Your Omaha Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Your personal injury in Omaha could happen in so many different ways. Maybe you slip and fall on your way to see an exhibit at the Joslyn Art Museum. You could get food poisoning after dinner in the Old Market. Maybe a dog bites you while you are jogging on the Bob Kerrey Bridge. However it happens, here is some information for dealing with your personal injury case in Omaha.
First Things First
Your first priority after an accident or injury should be getting any and all necessary medical treatment. Once you have tended to your own well-being, however, your attention may shift to compensation. In order to present your strongest case, it is a good idea to collect evidence about the injury, such as photographs, notes, accident reports, medical records, sales receipts, and any other information you think might be pertinent. If there were any witnesses to the events, you will want to get their contact information, as well. Continue to keep notes throughout the process so that you have a clear and complete record of events as they happen.
You may decide that you wish to file a lawsuit against the person or entity that you feel is responsible for your injury. A personal injury suit is considered a civil (as opposed to a criminal) matter. The person who brings the suit is called the plaintiff and the person alleged to be responsible is called the defendant.
In Omaha, where you file your personal injury suit will depend on how much money is at stake. For amounts up to approximately $50,000 you will likely be at the Douglas County Court, either civil or small claims (up to $3500) division. Generally, for amounts of more than $50,000, the case will be venued at the Douglas County District Court.
Keep in mind that there are time limits for filing lawsuits -- these are called Statutes of Limitations and vary by state and type of case. In Omaha, for most personal injury cases, you have 4 years. If you are filing suit for medical malpractice, however, the timeframe is a bit different. Nebraska law provides that in those cases you have 2 years from the malpractice or, if you didn't know the malpractice had occurred until later, 1 year from the time you found out, not to exceed a total of 10 years.
Proving Your Case
Generally, a personal injury lawsuit is started by the plaintiff filing a "Complaint." A complaint is a legal document that briefly recites the circumstances of the accident, explains why the defendant is believed to be responsible, and asks the court to award "relief" (usually money damages) in compensation.
Most personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence basically means that someone acted carelessly and that carelessness caused (or contributed to) the accident. In your complaint you will likely allege that the defendant was negligent.
But what if, as is often the case, you were negligent too? In other words, what if both of you contributed to the accident?
Different states handle this in different ways. In some states, if you are even 1% at fault, you cannot recover for your injuries. In other states, even if you are 99% at fault you can still recover for your injuries. Nebraska takes a position essentially in the middle with its modified comparative fault rule. In a case with one defendant, you are not barred from recovery so long as you are less than 50% at fault, although your recovery will be reduced based on your fault. For example, if you have $10,000 in damages and are determined to be 10% at fault, you would be able to recover $9,000 or 90% from the defendant.
What Types of Damages Are Available?
Damages in a personal injury suit are often divided into economic (expenses having a specific dollar value such as medical bills and lost wages) and non-economic (more intangible expenses like pain and suffering. In some types of cases, there are limits on the damages that are available. In Omaha medical malpractice cases, for example, the total amount recoverable (economic and non-economic) for any occurrence resulting in injury or death is $1,750,000.
Should You Get A Lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer may be able to assist you with your case and many will offer a free initial consultation. Here is some information on what you can typically expect in a first meeting with a lawyer to discuss an accident or injury.