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HELP THROUGH THE PERSONAL INJURY LEGAL PROCESS
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“Personal injury” cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm. A personal injury case can become formalized through civil court proceedings that seek to find others legally at fault through a court judgment or, as is much more common, such disputes may be resolved through informal settlement before any lawsuit is filed.
Personal injury lawsuits usually fall under the authority (or “jurisdiction”) of state courts in the county where the injury occurred, or where those involved (the “parties”) in the incident are located. So, if a resident of Los Angeles County is involved in a car accident in Los Angeles, he or she will ordinarily file a personal injury lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.
Unlike other areas of the law that find their rules in statutes (such as penal codes in criminal cases), the development of personal injury law has taken place mostly through court decisions, and in treatises written by legal scholars. Many states have taken steps to summarize the development of personal injury law in written statutes, but for practical purposes court decisions remain the main source of the law in any legal case arising from an accident or injury.
(Note: in some types of injury cases, most notably those arising from car accidents in which a state vehicle code section was violated, statutes can be used to help establish fault for an accident or injury.) To understand how pre-existing case law (or “legal precedent”) might be used to strengthen an injury case, suppose that you are involved in an accident or are injured, and decide to hire an attorney to protect your legal rights.
During settlement negotiations with insurers or opposing counsel, and especially in any legal filings with the court, your attorney will make reference to (or “cite”) prior cases in which the courts in your state decided on issues like fault or damages, in ways that are favorable to your position.
For example, suppose you have been injured in a “slip and fall” on an uneven sidewalk outside your apartment building. In seeking to prove that the owner of your building is at fault, your attorney might cite a case in which your state’s supreme court held that owners of residential buildings have a legal duty to ensure that the premises surrounding the building are properly maintained.