What is a Personal Injury?
In terms of the law, personal injury is harm to a person—either in body or mind—for which someone else can be held responsible. Personal injury can include physical, bodily harm, mental distress or anguish, or intellectual harm but not damage or harm to property or inanimate objects.
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action against the person, company, or organization responsible for the harm. You file the lawsuit against the person or group you believe you can prove negligent in the incident that caused damage or injury.
What is Tort Law?
You will often hear the terms tort and tort law used along with personal injury. A tort is any type of action, or lack of action, that harms another person. This wrong amounts to a liability that can be imposed through the legal system. In other words, the person or group to blame can be forced to pay the injured party.
The purpose of tort law is to ensure that when negligence harms people, they can get relief. So, for instance, if a business fails to warn of a slippery floor and you fall and break a bone, you aren’t left with the medical bills or lost wages when you can’t work. You have the option to take legal steps to recover those damages from the company at fault.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury, or tort, cases are civil lawsuits as opposed to criminal. An individual takes legal action against the responsible party, as the government would do in a criminal case. Penalties are different too. In a civil lawsuit, the guilty person makes payment to the injured party. Criminal cases may involve fines and/or jail time. There are three main types of personal injury cases:
- Negligence. This is the most common type of personal injury. Consider these accidental incidents. Someone caused you harm by failing to adhere to specific standards of action expected of people. They didn’t mean to do it. For example, a doctor is expected to provide a certain level of care for patients. If they overlook a test or diagnosis and someone gets sick or harmed during a procedure, the doctor is negligent.
- Intentional Wrong. A tort case can be intentional, but this is less common. Intentional wrongs may have a civil and a criminal component. For instance, if you get into an argument with someone and they punch you, it is an intentional act, an assault. Other intentional wrongs are defamation, trespassing, fraud, and infliction of emotional distress.
- Strict Liability. In the case of strict liability, proof of direct fault is not necessary. One of the most common examples of this type of personal injury is a defective product. If a product you bought malfunctioned and hurt you, the manufacturer is automatically liable.
How Do You Prove Negligence?
In some cases, proving someone is at fault for personal injury is simple. For instance, another driver ran a red light due to inattention and caused the accident that injured you. Witnesses saw the car go through the light, and this proves negligence.
Other cases are more complicated. To prove negligence, the defendant’s actions must be compared to what any reasonable person would have done in the same situation. Here are some examples:
- The driver of a car or truck is reasonably expected to follow traffic laws. If they do not, and someone gets hurt, they can be proven to be negligent.
- A nursing home should provide a certain number of healthcare workers to monitor patient health and provide care. A facility does not check on patients often enough, and someone develops pneumonia. The company that owns the facility could be found negligent.
- A doctor is expected to provide care to patients based on an accepted standard. During labor, an obstetrician fails to monitor fetal heart rate and detect complications that later cause a brain injury and disability. That doctor, and the hospital, could be liable.
Some Common Types of Personal Injury
Personal injuries can come in many different forms, whether they are intentional, negligent, or strict liability. Negligent actions are most common. The types of personal injury cases lawyers most often see are:
- Vehicle accidents – Injuries or deaths that result from reckless driving and failure to obey traffic laws
- Premises liability – Injuries on private or public property due to dangerous conditions, like trip hazards or swimming pools
- Medical malpractice – Harm caused when a medical professional fails to provide care up to a general standard agreed upon by the medical community
- Workplace injuries – Accidents or illnesses in the workplace from an unsafe environment, improper training, or lack of proper equipment
- Nursing home abuse and neglect – Harm to patients or residents because of inadequate care or intentional harm by employees
- Defective products and medical devices – Harm caused by products that do not work the way they are described or promised
- Defamation – Reputation damage from slanderous or libelous statements
- Dog bites – Injury, disfiguration, or even death resulting from a dog not adequately controlled by its owner
- Assault – Intentional bodily harm
- Wrongful death – Any death that results from negligence, intentional harm, or strict liability that is not considered murder or manslaughter
What Should I Do After a Personal Injury?
If an accident or intentional action has harmed you, it’s important to know your rights and to take these steps:
- Get Medical Help
Your health is immediately essential. Get medical care as soon as possible and emergency attention if necessary. If you can contact someone to help, have them take the next steps for you.
- Take Notes on the Incident
Your memories of the accident or incident will be freshest soon after it occurs. Jot down some notes on what happened. Ask anyone who witnessed the event to do the same. If you are receiving emergency care, take notes as soon after care as possible.
- Preserve Evidence
Any physical evidence could be significant in making your case later. Be sure that you take steps to preserve it. For instance, in a car accident, do not get repairs immediately. At least take pictures of the damage first.
- Obtain a Police Report
Call the police to the scene of the incident as soon as possible. A police report is an official description of the event and can be evidence in your case.
- Meet with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Find a personal injury lawyer to help you make a case or recover damages from those responsible. Meet with a lawyer as soon as you can to discuss the situation and get advice on what to do next.
Personal injuries may cause damages and result from a third party’s negligence. If this happens to you, consider talking to a lawyer specializing in these cases. They can explain the laws and your options and help you recover damages.