case is over.
If you receive a letter denying your claim, you should speak with a lawyer. Your attorney can help you file for a hearing with the Deputy Commissioner of the NC Industrial Commission.
Q: Why would my personal injury claim be denied?
A: Your personal injury claims may be denied for several reasons. The most common reasons include:
- You didn’t immediately report your injury. Even if you didn’t report your claim immediately, it doesn’t mean you weren’t hurt. Some insurers, however, assume that if you didn’t report your injury immediately, it is not a legitimate basis for a personal injury claim.
- You do not have a witness to your accident or injury. You cannot change this fact, but some insurers use a lack of witnesses as a reason to question a personal injury claim.
- You refused to give the insurance company a recorded statement or sign medical authorizations. You are not required by law to comply with either request from the insurance company. The insurer, however, will usually ask for either or both; if you refuse, it could be used as a basis to deny a personal injury claim.
Q: What can I do if my personal injury claim is denied?
A: If your personal injury claim is denied, the denial letter should include the specific reasons for the denial. If you still do not understand why it was denied, talk to a lawyer.
Wilson, Reives & Silverman personal injury lawyers can provide you with effective, trusted and experienced legal counsel. We can help you figure out if filing for a hearing with the Deputy Commissioner is the best course of action, and if so, prepare your case for mediation.