A personal injury accident occurs when a person suffers some type of harm or injury, as the result of another person’s carelessness or disregard. A personal injury can damage the plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Mental health issues generally include emotional pain and anguish sustained by the accident.
A physical injury can include an injury to the plaintiff’s organs, limbs, or other parts of their body. The injury which is sustained by the plaintiff does not have to manifest immediately, as some injuries develop over time.
After an accident, an injured person can file a personal injury claim against the responsible party, and use the civil court proceeding in order to collect compensatory damages for their injuries. It is important to note that personal injury law is distinctive from criminal law. When a person files a personal injury lawsuit, it is filed in civil court. Criminal actions may be filed separately if the incident which led to the personal injury was criminal in nature.
A personal injury may occur from many different types of events. The most common types of accidents include:
- Automobile Accidents;
- Construction Accidents;
- Premises Liability;
- Slip and Fall Accidents; and
- Wrongful Death.
Personal injury actions may be categorized in one of three ways, each of which have separate sets of elements which the plaintiff must prove in order to make a successful claim. These three categories are:
Personal injuries can occur intentionally, including cases in which a defendant deliberately injures a plaintiff. Or, the defendant intends to commit an act which results in injury to the plaintiff. Personal injuries may also occur unintentionally.
If an unintentional injury is the result of the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit based on that negligent behavior. Negligence cases include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents; and
- Injuries from medical malpractice.
What Is Gross Negligence?
To reiterate, negligence is a concept found in tort law that occurs when a person carries out an unintentional act that breaches the duty of care that they owe to someone else. This breach causes that person to suffer an injury or an economic loss. Gross negligence, however, expands on the basic definition of negligence and is described as a failure to exercise even the smallest fraction of care.
Essentially, gross negligence is a deliberate disregard for the safety or well-being of another person. A person who is convicted of committing an act that amounts to gross negligence generally either knows or should have known of the risks that were associated with their actions.
While gross negligence also involves unintentional acts similar to those for negligence, the acts that constitute gross negligence will generally appear to be nearly intentional conduct. This is because of the reckless nature of the grossly negligent activity.
In general, gross negligence is easier to prove than most cases involving acts of ordinary negligence. This is because standard negligence cases require the plaintiff to prove several specific elements before they can say that a person’s actions were in fact negligence. However, a claim for gross negligence only requires proving that a defendant’s actions were blatantly dangerous and/or unreasonably reckless.
Some common examples of actions that may constitute gross negligence include:
- When a senior caregiver neglects to give their elderly patient water or food for several days;
- If a driver intentionally speeds down a street where they know children play outside;
- When a surgeon leaves behind a foreign object inside a person after an operation, such as a bandage, surgical instrument, or medical sponge;
- If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, or removes the wrong organ or body part from a patient during surgery;
- When a hotel or store conducts renovations and fails to barricade a dangerous area from the public, which causes someone to get hurt;
- If a company continues selling a product that they know is harmful to its users;
- When a person does donuts in a parking lot that is full of pedestrians; or
- If a restaurant knowingly serves food that is undercooked, or is not prepared in the proper way, to its patrons.
There are considerably few legal defenses that a defendant can raise against a claim for gross negligence. Depending on the jurisdiction, a defendant may be able to assert:
- Defense of property;
- Lack of evidence; and/or
- Lack of proof.
What Is A Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is an extreme injury or illness that could have been avoided if the defendant was not negligent. An extreme injury is one that has a permanent effect on the injured party’s everyday life or normal bodily functions.
Some of the most common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Brain and/or spinal cord damage;
- Major burns;
- Compound bone fractures;
- Blindness or partial blindness;
- Neurological disorders; and/or
- Severe damage to internal organs.
Injuries that are considered to be “catastrophic” are not limited to the list above, as each case is unique and determined by the facts.
Catastrophic injuries are limitless because they are caused by events that are unforeseeable, or occur unexpectedly. As such, the extent of the injuries and the cause of the injuries is what determines if it constitutes catastrophic injury. It is important to note that an injury may not necessarily qualify as catastrophic, but rather “serious” bodily harm or damage.
Some common examples of events that may result in a catastrophic injury include:
- Motorcycle or car accidents;
- Sports injuries, including extreme sports;
- Device malfunction, such as when using a power tool like a chainsaw;
- Defective or wrong dosage of a medicine; and/or
Who Can Be Held Liable For A Catastrophic Injury?
Liability for catastrophic injuries ;largely depends on the facts of each case. In general, if a person is found to be either negligent or grossly negligent, they are responsible for the injuries and related damages. In addition, it is common to have multiple defendants in catastrophic injury cases.
If the defendant’s actions intentionally caused a person to be catastrophically injured, then they are considered to be absolutely liable. If a defective product or medical drug is the underlying cause of the injury, the defendant is held liable as well.
Legal liability for such injuries varies considerably according to the circumstances of each specific case, the parties involved, and state laws. Generally speaking, the injured party receives damages for their losses, in addition to any future damage associated with the injury.
The following are some of the most common examples of damages that are awarded:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering;
- Wrongful death;
- Loss of consortium;
- Emotional distress; and/or
- Punitive damages.
Medical examiners and experts are generally necessary in order to determine the extent of the injuries, as well as the basis for the damage award. Punitive damages are ordered by the court’s discretion, meaning that the plaintiff can request punitive damages but ultimately it is up to the judge to determine whether the case is serious enough to warrant such damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer For Help With Catastrophic Injury?
Any person involved in a catastrophic injury case should consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Catastrophic injury cases are especially complex, serious, and can take several months to years to settle.
Your personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, throughout the process.