Overview of Personal Injury Law
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What Is a Personal Injury?
Personal injury is an injury to a person’s body or mind. Personal injury causes of action are based on tort law, which covers behaviors that cause injury, suffering or harm to another person. In general, tort law is categorized into three categories:
- Intentional torts (such as battery);
- Unintentional torts (all types of negligence claims such as car accidents or animal attacks); and,
- Strict liability (product liability).
What Are Some Common Personal Injury Cases?
Personal injury cases involve injuries in many different settings and situations. Some common personal injury cases include:
- Slip and fall cases
- Injuries based on another party’s negligent acts, including car accidents
- Malpractice-related claims
- Premises liability injuries
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Product liability and defective product cases
What is an Accident Personal Injury Claim?
An accident personal injury claim may be filed in connection with injuries resulting from unintentional accidents and can involve a single claim by one plaintiff or multiple claims by many plaintiffs (class action lawsuit). Most accident personal injury lawsuits are based on a negligence theory.
Proof of negligence does not require that the defendant acted intentionally in order to be held liable. Instead, liability for negligence is proved by showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, that she breached her duty, and that the breach was the cause of the person’s injuries.
How to Prove a Negligence Claim
Two types of evidence used to prove a negligence case are direct and circumstantial evidence. Evidence that is collected from personal knowledge of a witness or from images seen in a photo or video are considered direct evidence. Other evidence that leads to direct evidence and does not directly show proof of negligence would be characterized as circumstantial evidence.
Thus, while the person may not have directly caused an injury, it is her negligent conduct that created the conditions for the accident to occur.
What Should I Do If I Intend to Bring a Personal Injury Claim?
First, seek medical assistance. Your health is important, so don’t be shy about getting medical attention. You can seek therapy, medication or surgery, whatever you and your doctors believe will help. This has the dual purpose of documenting the extent of your injuries, which is important since personal injury claims require proof of injury before any compensation can be offered.
Second, collect proof of the injury. Take photos if possible, write down names of witnesses, and keep all medical and insurance documents.
What Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth?
Typically, personal injury plaintiffs are awarded compensatory damages – a monetary award intended to put the plaintiff back in the position she was in prior to the injury. There are two types of compensatory damages: general and specific.
1) General damages
General damages compensate for the injury itself, the most commonly known type is for pain and suffering. Other types of general damages are awarded for ongoing disability, or disfigurement. The amount of general damages will depend on:
- Severity of the injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Your future medical prognosis
- Any pre-existing injuries
2) Specific damages
Specific damages, also called special damages, compensate for measurable monetary loss resulting from the injury. Specific damages cover both past and future lost wages, medical bills, and other consequential costs. The amount will depend on:
- Amount of medical bills
- How the injuries have affected your ability to work
- How the injuries have affected your lifestyle
Punitive Damages: Damages to Punish the Defendant
Another type of award that may be granted in a personal injury case is punitive damages. While the goal of awarding compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole again, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for willful, wanton, or malicious conduct. As such, punitive damages are typically only awarded in personal injury suits resulting from intentional harm.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been injured, then you want to make sure you take the right steps. To make sure you don't make any mistakes, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies.
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Last Modified: 09-08-2017 10:06 AM PDT
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