What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Bringing a claim after you’ve been injured
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action that a plaintiff (injured party) commences against a defendant (wrongdoer). The plaintiff files and serves a summons and complaint against the defendant, alleging in the complaint that the defendant did not meet certain legal duties as a result of which the plaintiff suffered damages.
A successful personal injury action requires four basic components:
(1) Liability: A plaintiff must prove the defendant breached a legal duty and was causally negligent. For example, a motorist fails to stop at a stop sign and collides with your vehicle.
(2) Damages: A plaintiff must prove he sustained damages such as injuries requiring medical treatment, suffering pain, or incurring loss of wages.
(3) Collectability: If the defendant is uninsured or is bankrupt, a plaintiff will collect nothing even if he gets a judgment against the defendant. If you have your own auto insurance, you may still have a recovery through it.
(4) Timeliness: The law requires a personal injury action to be filed within a certain period of time. The statute of limitations in Wisconsin for most personal injury actions is three years.
If you think you have a personal injury cause of action, consult an attorney as soon as possible. Any delay may make liability and damages harder to prove, and often there are other filing deadlines, especially in medical malpractice actions and actions against governmental entities.