4 Things to Know Before Suing for Personal Injury

by Eloise Hamilton on March 11, 2014

(US Law) If you’ve been injured recently, you might be thinking about suing the other person for personal injury. Depending on the nature of the injury and how you’ve been affected, this response is natural; however, you’ll want to know a few key legal points before going through with the lawsuit.

via Image credit: MeddyGarnet via Creative Commons


One of the first things you need to know is how much compensation you’re going to sue for. The compensation is a monetary amount, and it’s meant to make you whole from any damages incurred from the injuries. These damages can be financial—like medical bills, lost wages (past and/or future), or property loss—or they can be less tangible damages—like psychological or pain and suffering.

The amount of compensation you seek should be an amount that covers all of these losses and any other reasonable reparations.

Finding Fault

The first major legal procedure is establishing fault. You should know this before suing because in some states, if you’re to blame for what happened—even just a little bit—you could be wasting your and the court’s time by suing.

The court will use a few different methods to figure out who is at fault for the circumstances leading up to the injuries. If there’s a police report about the incident, the court will probably use it as a basis, but police reports aren’t infallible. There are many sides to any story, and the police don’t always have access to all the witnesses, so they might not get an accurate portrayal of the event.

There is a good chance that the fault could be split between you and the other person, as well. Many accidents resulting in critical injuries aren’t black and white—there are many layers and fault often lies on both sides, although one side typically has more than the other (sometimes a lot more).


One thing that can damage your suit is failure to mitigate the damages. You have a duty to do what you can to minimize the damages, and if you don’t do that, the court can find you guilty of failure to mitigate, and that will impact how much you receive in compensation. If you should’ve gone to the emergency room or had a doctor look at your injuries and you didn’t, causing the injuries to get even worse, you won’t get all the compensation you sought.


The biggest factor to your suit is negligence. There are two types of negligence—contributory and comparative—and different states adhere to one or the other.

Contributory negligence means that you can’t seek any compensation if you’re found at fault—even if you were only 1% at fault, and the other person was 99% at fault. Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all hold to contributory negligence, believing that if you put yourself in harm’s way, you shouldn’t be compensated for something you contributed to.

Comparative negligence is broken down into the two parts: pure and modified. Pure comparative negligence states that you can seek compensation regardless of how much you were at fault. This means that even if you were only 25% at fault, if you sue the other person, they could countersue you, and while they will have to pay you 75% of the compensation, you will have to pay them 25%. Thirteen states adhere to pure comparative negligence, so check to see if your state is one of them.

All the rest of the states hold to modified comparative negligence, which says your fault has to be less than or equal to the other person’s for you to sue.

From Dallas to Edmonton, a criminal attorney or firm like The Defence Team isn’t always the way to go if you’ve been injured. Sometimes it’s better to go for punitive damages, hitting the person who hurt you in their pocketbook and gaining a little compensation for the injuries you sustained. Knowing the above legal details can increase your odds of winning your suit.

Eloise Hamilton
Eloise Hamilton has always been fascinated with law, although she ultimately wound up majoring in business in college. She still loves to keep herself current on all things law by volunteering at a local law firm and frequenting all kinds of law sites. She seeks to inform the general public about the finer details of law in a way they can understand.
Eloise Hamilton
Eloise Hamilton

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