Your Louisville Personal Injury Case: The Basics
You’ve become accustomed to the wrecks lining the shoulders of the Dixie Die-Way, but nothing can prepare you for the reality of being the victim in a car accident. Now you are trapped on a U of L cot hopped up on painkillers with no clue how to piece your life back together. When will you get back to work? Who will pay the medical bills? Will you ever recover your full strength and mobility? Money can’t compensate you for the agony of this tragedy but it can help get you back on track, and this general information about Louisville personal injury cases may be a good start.
Time Limits, Time Limits!
First and foremost, you must be aware of the time limitation to file a lawsuit, called the statute of limitations. In Kentucky you have one year from the date you suffered an injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you do not file your lawsuit within one year of the injury, you may forfeit the right to recover regardless of the strength of your case.
Choose the Appropriate Cause of Action
The most common path toward personal injury recovery is a negligence claim, although different types of cases may be more appropriate in many circumstances. To succeed in a negligence lawsuit, one must prove that the other party failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and that this failure caused damages.
In cases involving death, the surviving family members may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death suit. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivors, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.
A medical malpractice lawsuit addresses injuries caused by improper treatment by healthcare professionals. For example a doctor could misdiagnose an injury, fail to provide appropriate treatment, or unreasonably delay treatment.
Finally, if injured by a defective product, one could sue the manufacturer of an injury-causing product in a products liability lawsuit. This type of suit alleges that the product has a design or manufacturing defect that caused the product to malfunction in an unexpected way.
Damages are traditionally divided into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are designed to compensate someone for direct monetary losses, including:
- medical expenses;
- loss income;
- lost use of property;
- costs to repair or replace property; and
- loss of employment opportunities.
Non-economic damages are far more subjective, as they are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the “ pain and suffering” they’ve endured due to an injury. Juries also consider scarring or disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and mental anxiety part of this. Significantly, the Kentucky State Constitution prohibits damage caps or limits, which makes Kentucky one of the rare states with no upper limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Historically, a plaintiff who acted even slightly negligently or carelessly was barred from recovering any compensation whatsoever. This harsh doctrine was relaxed when Kentucky adopted the more modern comparative negligence rule. Under Kentucky’s comparative negligence law, fault is divided among each party and damages are reduced in proportion to your relative fault. For example, if you racked up $100,000 in medical bills as a result of an injury which was found to be 10% your fault, you could be able to recover 90%, or $90,000, from the other party. Significantly, Kentucky is one of 13 states to have a “pure” comparative negligence standard, which means that even if your injury is found to be 99% your own fault, you can still recover 1%.
Filing a Claim
To file a lawsuit one must draft a complaint, which is a brief explanation of the basis of a lawsuit. A complaint should be brief and plainly worded, but it has to be specific enough to show that one could win the case. The three basic components of a complaint are the names of the defendants, a description of the injury-causing incident and a request for monetary compensation.
If a case is worth more than $5,000 the Circuit Court at Jefferson County Judicial Center, located at 700 W. Jefferson Street, is the best place to file suit. However, if a case is worth less than $5,000, the proper place is next door at the District Court at the Louis D. Brandeis Hall of Justice, located at 600 W. Jefferson Street. Furthermore, one can file cases worth up to $2,500 with the small claims division on the District Court for less formal procedure and evidentiary rules. The process from here varies depending on which court is involved, but a case outside of small claims typically proceeds through discovery and various “pleading” stages until either a settlement is reached, or a trial resolves the matter.
Workplace Injuries Deserve Special Attention
Workers’ compensation is more like insurance than a lawsuit. Instead of suing someone, you can file a claim to receive benefits. Almost all employees are covered by compulsory workers’ comp, though agricultural workers and part-time domestic workers are exempt by law.
If you are injured on the job, you should notify your employer as soon as possible and seek medical treatment. Your employer should automatically report the injury to their insurance carrier, who will report to the Department of Workers’ Claims.
Lawsuits are full of technical pitfalls that can sink a case from the start, so it may be worthwhile to consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. A good lawyer can draft the papers to initiate a lawsuit, gather the proper evidence, and negotiate settlements.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.