Your friends kept telling you to "get out there and meet people," but you just weren't the bar or club type. You finally worked up the courage to go to a reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and made a spectacular entrance, but not at all how you had hoped. Tripping on a floor mat as you came in the door, you fell flat on your face, hit your head and split your lip. As the staff rushed about getting you a compress for your head and calling 911, you wondered many things: Did you have a concussion? Who was paying for the ambulance? How much work would you miss? And, finally, was this just an accident or is someone be responsible? Here is some basic information to help you navigate a personal injury case in Tucson.
What Is a Personal Injury Case?
A personal injury case is a legal dispute that arises when someone's body, mind or emotional state is harmed in an accident or injury and another person or entity might be responsible.
Personal injury lawsuits are civil (as opposed to criminal) actions that are typically brought, in Tucson, at the Pima County Superior Court. The injured party bringing the suit is identified as the "plaintiff" and the person, business, or organization alleged to be responsible is identified as the "defendant."
Personal injury cases are not limited to "slip and fall" matters. Instead, they include car accidents, medical malpractice actions, animal bites, defective and dangerous product actions and much more.
Bringing a Lawsuit
Some personal injury matters are resolved informally before a lawsuit is ever filed, often with the parties and their insurance companies. In other cases, formal legal action is brought through the plaintiff filing a "Complaint" against the defendant(s). The Complaint briefly identifies the parties and the facts of the case, sets forth the plaintiff's legal claims and asks the court for relief.
If you are thinking about bringing a lawsuit, make sure to keep an eye on the Statute of Limitations, or timeline within which you must file or abandon your case forever. In Tucson and the rest of Arizona, you generally have two years to bring a personal injury action.
Proving Your Negligence Case
Most personal injury cases are based on the plaintiff alleging that the defendant acted negligently. To act negligently is essentially to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to injury to another.
In some cases, however, the plaintiff acted somewhat negligently as well. How does that impact a case? It depends on whether the state follows a contributory negligence or comparative negligence theory.
Under the contributory negligence theory, if the plaintiff is even 1% at fault, he is barred from any recovery.
Fortunately, Tucson and the rest of Arizona follow a system of pure comparative negligence, which generally allows a plaintiff to pursue damages even if he is 99% at fault, although his damages will be reduced in proportion to his fault. There is an exception if the plaintiff "intentionally, willfully or wantonly" caused or contributed to the injury.
So, in most cases in Tucson, if you were seeking $10,000 and you were 50% to blame, you would still be able to recover the $5000 (50%) that wasn't your fault.
Depending on the extent of your injury and the losses you suffered as a result, you may be entitled to economic compensation from the person at fault. This can include medical bills and expenses, property damage, lost income and wages and pain and suffering. To illustrate the types of items that are typically included, here's a sample worksheet you might use to estimate your medical damages.
Dealing with all the details of a lawsuit while you are trying to recover from your injuries can be daunting. You may want to consult with a personal injury lawyer to assess your case. A legal professional can help make sense of the process, and can take care of things like interviewing witnesses, analyzing medical records, retaining expert witnesses and more. Typically, personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation and will then work on a contingency fee, which means that their fees are paid out of a plaintiff's recovery. Check out FindLaw's section on Using a Personal Injury Lawyer for more information on the topic, including sample forms and agreements,
Contact a qualified attorney.