Posted by Jeremy Swanson
On May 14, 2024

Common Misconceptions About Personal Injury Lawsuits

Harsh Reality

Personal injury law can be complex and confusing. Furthermore, thanks in large part to the dramatization of the legal process in entertainment, there are plenty of misconceptions that arise. Unfortunately, the reality of personal injury lawsuits too often slaps plaintiffs in the face. We’ll cover some of the common misconceptions so that you can make informed decisions and not suffer the painful disappointment of unrealistic expectations.

We’ll start by defining what personal injury law is. This field of law refers to disputes that arise when one party is injured due to the actions or omissions of one or more other parties. These injuries and the expenses associated with them are called ‘damages’, and have a concrete monetary value assigned to them by the judge or jury in these cases. If you win, you are entitled to compensation for these damages. These can include the obvious, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and damaged property, as well as less commonly understood damages such as emotional damages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. You can read more about calculating damages in our article here.

It’s important to go into a personal injury case with a clear and reasonable understanding of the process. Courts often take a dim view of outrageous claims and statements of damages, and falling victim to any of these false ideas can hurt your case before a judge and a jury. Other misconceptions might intimidate you from beginning a case in the first place, or leave you feeling hopeless or quick to accept insultingly low settlement offers. By the end of this, we’ll have taken care of several of the most damaging ideas about personal injury law, and talk about how we can help you protect your case.

1: Personal injury cases are always settled in court

This is one of the most common misconceptions, but the truth is quite a bit more complicated, and in a lot of ways, that is in your favor. The majority of personal injury cases are typically resolved through settlement negotiations outside of the courtroom. This is because settling outside of court can often be faster and less expensive for both parties involved.

In fact, insurance companies are often eager to settle, which should tip you off to whom this practice often benefits. Settling out of court can also allow the injured party to receive compensation more quickly, as well as reduce the emotional toll of a prolonged legal battle. The purpose of a settlement is a negotiated solution to a problem in which everyone benefits compared to the results of going to court.

Of course, if the damaging party refuses to offer a reasonable settlement or the injured party disagrees with the proposed settlement amount, the case may need to be taken to trial to resolve this dispute. However, this is typically a last resort when negotiations fall apart. You can read more about the process of settlements in our article here.

2: Personal injury cases are a quick way to get rich

Most plaintiffs are honest people who just want to be properly compensated for damages that have knocked their lives off course. However, many people assume that filing a personal injury lawsuit is an easy way to make money after seeing titanic judgment amounts on the news. Unfortunately, for every major judgment that makes the front page, thousands fail to adequately address the injury in question, or worse, do not recover any money at all.

Insurance companies and the defendant’s legal team will try to settle for the lowest amount possible. Additionally, not every manner in which a plaintiff is affected by an injury is necessarily a recoverable claim. Many PI cases have consequences that cost a plaintiff money that a courtroom cannot adequately address. So while the damages may be substantial, often the judgment or settlement is not adequate for the cost. Many people bringing personal injury cases are still worse off than they were before their injury.

You could also simply lose your case, which could leave you not only with the cost of your injury but also attorney’s fees (even for the other party in the worst case). It’s important to have realistic expectations and work with an attorney who can help you understand what risks and benefits to assess when weighing the cost of a settlement vs. going to court.

3: Personal injury cases are easy to handle without an attorney

Anyone is typically allowed to represent themselves in any case. This is rarely a good idea. Many of these cases involve complex legal hurdles and paperwork to navigate in order to make it to an appropriate judgment or settlement, and failing to meet these requirements can often harm your case.

Additionally, insurance companies rely very heavily on predatory practices and quick settlements that are frequently far too low to be reasonable. Once a settlement is made, that is usually the end of the case, and it’s nearly impossible to go back. And they will use any of your statements against you in a heartbeat to chip away at what you could recover.

Between the massive amount of paperwork, gathering and submitting evidence, and navigating potential pitfalls by the opposing legal team, filing a personal injury case is often nothing short of a full-time job, and you might not see any compensation for months or even years while the case makes its way through the courts.

Finally, presentation is often just as important a part of your case as the evidence itself. Anxiety and nerves are completely normal in a courtroom setting for an inexperienced speaker but could result in important factual information being left out or glossed over by accident. It could also accidentally make a truly honest party appear insincere or evasive when they are just trying to find words through their nervousness. On the flip side, a plaintiff may attempt to overcompensate for this nervousness and instead come across as bullish and aggressive.

Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to evaluate your case and help you understand your options. It is always better to consult with an attorney early on to ensure that your case is handled properly and that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Examples of cases that are difficult to handle without an attorney include cases involving severe injuries, disputed liability, or cases that involve multiple parties. If you are unsure about whether you need an attorney for your personal injury case, it is best to err on the side of caution and seek legal advice.

4: Personal injury cases can be filed at any time

While it is true that the victim of a personal injury can file a lawsuit to seek compensation for their damages, it is important to keep in mind that there are time limits for doing so. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and it varies depending on the type of case and the state in which the injury occurred.

In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally two years from the date of the injury. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and certain types of cases may have shorter or longer time limits. For example, cases involving medical malpractice typically have a shorter statute of limitations of one year of the patient discovering the injury, while cases involving government entities or employees may require a notice of claim to be filed within six months.

It is important to file a personal injury claim within the applicable statute of limitations, as failure to do so can result in the case being dismissed and the victim being unable to recover any compensation. This is why it is crucial to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury occurs to ensure that all necessary deadlines are met. If you want to know more about the statute of limitations, you can consult our article here.

5: Personal injury cases are only for physical injuries

Many people think that personal injury cases are limited to physical injuries like broken bones or cuts. However, personal injury law covers a wide range of injuries, including emotional distress and property damage. For example, if you have been in a car accident that caused you emotional trauma, you may be able to seek compensation for your suffering.

In cases where property damage occurs as a result of someone else’s negligence, a personal injury case may also be appropriate. For example, if a defective product causes damage to your home or personal property, you may be able to seek compensation for the damage.

It’s important to note that not all types of personal injury cases are straightforward, and it’s always best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine the best course of action for your specific case.

How We Can Help

If you or someone you know has suffered a personal injury, it’s crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. A qualified attorney can also help ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Don’t let common misconceptions prevent you from pursuing a personal injury case. Take the time to understand personal injury law, and consult with an attorney to determine your legal options. You can schedule a free consultation with our attorneys here.