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Ohio Personal Injury Law: Should You Accept an Insurance Settlement or File a Lawsuit?

Ohio personal injury law provides a way for you to recover your losses when hurt in an accident or event through no fault of your own. While every personal injury case is unique, there are common elements you can expect to encounter when you file a personal injury claim in Ohio.

In This Article:

Starting the Personal Injury Process in Ohio

First and foremost, suffering an injury caused by the carelessness of a person, business, or other entity, whether a truck accident, dog bite, slip and fall, car crash, or other mishap, gives you the right to file a personal injury claim in the state where the incident occurred.

In Ohio, personal injury law is designed to make the injured “whole.” It seeks to restore the victim to the same state where he or she would have been—physically, mentally, and financially—had the event not occurred. Of course, a lawsuit or insurance claim cannot bring a life back or make a person healthy again. But, it can help you cover medical bills and compensate you for both present and future lost earnings, as well as the consequences of pain and suffering in some cases.

How you start the claim depends on the facts of the incident, the extent of the injury, and importantly, what you can PROVE; not just what you say happened. Proving another person or entity was careless (negligent) and caused your injury is not as simple as it might seem. The responsible party’s insurer or a jury may find reasons to deny your claim or award a much smaller amount of money than you deserve. In most Ohio personal injury cases, you will need help from a qualified Ohio personal injury lawyer.

Money Damages Available Under Ohio Personal Injury Law

Two types of compensation are available to cover losses in an Ohio personal injury case: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages involve injury and loss that you can prove through documentation or verify by other means. Examples include invoices or other paperwork for medical treatment, including surgery, medications, doctor visits, specialists, emergency care, hospitalization, physical therapy, and additional healthcare costs; and pay stubs or income tax records to prove lost wages.

Related: Taking Charge of Your Health Care in Ohio Personal Injury Cases

Non-economic damages are not as easy to prove, despite “your word” that you experienced certain hardships because of your injuries. Examples of non-economic costs include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress from scarring or disfigurement
  • A disability that diminishes the quality of life
  • Losses based on relationships with loved ones that result in a decreased enjoyment of life

Since these non-economic damages are based on or influenced by personal feelings—without receipts, invoices, or other documentation—you must rely on different tactics to prove them. Although they vary from case to case, Graham & Graham personal injury attorneys have successfully established non-economic damages, both in negotiations with insurance companies and in court.

Additionally, Ohio personal injury law limits the amount of non-economic personal injury damages you can recover. That sum is no more than $250,000, or three times the amount of economic damages, with a maximum cap of $350,000.

However, Ohio’s non-economic damage caps do not apply to very severe types of injuries known as “catastrophic injuries.” These include permanent and substantial deformity, loss of use of a limb or bodily organ system, or that permanently prevents an injured person from being able to care for their needs independently. Severe brain injuries, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and vision loss are common catastrophic injuries.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

After an accident with injury, you have two options for submitting your personal injury claim. One, you could file with the responsible party’s insurer and hope for a quick insurance settlement. Or, two, depending on the severity and complexity of the accident, you might be advised to file a lawsuit in an Ohio civil court and present your case to a judge and jury.

Insurance Settlement in Personal Injury Claims

Typically, people and businesses carry insurance policies to protect their interests against accidents. Therefore, most injured people start by seeking compensation from the responsible party’s insurance company.

A few scenarios where insurance claims settle minor to significant personal injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, such as car collisions, motorcycle wrecks, and commercial truck crashes
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
  • Injuries caused by dangerous conditions on a property often termed “slip and fall” cases
  • Dog bites and animal attacks*
  • Injuries that result from a dangerous or defective consumer product
  • Nursing home neglect and abuse
  • Medical malpractice, including claims against doctors and hospitals
  • Among many others**

* Most states protect dog owners from liability the first time their dog injures someone if the owner had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. Often referred to as the “one bite” rule. However, Ohio has a specific law that makes the dog owner “strictly liable.” In Ohio, the owner is responsible for any personal injury caused by his or her animal, including the first bite. The only exception to owner responsibility is where the injured person was trespassing or otherwise committing a felony crime at the time of the incident.

**In an injury claim against the Ohio state government, such as a personal injury caused by the negligence of an employee or agency of the Ohio government, a different set of rules applies. A qualified attorney licensed to practice law in Ohio can guide you through those conditions and processes.

Filing a Lawsuit in a Personal Injury Case

A personal injury lawsuit may result in more compensation than an insurance settlement but is not without risks. For example, a trial can drag out over several years, causing dire financial consequences for the victim who is unable to cover medical expenses and other bills in the meantime. Additionally, personal injury case investigations rarely assign more than one detective, unlike a criminal investigation, and can take six months or more.

Of course, if your case is weak or borderline, you may receive less than a settlement offer, and in some cases nothing at all. A qualified attorney is in the best position to determine whether your case is strong and should go to trial or if the settlement offer is fair. Even if you take a chance on trial, you can still accept a settlement deal with the insurer at any time, up until the final verdict.

Experts estimate that less than five percent of personal injury incidents end up in trial court. Close to 90 percent of cases that do go to trial end up losing. The reasons are varied. Outlined below are just a few.

