You may know that personal injury claims allow you to recover financial compensation when you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence.
But how does it work?
In this article, we will go over the basics of personal injury law in NC, including:
- Definitions of personal injury law and tort law,
- The difference between a settlement and a lawsuit,
- Why statutes of limitations are important, and
- The steps to a personal injury claim in NC.
Basics Of Personal Injury Law In NC
There may have been a time when people were forced to either 1) walk away or 2) take matters into their own hands to get retribution or compensation for injuries, but, in today’s society, we can go to the courts and ask them to settle disputes for us.
This system of civil justice is called “personal injury law” or “tort law,” and, like the criminal justice system, it is an important component of the glue that holds our society together and prevents chaos in the streets.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law, or the “tort system,” allows someone who was injured due to another person’s negligence to recover damages that are intended to “make them whole.”
Although we cannot turn back the clock and undo the damage that was done, the courts can order a defendant to pay financial compensation for the harm that they have caused.
- Personal injury law in NC covers a broad range of civil cases, including:
- Vehicle accidents including car wrecks, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents,
- Damage caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional acts,
- Defamation – when someone’s slander, libel, or defamatory statements cause harm to another person, and
- Defective products that cause harm to consumers.
What Is A Tort?
In personal injury law, you will often hear the word “tort.” What does that mean?
A tort is an act (or omission) that causes harm to someone else and that is compensable under NC personal injury law. When someone commits a “tort” that causes damage or injury to you, you may have the right to file a lawsuit asking for compensation.
There are three general categories of torts:
- Negligent torts – for example, causing a car accident, allowing a hazardous condition on your property, or medical malpractice.
- Intentional torts – for example, punching or kicking a person, stealing someone’s property, or damaging someone’s property.
- Strict liability – for example, liability for defective products or an attack by a dangerous animal.
What’s The Difference Between A Lawsuit And A Settlement?
A settlement is when a resolution is negotiated between the parties. For example, in a NC car accident case, your attorney may negotiate with the insurance companies and, based on the evidence of liability and damages, reach an agreement for the insurance company to pay your claim.
A settlement can happen before a lawsuit is filed or after the lawsuit is filed. A case can settle at any point – during discovery, on the eve of trial, during the trial, or even while your case is on appeal.
A lawsuit is the process that begins when you file a complaint with the NC court that contains your allegations of negligence (or intentional conduct) and why the defendant must pay your damages, and that continues through the trial and any appeals after trial.
What Is A Statute Of Limitations And Why Is It Important?
Personal injury claims in NC have statutes of limitations – a deadline for filing your lawsuit. If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations that applies to your case, you will be forever barred from filing suit.
For example, in most personal injury claims, the deadline is three years, but, in a defamation claim, the statute of limitations is only one year:
What Do You Win If You Win Your Case?
In most personal injury claims in NC, your only remedy is financial compensation for the damages caused by the negligence of the at-fault party.
In other types of cases, other remedies may be available, like the specific performance of a contract, a declaratory judgment from the court, or an injunction preventing the defendant from engaging in harmful activities.
Steps Of A Personal Injury Claim In NC
What is involved in the process of filing a personal injury claim and lawsuit in NC?
Each case is different, but most share common elements including:
- Injury and liability – You were injured because of someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct, like a car accident, a slip and fall at the grocery store, or a dog bite.
- Finding a personal injury lawyer in NC – To maximize your recovery, you will want to find a personal injury lawyer in NC who is experienced in your type of case.
- Settlement – In many cases, your attorney may attempt to settle your claim and get you paid before filing a lawsuit. When the insurance company does not pay, you may be forced to file a personal injury lawsuit, but the case can settle at any time up to the trial and appeal.
- Filing the complaint – The complaint is the first “official document” that is filed in your case. It includes a statement as to why the court has jurisdiction over your case as well as a brief description of what happened, why the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries, and the damages that you suffered due to the defendant’s negligence.
- Answer – after you file the complaint and serve it on the defendants, they must file an answer admitting or denying the allegations.
- The discovery process and litigation – Once the initial pleadings (complaint and answer) have been filed and served, the discovery process begins. Each side can serve interrogatories (questions), requests to produce documents (and other evidence), and requests to admit (statements that could establish liability or the amount of damages). Each side may take depositions of key witnesses, and there may be court hearings to decide other motions like motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment.
- Trial and appeal – if your case has not been settled before the trial date, your attorney will select a jury and present your evidence to 12 jurors who will decide your case. Either side can appeal the result, and multiple appeals are possible.
Questions About Personal Injury Claims In NC?
If you or someone you know has been injured by someone else’s negligence in NC, you may have a personal injury claim/ personal injury lawsuit.
Do not lose hope! Call Northstate Auto Law now at 336-781-4606 or send us a message through our website to talk to an attorney who cares.