A personal injury accident occurs when an individual suffers some type of harm or injury due to another individual’s carelessness or disregard. Following an accident, an injured individual can file a personal injury claim against the responsible party and use the civil court proceeding to collect compensatory damages for their injuries.
It is important to note that personal injury law is distinctive from criminal law. When an individual files a personal injury lawsuit, it is a lawsuit filed in civil court. Criminal actions may be filed separately if the incident which led to the personal injury was criminal in nature.
Personal injury actions may fall into one of three categories, each of which have separate sets of elements which must be shown in order for a plaintiff to prevail. These categories include:
A personal injury may occur from many different types of events. The most common types of accidents include the following, as well as the following articles related to those accidents:
- Automobile Accidents:
- Construction Accidents:
- Personal Injury:
- Personal Injury Terms and Procedures:
- Premises Liability:
- Slip and Fall Accidents:
- Wrongful Death:
- Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?;
- What Is Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?;
- Wrongful Death Lawsuits For Unborn Children; and
- Defenses to Wrongful Death Cases.
What Kind of Injury Does a Personal Injury Claim Involve?
A personal injury can damage the plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Mental health issues may include emotional pain and anguish which is 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.
What Kinds of Acts Form the Basis of a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injuries can occur intentionally, including cases where a defendant deliberately injures a plaintiff or where 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 may include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents; and
- Injuries from medical malpractice.
What are Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?
As noted above, a personal injury claim is a legal action where an individual has suffered, physical, mental, or emotional injuries or property damages, usually from some type of accident. If the plaintiff files a lawsuit, they will usually request some form of financial compensation from the defendant, or the party who is responsible for causing the injury.
These damages are called compensatory damages, because they compensate the plaintiff for injuries which they suffered.
When are You Awarded Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are usually awarded in order to restore a plaintiff, or injured party, to the position they were in prior to the harm or loss occurring. Compensatory damages are awarded in cases where an injury or loss has occurred.
In general, there are two main types of compensatory damages, which include special damages and general damages. Special damages are those which are intended to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in prior to the injury.
Special damages usually include damages which can be calculated, including:
- Medical expenses;
- Property damage;
- Loss of wages or earnings; and
- Other quantifiable losses.
General damages are damages which are awarded for those losses that are not easily calculated. This many include losses such as:
What Do I Need to Prove to Get Compensatory Damages?
In order for a plaintiff to receive compensatory damages, they must prove several elements of their claim. A plaintiff will be required to show that a loss has, in fact, occurred, and that the loss was caused by the defendant.
In other words, the plaintiff must show that the conduct of the defendant is the cause of the loss or injury. In the majority of cases, the plaintiff’s loss is caused by the defendant’s negligence.
A common example of this is when a defendant is negligent while driving and causes an automobile accident which injures the plaintiff. For example, if the defendant was driving over the speed limit.
A plaintiff will need to gather and preserve various forms of evidence which may be used to support their claim. This may include:
- Statements from any witnesses;
- Photos or videos which are connected with the incident;
- Various documents, including medical bills and police records;
- Physical evidence, including:
- broken glass;
- dents; or
- other damage; and
- Any other items or evidence which may help the court calculate damages.
What Types of Claims Receive Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages can be awarded in many different types of personal injury cases. The majority of these types of cases are resolved through an award of compensatory damages.
Common types of claims which often result in compensatory damages include:
- Car accident claims;
- Slip and fall cases;
- Medical malpractice and other types of malpractice claims;
- Assault, battery, and other torts;
- Dog bit cases and other animal attack claims; and
- Injuries caused by dangerous or defective products.
There are also other types of claims which may result in compensatory damages awards. It is important for an individual to consult with an attorney to determine the laws of their state.
How are Compensatory Damages Calculated?
When calculating the amount of compensatory damages, a court will usually consider a wide range of factors related to the case, including:
- The background of the victim, including their age;
- The type of injury and the extent of that injury;
- Any costs which are associated with treatment or rehabilitation for the plaintiff;
- Any differences or losses in the plaintiff’s ability to earn wages before and after the incident;
- Any actual loss of income;
- Whether any property damage resulted from the incident; and
- Any other ways the incident impacted the victim’s quality of life.
It is important to note that there may be certain circumstances in which a plaintiff’s damages award can be reduced or limited. For example, if the plaintiff contributed to their own injury, it may reduce their damages under contributory negligence laws.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
It is very important to hire a personal injury attorney for help with any type of personal injury case. These types of cases are very complex and generally require the help of a lawyer for the best results.
In many instances, a personal injury case will be settled prior to going to trial. Your personal injury attorney can help negotiate a settlement amount that will compensate you for your losses and medical bills. Your attorney will also represent you when you have to appear in court.