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What Constitutes a Personal Injury Claim?

July 11, 2022

If you are like most people, you don’t know exactly what a personal injury lawyer does. You’ve heard the term, and you know that people hire attorneys when they get injured, but you may not know when you should talk to one yourself. 

Broadly speaking, personal injury law establishes accident victims’ legal rights. As you might know, some accident victims can seek financial compensation and some cannot. So, where is the line? When do you have the legal right to compensation after an accident? Or, stated differently, what constitutes a personal injury claim?

The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Coplan + Crane handle a wide range of personal injury matters. We understand the intricacies of Illinois law, and we know how to successfully pursue damages in even the most complex claims. If you were hurt because of someone’s negligence, we may be able to help you obtain compensation for your physical, financial, and emotional losses.

The Concept of “Negligence” in Personal Injury Law

In the vast majority of cases, the key deciding factor for whether you have a personal injury claim is whether your accident was the result of someone else’s negligence. For a person’s conduct to be deemed negligent, the circumstances must involve:

  • A Duty – The at-fault party must have owed a duty to avoid causing you harm. This duty exists in lots of different circumstances. For example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely on Illinois’s public roads, and property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for their customers and guests. 
  • A Breach – Next, the at-fault party must breach its duty. Breaches can take many different forms. Speeding, driving while drunk or distracted, and failing to fix a known property hazard are just a few examples. If you get injured and your injury is entirely your fault (i.e. you trip on a shoelace on someone else’s property), the simple fact that someone owed you a duty does not mean you are entitled to financial compensation. A breach is also necessary.
  • An Injury – To file a personal injury claim, you must have suffered an injury. If someone went flying past you at 100 mph on the road, you might have been frightened for a moment, but you weren’t injured. In this scenario, even though someone breached their duty, you don’t have a claim for compensation. 
  • Causation – The final element of a personal injury claim ties everything together. To recover financial compensation, you must be able to prove that someone else’s breach of duty caused your injury. 

There are some circumstances in which proof of negligence is not required. The most common example is an accident involving a defective product. In product defect cases, Illinois law allows accident victims to file claims without proof of negligence. Manufacturers are “strictly liable” for putting defective products on the market, and all it takes to recover compensation is evidence that the product’s defect is responsible for your injury. 

Common Types of Personal Injury Claims

Now that we’ve covered the topics of negligence and strict liability, we can take a look at some of the most common types of personal injury claims. Examples of the types of claims personal injury lawyers most frequently handle include: 

Auto Accidents

Many forms of driver negligence can lead to auto accidents. These accidents can also result from employer negligence (i.e., if a company fails to perform adequate background checks on its drivers) or product defects (i.e., defective brakes, lights, or tires).

Pedestrian Accidents 

Many of the same forms of negligence that can lead to auto accidents can lead to pedestrian accidents as well. Just like drivers and passengers, when pedestrians get injured due to someone’s negligence behind the wheel, they can file a claim for just compensation under Illinois law. 

Slip and Fall Accidents

Property owner negligence is a common factor in slip and fall accidents. Some examples include failing to clean up spills, failing to cordon off slippery floors, and failing to fix broken stairs or handrails. Defective flooring materials will be a factor in some cases as well. 

Workplace Accidents

While some workers are to blame for their own injuries (in which case they may still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits), many workplace accidents are the result of a coworker’s, company’s, or property owner’s negligence. 

Medical Negligence

Medical negligence (also referred to as medical malpractice) is alarmingly common. Medical malpractice claims involve several unique issues, so some personal injury lawyers handle them and some do not. 

Should You Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Given everything we’ve discussed, should you contact a personal injury lawyer about filing a claim? At Coplan + Crane, we recommend that you speak with a lawyer if:

  • You were involved in an accident,
  • You were injured in the accident, and
  • You have reason to suspect that someone else (or a company) may be to blame. 

It’s really that simple. Since you can get a free consultation, it costs nothing to find out if you have a personal injury claim. If you don’t have a claim, at least you will know for sure. But, if you do have a claim, contacting a lawyer promptly will give you the best chance to recover the financial compensation you deserve. 

Talk to a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer for Free

Our firm represents accident victims in personal injury claims in Chicago, Oak Park, and Rockford. If you have questions about your legal rights, we invite you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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To discuss your legal rights with a Chicago personal injury lawyer in confidence, call (708) 358-8080 or tell us about your case online now.