Understanding Legal Terminology: What Is “Personal Injury?”

The concept of a personal injury lawsuit is fairly straightforward: When someone is injured by the negligent actions or choices of a person, corporation, or government entity, they can sue the liable parties for monetary damages. While this definition is accurate, it doesn’t detail the statutes, regulations, contingencies, and other nuances that can influence the outcome of a civil lawsuit.

For example, two people can be hurt by the same defective product, but that doesn’t mean they share the same injuries, financial losses, or accident circumstances – factors that matter greatly when navigating this legal field and negotiating a favorable settlement.

So, what exactly constitutes a “personal injury?” To help you understand the core definition and purpose of this legal process, the personal injury attorneys at Meyerkord & Kurth have compiled this summary of information.

Personal Injury & the Statute of Limitations

In Missouri, accident survivors have a legal right to pursue compensation through civil lawsuits and insurance claims. As a term, “personal injury” refers to an area of law in which victims of preventable accidents or wrongful acts can obtain justice and restitution through civil litigation.

The most common personal injury claims filed in Missouri include, but are not limited to, cases involving:

However, there is a time limit called the statute of limitations that determines when a plaintiff (the injured party) can file their claim. Per the statute of limitations in Missouri, a plaintiff has 5 years to bring a personal injury claim to court. This countdown starts ticking from the moment the accident or incident occurs. If the plaintiff fails to file by this deadline, the court may refuse to hear the case, and the defendant could have grounds to request a case dismissal. In either circumstance, the path to monetary damages is lost. Of course, there are exceptions to this policy, such as the discovery rule, which can extend this deadline.

For example, if a teacher is exposed to asbestos fibers at work because her employer failed to take preventative measures during the construction process, she may not realize that she has been exposed to a harmful substance. After all, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other fatal diseases can take decades to develop. In this scenario, she wouldn’t “discover” the wrongful act until she was diagnosed in 30-40 years, so the 5-year deadline doesn’t apply. This is an extreme example, but the same policy can apply to car accident injuries, product liability cases, and other torts.

What Is “Compensation?”

Personal injury lawsuits are civil cases, not criminal ones, which means that a defendant will never face administrative fines, jail time, or other criminal penalties for their actions. This doesn’t mean that a defendant can’t be convicted in a criminal case, but that matter is entirely separate from the personal injury suit. A successful personal injury lawsuit can only yield compensation in the form of monetary damages.

A plaintiff can recover the following economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury case:

  • Existing and potential medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Rehabilitation and therapy costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Property damage
  • Punitive damages

Because Missouri is a comparative negligence state, damages may be reduced or eliminated if the jury believes the plaintiff shares a percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if a jury determines that a driver is 20% at fault for a collision, they can only recover up to 80% of their potential recovery.

Establishing Negligent & Liability After an Accident

A qualified and experienced attorney is a plaintiff’s greatest ally in a personal injury case. A skilled lawyer can investigate the incident, collect evidence, and calculate the maximum value of the plaintiff’s claim.

To secure a favorable case outcome, the attorney needs to utilize this information to develop a litigation strategy that proves 4 crucial facts:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached this duty by exhibiting negligence.
  3. The defendant’s negligent actions caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.
  4. The plaintiff suffered physical and/or emotional injuries that resulted in financial losses (medical bills, lost wages, etc.).

For instance, a driver needs to exercise reasonable care and caution when sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. A driver can breach this duty of care by engaging in negligent practices, such as texting or speeding, that puts others at risk of injury or death. If a texting driver runs a red light and strikes a pedestrian, that pedestrian can file a claim and pursue a settlement or verdict that mitigates their injury-related expenses.

Do You Require Legal Guidance or Representation in a Personal Injury Case?

Contact the personal injury lawyers at Meyerkord & Kurth if you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to the negligent actions of another party. We have over 100 years of collective legal experience and the means to represent even the most complex and challenging civil cases. You can trust our team to meticulously investigate your case, consult with experts and specialists, and aggressively negotiate with insurance providers on your behalf to facilitate your path to damages. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to negotiate, we have no qualms about taking your case to court.

Contact Meyerkord & Kurth at (800) 391-4318 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation with our team.
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