In a claim for personal injury, a plaintiff claims that they have sustained an injury due to an act or failure to act by the defendant. This injury can be either mental, physical, or both. The ruling court may award the plaintiff money damages for personal injury.
Examples of mental health injuries include emotional pain and anguish sustained by an accident. Examples of physical injuries include injuries to organs, limbs, and/or other parts of the anatomy. The injury does not need to manifest itself instantly, but may develop over time.
A personal injury may occur intentionally. An example of this would be when a defendant deliberately injures a victim, or intends to commit an act that results in injury. However, a personal injury may also occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the negligent behavior.
Some common examples of negligence cases include:
- Auto accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents; and
- Injuries sustained from medical malpractice.
What Are The Elements Of Personal Injury?
Very simply put, personal injury lawyers help people who have suffered injuries get compensation for those injuries from the person who caused the injuries. However, personal injury law itself is more complicated than that.
It is important to note that personal injury law does not address criminal law; when a person files a personal injury lawsuit, it is a civil lawsuit. A criminal action may be filed separately, if the incident resulting in the personal injury was of a criminal nature.
It is also important to note that a personal injury action may be one of three types: intentional tort, negligence, and strict liability. Each of these types of personal injury laws has its own set of elements that must be proven in order for the injured person to win their personal injury case. Each of these types and their elements are further discussed below.
What Are The Elements Required To Prove An Intentional Tort?
An intentional injury occurs when the defendant’s deliberate act, or intent to commit an act, injures the plaintiff. Specifically, intentional injury occurs when a defendant commits battery, assault, and/or false imprisonment.
Battery is defined as a harmful or offensive contact with another person, without their permission. In terms of assault, there are two types of assault. One is a battery that was not completed, such as when someone intervened to stop it. The other type of assault occurs when the defendant places the plaintiff in imminent fear of a harmful or offensive contact. An example of this would be by making threats to immediately hurt someone.
False imprisonment is the forcible restraint of a person, without that person’s consent to be restrained.
Another way to put it is that an intentional tort is a tort committed against another person with purpose. However, an intentional tort may also be simple awareness of the results of your action.
The following elements must be proven in order to establish that an intentional tort was committed:
- Intention: To reiterate, the defendant must be shown to have either intentionally committed the tort, or to have been aware that their action would cause the injury. A “reasonable person” standard is used to determine intention; meaning, would a reasonable person expect their action to cause harm?;
- Causation: What this means is that the defendant’s action must be directly responsible for causing the injury. The plaintiff will generally establish this by showing that they would not have suffered the injury, but for the defendant’s actions; and
- Damages: An actual, quantifiable injury must have resulted from the defendant’s actions or inaction.
What Is Negligence In Personal Injury?
Personal injury is not always committed with the intent to impact the other person; it may occur as the result of the defendant’s negligent behavior. The following elements must be established in order to prove negligence in personal injury:
- Duty: Duty refers to the level of care that a reasonable person would apply to similar circumstances. An example of this would be how a doctor has a duty associated with their professional responsibilities to care for their patient. While the nature of the duty may arise out of similar professional standards, there is also a “standard of reasonable care” that members of society owe to each other;
- Breach of Duty: Once duty has been established and proven, the plaintiff must show that the duty was breached. To expand upon the previous example, the doctor did not perform with reasonable care their duty to their patient;
- Causation: The plaintiff must specifically show that the defendant’s actions or inaction actually caused their injuries. What this means is that no other intervening actions must have caused the injuries; and
- Damages: Actual injury, or “damages,” must be shown. An example of this would be how the plaintiff cannot collect damages under this type of action simply because someone hit their car with their own, if there is no injury to them or damage to their car.
What Is Strict Liability In Personal Injury?
Strict liability cases are specialized cases which generally apply to business owners and/or manufacturers. These parties have a responsibility for ensuring that their products are generally safe for average consumers. When injury occurs, the defendant will be responsible automatically, regardless of whether they had intent or were negligent.
However, there are some rules that apply in terms of elements of strict liability in personal injury:
- Specific Activity: Strict liability can only be applied in specific circumstances. Some examples of these types of cases include:
- The owner of a wild animal allowing it to cause injury to others;
- A pet owner having a pet that is known for attacking people;
- A manufacturer marketing defective products that cause injury to consumers; and
- Failing to place proper warning labels on consumer products.
- Causation: Causation must still be shown in a strict liability case. The plaintiff must show that a reasonable person should have realized the potential for injury, and would have acted accordingly in order to avoid it; and
- Damages: Once again, an actual injury must be shown. A product that simply does not work will not allow you to recover damages in a strict liability case. Rather, the product must have injured you in some way that can be compensated, such as medical bills for injuries.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims?
Statutes of limitations apply to each of the three types of actions listed above. These are laws which require injured parties to file their claims within a certain timeframe. If the statute of limitations expires, the injured party may no longer bring a lawsuit regarding the injury. The laws are intended to preserve evidence and reduce the likelihood of false claims.
It is important to be aware of the statute of limitations that apply to your case, in order to prevent you from losing any potential compensation for your injuries. However, statute of limitations for different kinds of personal injury claims vary from state to state. Because each state has its own laws, you must ensure that you are aware of the rules of your own state.
Do I Need An Attorney For A Personal Injury Claim?
If you are considering pursuing a personal injury claim, you should consult with an experienced and local personal injury lawyer.
An attorney will be aware of your state’s specific personal injury laws, as well as any statute of limitations that may apply to your case. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.