Proving Personal Injury in Ohio

To establish a personal injury to an insurance company or court of law and recover compensation for an injury based on negligence, you must have substantial evidence. Sometimes proof requires credible expert testimony. Four elements are considered necessary to prove negligence: duty; breach; causation; and damages.

  1. Duty: You must establish that the party responsible for your injury had a duty to act with reasonable caution, to avoid causing a risk of harm to others.
  2. Breach: You must prove that the party responsible for your injury failed to observe a duty by acting carelessly or in a way that differs from what others would do in the same situation.
  3. Causation: You must show that your injury was a direct result of the responsible party’s actions. For example, if the failure to act with reasonable caution is unrelated to how the injury-causing accident happened, you may not be able to recover compensation.
  4. Damages: You have to present evidence of how your life was harmfully affected as a result of your injuries.

Beyond these four elements, two other factors can impact your success:

  1. Time Limits to File a Personal Injury Claim: All states set an amount of time from the date of the incident to notify an insurer or to file a lawsuit in an Ohio civil court. If you don’t initiate your claim or suit before this deadline expires, you are barred by law from ever recovering compensation for your losses. In Ohio, that time limit is two years from the date of the injury.
  2. Shared Fault: There’s another law in Ohio that may affect the monetary damages you can receive. This rule, called “comparative negligence,” focuses on your conduct in the injury-causing accident and whether you may have contributed to the accident and your injuries. If you were partially at fault for creating your situation, a percentage of blame is attached to your actions, reducing the amount of money you receive.

Related: Comparative Negligence in Ohio Personal Injury Claims

Protecting Your Position in an Ohio Personal Injury Claim

Beyond proof, time limits, and shared fault, several other factors can harm your case.

  • You didn’t seek medical treatment. If you delay getting immediate, proper, or complete treatment, one may assume that your injuries were not severe enough to merit any compensation. No matter how slight your injury, you should go to an emergency room, urgent care center, or your doctor immediately after the incident to protect your case. You must follow up on all doctor’s orders until he or she determines you have recovered, fully.
  • You can’t factually support your claim. Telling the insurance company that you were out of work for a month due to your injury isn’t enough. You must back that up with medical records, hospital bills, prescriptions, pay stubs, and other related documents. Because many doctors and hospitals keep only electronic records, you should always ask or a printed copy that details your treatment after each visit.
  • You spoke too soon at the accident scene. Immediately following a car crash, truck accident, or any other personal injury event, the scene will likely be chaotic, and you may be overwhelmed. You may be in shock and not remember clearly. You may not recognize the extent of your injuries. If the police arrive, give your name and address or other documentation they request, such as a driver’s license. But wait before telling your side of the story. Also, a smart move is to say you’d like to speak to your lawyer, which will give you time to reflect on the incident and get advice. Hopefully, details will emerge to help your case. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the accident investigation process. He or she can prevent you from saying something which could ultimately hurt your case.
  • You said too much to the responsible party’s insurance company. When you file a claim with the offender’s insurance company, an employee, called an adjuster, will ask questions about the accident or event. The employee’s job is to find a weakness in your claim so that the insurance company can deny it or hold you responsible in part (comparative negligence). Best to say as little as possible when speaking to an adjuster. Be aware that the statements you make can come back to hurt your case! Consulting with an attorney before you talk to an adjuster might save your claim.
  • You shared too much on social media. As mentioned above, insurance companies will attempt to find weaknesses in your case. A public social media account can be a gold mine. Do not post photos celebrating with friends, playing basketball, or participating in any activity that contradicts your claim that you are at home recovering from your injuries. If found by the insurer, such images will hurt your case.
  • You think you can do-it-yourself.  Filing an insurance claim may appear straightforward, but doing it on your own to save money could end up costing you more. For example, if you are getting deeper in debt with medical bills or lost wages, an insurance company’s settlement offer may sound like a lot money to you. But a capable personal injury lawyer will know more accurately how much your injury is worth. He or she may advise you to decline the first offer, which is often lower than fair compensation, and can negotiate a larger settlement.

Counsel You can Trust in Ohio Personal Injury Law

We know firsthand that your best chance for a successful personal injury or accident claim starts by speaking with an attorney. We provide this service at no cost. Call 1-800-621-8585 or send us a message. During a consultation, we will listen to you and tailor our advice to your specific needs. And if we do end up serving as your personal injury law firm, Graham & Graham charges no legal fees unless and until we recover compensation for you.

Yes, accidents happen. But when they happen to you, you may not know what to do next. Dealing with the healthcare system can be hard enough. Having to deal with a legal claim for an accident that wasn’t your fault makes the recovery process even more complicated. Graham & Graham has represented the people of Ohio in personal injury claims and lawsuits for nearly 100 years.

We are conveniently located in Zanesville and Cambridge. Our Ohio personal injury lawyers will also travel to your home or hospital bed anywhere throughout the state. We routinely handle cases for residents passing through Ohio from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and beyond. Our priority is to make sure you have all the information and support you need to get well and recover your losses after a personal injury.

 

 

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