In some situations, the defendant's conduct, while questionable, may not rise to a level of culpability that entitles the plaintiff to recover damages. If, for instance, a plaintiff knowingly and willfully chooses to encounter a known hazard, the law provides that he or she has "assumed the risk" of injury and therefore the defendant is not liable. The assumption of the risk theory may apply, for example, in a case in which the plaintiff engaged in a friendly game of tackle football and another player broke his arm; in such a case, the plaintiff may be unable to recover for his injuries because he knew of the risks inherent in the game and willingly chose to encounter them.
In many jurisdictions the theory of assumption of the risk has been limited or replaced by the theory of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence allocates fault between the plaintiff and the defendant. Plaintiffs may also be denied damages in other personal injury cases if their subjective belief about the situation does not match an objective "reasonable person" standard. For instance, if a defendant approached the plaintiff and stated, "If I can't borrow your new convertible for my trip to Florida, I just may beat you up," it is likely that no actionable assault occurred due to the fact that there was no immediate threat of harm that would have caused reasonable apprehension in the plaintiff.
Other possible defenses to personal injury claims include, to name just a few, the statute of limitations, which is the law setting forth the time period in which the lawsuit must be initiated; sovereign immunity, which provides that certain government officials are immune from suit for their conduct, since if they were constantly subject to litigation for all of their acts they would be unable to perform their duties; intentional misuse of a product in a products liability case; and contributory or comparative negligence, in which case the defendant argues that the plaintiff's own conduct caused, or at least partly caused, his or her injuries. A seasoned veteran of personal injury law can explain these and other defenses and determine whether they apply to a particular case.
Personal injury actions require, in almost every instance, a lawyer's careful examination of the facts and circumstances of the particular matter in question in order to determine whether the defendant is legally responsible for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. An experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney can look at the facts of your case and determine whether you have a legally valid claim, how soon you must act to preserve your rights, what your damages may be, and whether you may be entitled to some type of financial benefits before your lawsuit is even resolved. And in most cases, you owe no legal fees unless and until the defendant pays the damages award, so you have nothing to lose-and possibly much to gain-by contacting an attorney today.