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Personal Injury Claims: An Overview

Personal injury claims can be made by a person who is injured in an accident (the Plaintiff), who then files a lawsuit against the party they believe to be responsible for causing their injury (the Defendant). Personal injury claims may allow an injured person to recover compensation for the injuries and damages they have suffered.

Although there are many types of personal injury claims, a successful claim requires the Plaintiff to demonstrate evidence of negligence on the part of the Defendant. If you’ve been injured in an accident, we recommend you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal options and possibly receive financial compensation for the medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages you may be facing.


  1. Types of Personal Injury Claims
  2. Conditions Required for a Successful Personal Injury Lawsuit
  3. Damages in a Personal Injury Claim
  4. What to Do If You’ve Been Injured
  5. The Legal Process When Filing a Personal Injury Claim
  6. Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Types of Personal Injury Claims

Broadly speaking, a personal injury claim arises when one person is injured in an accident that somebody else caused, either through their actions or lack thereof. Here are some of the most common kinds of personal injury cases:

  • Car, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents: Motorists have a legal responsibility to operate their vehicle safely. Drivers who get injured in a motor vehicle accident may file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver. This is the most common personal injury claim.
  • Construction Accidents: Construction work is dangerous and there are many opportunities for accidents if employers do not take safety seriously. Because of the amount of hazards on a construction site, there are many potential types of construction accidents.
  • Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents: These accidents are common in public places such as a grocery store, shopping mall, apartment building or even at your office. To win compensation for a slip and fall accident, it will need to be proved that the Defendant knew or should have known about the defect that caused you to fall and be injured.
  • Product Liability Lawsuits: If you were injured because of a defective product, such as the brakes of your vehicle or a handheld electric saw, it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective product.
  • Wrongful Death: When the worst happens, and somebody is killed in an accident, the loved ones who survive the victim may be facing bills and loss of financial support. In certain conditions, the survivors of a deceased person may file a lawsuit to receive compensation with the assistance of a wrongful death lawyer.

There are many possible ways that another party’s negligence could cause you to be injured. But how do you know if the injury you suffered qualifies for a personal injury lawsuit?

The Legal Standard for a Personal Injury Claim

For an injured party to receive money in a personal injury claim, there are certain legal conditions that must be met. In many cases, these issues are not immediately clear and require interviews with witnesses and involved parties to sort through. In some cases, a reconstruction of the accident scene may be necessary.

These legal conditions are required for a successful personal injury lawsuit.

  • The Defendant had some sort of duty of care to the Plaintiff
  • The Defendant failed to uphold their duty to respect the Plaintiff’s safety
  • A direct causation between the Defendant’s failure of duty and the Plaintiff’s injuries
  • Losses or damages that the Defendant’s negligence caused the Plaintiff

To sort out these complex legal questions, we highly recommend you contact an experienced attorney who can provide you with sound legal guidance.

Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

There are two types of damages you can potentially be compensated for in a personal injury lawsuit: economic damages (such as medical bills) and non-economic bills (such as pain and suffering). Economic damages in a personal injury claim include:

  • Medical expenses, including surgeries, doctor visits, physical therapy, occupation rehabilitation and any required medical devices.
  • Lost wages, both in the past (when you are forced to miss work to recover for your injuries) and in the future (if your ability to earn a wage has been impacted due to physical limitations your injuries have caused).
  • Property damage, especially in the wake of a car crash or other motor vehicle accident. Remember to never admit fault or accept money from an insurance company before you have spoken with an attorney.

Depending on the facts, economic damages can be straightforward or quite complicated to calculate. Often economic experts are required to arrive at an accurate accounting of these damages. Here are non-economic damages that a Plaintiff may receive in a personal injury lawsuit:

  • Pain and suffering, which may be impacted by the amount of medicine you are prescribed, or the length of time that physical or occupational therapy is necessary for you to recover from your injuries.
  • Emotional distress, which is closely related to pain and suffering and is generally reserved for severe injuries that prohibit the injured party from engaging in all of the activities that they once enjoyed.
  • Loss of consortium, which broadly refers to a permanent change in the relationship between loved ones (such as a spouse or a parent to their child) caused by a severe injury or disability.  Some states refer to this claim as a ”spousal claim”.

