What Area of Law is Personal Injury?
The American Bar Association defines personal injury law, also known as tort law, as a form of protection afforded to you should your body or property undergo injury or damages because of another party’s negligent behavior. Ultimately, personal injury law exists so you do not pay for the mistakes of others. If you suffered a personal injury, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and seek a settlement for your losses.
What Are Common Types of Personal Injury Cases?
Personal injury is an umbrella term used to encompass several accident cases involving negligence resulting in damages. The most common types involve auto accidents, and the most difficult to prove are often medical malpractice and product liability. Every case is different, which also means the losses suffered can vary.
Personal injury attorneys spend most of their time battling insurance companies in the aftermath of an auto accident. They sometimes represent drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists and typically have access to accident reconstruction experts with skills to help them investigate the scene and determine liability.
The types of auto accidents include:
- Car accidents of varying impact positions, including rear-end, front-end, side-swipe, and side-impact collisions
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Truck accidents
- Hit and run accidents
- Multi-vehicle accidents
This list is not comprehensive. Accidents can be a combination of multiple types of collisions and involve unique circumstances that require consideration.
Premises liability is a form of personal injury law that governs accidents occurring on someone else’s property. The most common type is the slip and fall accident, but other cases that fall under premises liability law include:
- Dog bites
- Toxic/chemical fume injuries
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Flooding accidents
- Landlord/tenant discrepancies
Premises liability cases center around the duty of care property owners owe visitors and licensees. For example, suppose you slip, fall, and suffer an injury in a grocery store because employees fail to clean a spill or use warning signage to partition the dangerous condition. In that case, you can file a claim against the property owner for damages. Under premises liability law, the grocery store owner and employees owe you a duty of care to keep the floor free of potential hazards.
Medical malpractice refers to personal injury caused by a health care professional. This can include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and anyone licensed to provide medical care. When a healthcare provider neglects their duty to provide treatment in the best interests of a patient’s health, the patient can sue if that negligence results in an injury.
Some common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose, treat, or manage
- Surgical errors
- Birth injuries, either to the mother, the baby, or both
- Nursing home neglect
- Hospital neglect
- Improper use of anesthesia
- Administering incorrect medications
Medical malpractice cases are complex, and juries tend to favor medical providers and facilities. As a result, these cases are often difficult to win.
When someone suffers an injury caused by a defective product, they could receive compensation from the manufacturer. For example, if you suffer injuries in a truck accident caused by a tire blowout on the truck, your attorney would investigate the cause of the blowout to determine who is at fault. If the tire blew out because of a defect occurring during the design or manufacturing process, you could file a product liability lawsuit against the tire company.
Anytime a personal injury results in the victim’s death, the law allows someone else to file a wrongful death case against the person or party at fault for the accident. State law mandates who can file a wrongful death claim, typically limiting plaintiffs to a personal representative of the deceased. In most cases, it is an immediate family member directly affected by the loss of their loved one.
What Are the Damages From a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
To sue for a personal injury, you must provide proof of compensatory damages. These include the economic and non-economic losses associated with your injury:
- Bills for medical treatment
- Lost income during treatment and recovery
- Future medical bills and lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Cost of damaged property
- All other expenses required to accommodate your treatment and recovery, including hiring outside help
The non-economic damages refer to the adverse effects your injuries had on your emotional state. Examples include physical pain and suffering, emotional and mental distress, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, loss of life’s enjoyment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In personal injury cases where the negligent party acted with malice or ill-intent, the court may award exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages. The purpose of exemplary damages is not to replace any tangible or subjective losses. Instead, the court uses the order to punish the defendant and deter them from committing the same action in the future. For example, executing heinous medical malpractice or causing a car accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may result in exemplary damages for the plaintiff.
What Is the Role of Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits require some form of negligence to charge the defendant and make them compensate the plaintiff. If you file a lawsuit, you, as the plaintiff, must provide proof of the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant breached that responsibility, resulting in an accident
- The accident directly caused your injuries and damages
You should expect pushback from the defendant and their insurance provider. The most common retort is placing blame on the plaintiff to remove all or partial responsibility from the defendant.
If you share fault for the accident, the court will not allow you to receive the total value of your claim. This concept is called the comparative negligence rule. Under comparative negligence, the court determines your percentage of negligence and deducts it from the total damages. What remains is what you receive.
Additionally, states choose what type of comparative negligence they follow. Under the modified comparative negligence rule, you cannot be more than 50% or 51% at fault, depending on the state, to receive an award. However, states that follow the pure comparative negligence rule allow you to receive partial compensation as the defendant shares as little as 1% fault.
Why Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Personal injury accidents are often inherently difficult, especially when victims face severe physical injuries and substantial financial and emotional damages. If you suffered an injury in an accident initiated by someone else’s negligent behavior, a personal injury attorney could help you navigate the civil lawsuit process and represent you in negotiations with the insurance company. The purpose of tort law is to provide you with a legal avenue to compensation. Your attorney’s role is to investigate your case, collect the evidence you need to support your claim, and prepare your case for a potential trial should the insurer not offer you a fair settlement.
At Phillips Law Group, our team of personal injury attorneys can offer dedicated, aggressive representation. We study your accident and the resulting damages to accurately value your claim and get the compensation owed to you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We are prepared to get to work for you right away.
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