Anniston Personal Injury Lawyer
You are at the right place. You have found the personal injury attorney in Anniston that you’ve been looking for.
There is a general perception about personal injury legal actions among many Americans that has the plaintiffs being people who are doing nothing more than seeking money for minor or non-existent damages. The insinuation is that these people are taking advantage of the legal system to personally profit.
However, if you are one of the people who has suffered a personal injury due to another person’s negligence, the medical expenses, lost wages, and other hidden costs have more to do with seeking justice than profiting from someone’s mistake.
The first question you need to ask before filing a personal injury claim is whether you have a legal basis to file suit. This is a job for the lawyer to determine. Many times people have legitimate claims and do not pursue legal action because they are trying to determine whether they have a case themselves and wait until it is too late.
In Alabama, the maximum amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against a person, called the statute of limitations, is generally 2 years. If you do not take legal action within this time period the court will rule that you have waited too long and dismiss your suit immediately. However, you have a far greater chance of winning your claim by seeking legal counsel as soon as possible because it will take time to gather evidence and schedule a court appearance to hear your case.
A client’s first responsibility when involved in a personal injury is to immediately seek the necessary medical attention to get you back to health. Yes, this is a responsibility since delaying any medical treatment may cause your injuries to get worse, making it difficult for the court to determine the extent of the initial injury. However, you do not have to wait to fully recover to begin taking steps to gather evidence and notify the person that you will be taking legal action against them.
Gathering evidence is the next responsibility. There are no “best” forms of evidence, so you should not decide that some are more important than others. Eyewitnesses or other people who were injured by the other person, in a car accident for example, are important because they can provide a firsthand account of what happened. Photographs and videos are also very valuable, as they will give the court the opportunity to replay and review the events as they happened. But if video evidence is not available, you should, if possible, take photographs and video of the site immediately after the accident.
If there is video evidence obtained from a passer-by, or someone who saw the accident occur, it is very important that you get their contact information – name, address, and phone number. Write it down immediately. If you have a smartphone camera or other video recording device, ask the witness if they are willing to let you record their picture and the contact information. All this visual evidence gives the court a clear picture of what actually happened and the opportunity to examine witnesses.
While many people believe that the camera does not lie, visual evidence is not always the road to an easy verdict in your favor. Cameras only see one angle of the event, so eyewitnesses may contradict what the camera sees by testifying about the event seem from a different angle. This is one reason why there is no “best” source of evidence, and why your responsibility is to gather all of the evidence possible and let your attorney decide what is the most relevant to help you win your case.
A word here about writing down information. Modern technology has given the average person the ability to make visual or audio recordings on devices such as tablets and smartphones. These can be very useful in recording information instead of writing it down.
Besides the contact information of any eyewitnesses, you should record your own memory of the event as soon as possible. This will give your attorney the opportunity to compare your initial recollection of the accident with any answers you provide to them during the legal process. But if you do not have a working mobile device, write everything down.
Taking the next step to hire an attorney is a serious consideration. There are people who believe that you should always bring a lawsuit in the event of a personal injury. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who believe suing someone is an action taken only in the most extreme cases and any compensation should be worked out with the person responsible for your personal injury. The reality lies somewhere in between these two positions. Courts are filled with what are known as frivolous lawsuits that have no legal basis and will be dismissed as soon as the judge hears the evidence. Never filing a lawsuit except when there is sever personal injury is also wrong, as this example will show.
A middle-aged person in their early 50’s slips and falls on a sidewalk where it is clear that the owner of the property failed to properly keep the walk safe. After picking themselves up, they find that they have severely bruised their right arm, but aside from some pain, there is no evidence of what they determine is significant bodily injury. The owner comes out to help and apologizes, perhaps offering a sum of money for the minor medical expenses the person may incur. But with elderly people in particular, blood clots can forms weeks or months later as a result of the fall and will require additional medical expenses. It has been suggested that people, whether your neighbor or a law student, will have an attorney available to minimize their personal responsibility and any potential compensation to the victim.
One rule of law that is relatively unique to Alabama is what is called contributory negligence. In layman’s terms, this means that the person filing the lawsuit was partially responsible for the injury occurring. This removes a certain amount of responsibility from the other person, which means the decision or any compensation awarded will greatly favor the defendant. To minimize the possibility of having to deal with this in court, do not admit to anything or make any statements regarding the injury to anyone except legal authorities or medical personnel until after consulting with an attorney.
Regarding how much money and compensation you can receive from a personal injury, Alabama has no maximum limit. But there are two types of monetary damages awarded – direct and punitive. The court will compensate the victim for such things as medical expenses, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. Though these do not seem to fall under the direct category, the law considers that personal injury involves a certain amount of pain and distress that is just as real as a broken leg.
Punitive damages are those intended to punish the defendant for their wrongful behavior. A simple way of knowing the difference between the two is that direct compensation is intended to make the person financially whole – to return them to their financial state prior to the injury. Punitive damages are to financially punish the other person in lieu of what might be considered an action that is criminally negligent. Remember, a personal injury case is a civil, not criminal, legal action that is intended to compensate the victim.
There are a number of other legal complications that can make a personal injury claim more complex to process. For example, what if the party responsible is a governmental agency? How does personal injury law apply when the injury occurs on the job or under a working contract? These are the types of questions that are best answered by seeking competent legal counsel before proceeding.