Damages in a personal injury claim are the way that a Plaintiff is compensated for the injuries a Defendant caused them. If another party’s negligence has caused you to be injured in an accident, there may be compensation available to you in the form of a personal injury claim.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured

In the wake of an accident that leaves you seriously injured, it can be difficult to know what steps to take next. No matter what type of accident you’ve been in, remember that your health always comes first.

First, get yourself to a safe place. If you’ve been in a car accident, call the police. If possible, pull your car into a safe area on the road or highway and stay in your car until police arrive to keep safe from oncoming traffic. If the accident occurred at work or in a public place, remove yourself from danger and alert a supervisor or passerby.

No matter where or how your accident occurred, always try to get an official statement in writing about how it happened, such as a police report. This is equally important in the context of a workplace accident.  This will prevent somebody from changing their story and trying to blame you for causing the accident later on or claiming that the accident or your injuries were fabricated.

If possible, try to get a picture of the accident scene. If in a car accident, take a picture of the damage to both vehicles once it’s safe to do so. For a slip and fall, a picture of the floor can be worth a thousand words. If you were in a work accident, definitive proof of the conditions that led to the accident can refute an employer who tries to blame the accident on you.

All of those steps will depend, of course, on how severe your injury is and how urgently you require medical attention. Remember that some injuries may not be immediately obvious. Don’t try to ‘tough out’ an injury just because you don’t want to make your employer uncomfortable. When it comes to your health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Once you’ve received the medical treatment you require, we recommend you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal options.

The Legal Process When Filing a Personal Injury Claim

If you are interested in pursuing a personal injury claim, you want to act as soon as possible, as unnecessary delays can hurt your chances of recovering compensation later. Here is what to expect when you file a personal injury claim.

Filing a Complaint

A personal injury claim is initiated by the filing of a Summons and Complaint.  This legal document sets forth allegations that establish the prima facie legal elements of the claim.  The Summons and Complaint are filed with the Court and then served upon the tortfeasor, also known as the Defendant in the case.  The Defendant responds to the Summons and Complaint with an Answer, in which the Defendant has the option to admit or deny the allegations.

Initiating the Discovery Process

Once the Defendant interposes an Answer, the parties may enter into discovery proceedings.  The proceedings, which are under the supervision of the Court, include the exchange of documents, the interposing and answering of interrogatories, as well as the taking of sworn testimony, also referred to as depositions.  During the discovery process, each party is entitled to obtain information from their adversary with respect to their claims or defenses.  Such information may include physical evidence, witness statements, photographs and/or videos, accident reports and expert witness information, amongst other things.

The Jury Trial

Once discovery is complete, the parties may notify the court that discovery has concluded and that the parties are ready for trial.  This is accomplished by filing the Note of Issue and Certificate of Readiness with the clerk of the Court.  Once the Note of Issue is filed, the parties will be notified as to a trial date.  The trial may proceed as either a bench trial, wherein a Judge is both the finder of the facts and the law, or a jury trial, wherein the judge is the finder of the law, and six members of the community are the finders of the facts.  The overwhelming majority of personal injury trials are jury trials. 

At trial, the parties present evidence to the jury, who then apply the law as the court provides, and renders a verdict as to both liability and damages.  Most cases settle before reaching trial.  However, a client with an experienced trial lawyer who has an impressive track record of success is far more likely to receive a better settlement result because the opponent lawyer and insurance company will evaluate your lawyer’s past history in determining what an appropriate settlement offer is.

Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have any questions about how to file a personal injury claim, you should reach out to a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney will walk you through the steps of a personal injury claim, ensuring that you understand each part of the process.

For example, in New York State, the process by which a personal injury claim is prosecuted and defended is governed by the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR). 

The CPLR governs all aspects of civil lawsuits on issues from Statute of Limitations, service of process of Pleadings, rules regarding discovery to the trial process itself.  These rules are often complex and require an attorney familiar with these types of cases to carefully navigate legal issues that routinely arise in personal injury claims. To successfully prosecute a civil suit for personal injury, the attorney must be intimately familiar with the rules set forth in the CPLR. Failure to adhere to those rules may result in an unwanted result or even an outright dismissal of the claim. 

Nobody wants to go to court, but sometimes it is necessary. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in an accident that somebody else caused, you may be able to receive compensation for the injuries you suffered and the bills you are stuck with.

The attorneys of Block O’Toole & Murphy have won more personal injury results exceeding $1,000,000 than any other law firm in New York every year since 2012. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to receive a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

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