First, you must have suffered an injury to yourself or your property. Second, you should consider whether your injury was at least partially someone else's fault. It is not always necessary to have a physical injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit. For example, some personal injury claims can be based on a variety of nonphysical losses and harms. In the case of an assault, for example, you do not need to show that a person's action caused you actual physical harm, but only that you expected some harm to come to you. Similarly, you also may have a case if someone has caused injury to your reputation, invaded your privacy or intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon you.
Every state has certain time limits, called "statutes of limitations," which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. For example, in New York the statute of limitations on a personal injury action is 3 years. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, you may lose your legal right damages for your injury. Consequently, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as you suffer or discover an injury.
You should provide a lawyer with any documents that might be relevant to your case. Police reports, for example, contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding the event from which your claim arises. Copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Information about the insurer of the person who caused your injury is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident scene, damaged property and your injuries. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you haven't collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don't worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in his investigation of your claim.
If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person's family may typically recover money through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action. Also, even if a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the personal injury claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person's estate.
The critical issue in many personal injury cases is just how a "reasonable person" was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like an "ordinary reasonable person" would have acted. The determination of whether a given person has met the "ordinary reasonable person" standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.