Personal Injury Law

What Does Personal Injury Law Cover?

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Personal injury law is a branch of civil law that deals with the legal rights of people who suffer harm or loss due to the wrongful actions or inactions of others. Personal injury law is also known as tort law. Tort law allows the harmed parties to seek compensation from the ones who caused their injury.

Sometimes, the same events that give rise to a personal injury claim may also lead to criminal charges. For instance, a defendant may face both a civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution for assault.

What Kind of Harm Does Personal Injury Law Address?

Personal injury law covers harm to a person’s emotional well-being, physical well-being, or both. Emotional harm includes the mental distress and suffering caused by an accident.

Physical harm includes the damage to the body or its parts. The harm caused by a personal injury may not appear immediately, and may worsen over time.

There are various types of events or accidents that can result in a personal injury claim, such as:

  • Accidents and injuries
  • Construction accidents;
  • Dog bites and animal attacks;
  • Defective products (class action);
  • Elder abuse;
  • Nursing home abuse;
  • Premises liability;
  • Product liability injury;
  • Toxic exposure (class action);
  • Unsafe drugs (class action); and
  • Wrongful death;

There are many kinds of accidents that can happen. It may be useful to look at accident statistics to help one be more aware and prevent accidents before they occur.

What Kinds of Actions Can Lead to a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury can occur either intentionally or unintentionally. An intentional injury happens when a defendant purposely harms a victim, or intends to do an act that causes harm. An unintentional injury happens when a defendant’s negligence causes harm to another person. Car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice injuries are all examples of negligence cases.

What Is an Intentional Injury Lawsuit?

An intentional injury lawsuit is when a plaintiff sues a defendant for harming them on purpose. Intentional injury lawsuits involve acts such as battery, assault, or false imprisonment. A battery is an unwanted or harmful contact with another person, without their consent.

There are two kinds of assault. One kind is an incomplete battery. A battery may be incomplete because someone stopped it or for some other reason.

The other kind of assault is when a defendant makes a plaintiff fear an imminent or harmful contact, such as by threatening to hurt them right away. False imprisonment is the unlawful confinement of a person, without their permission.

What Is a Negligence-Based Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A negligence-based personal injury lawsuit is when a plaintiff sues a defendant for harming them by breaching a duty of care that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If a plaintiff can prove that this breach caused harm, and resulted in damages, the plaintiff has a valid negligence claim.

The duty of care that a defendant owes to a plaintiff depends on the situation. A defendant has a legal duty to act as a reasonable person would in a similar situation.

For example, if a defendant is driving their car on a highway in normal weather, then the defendant has a duty to follow the traffic laws. But, if the defendant is driving their car on a narrow road in bad weather, then the defendant has a higher duty. The defendant must act as a reasonable person would in bad weather. This means driving slower, using wipers, and turning on lights.

Whether a duty of care exists, depends on how foreseeable or likely the harm was if the duty was not met. The test for whether a duty of care is owed can be asked as a question: Would a reasonable person, in the defendant’s position, foresee that the plaintiff’s injury was likely to happen?

If the answer is “yes,” then the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care. If the defendant breaks that duty and causes harm and damages, then the defendant has committed personal injury through negligence.

If the answer is “no,” then no duty is owed, and the defendant cannot be negligent.

Can I Sue for Emotional Distress?

In some cases, a person may sue for emotional distress, also called mental anguish. Emotional distress is a non-physical and mostly psychological harm that can be claimed in a civil lawsuit.

The law recognizes that emotional distress is a state of mental suffering that happens because of an experience that was caused by the negligence or intentional acts of another, usually of a physical nature. A witness of a person who suffers an emotional trauma, as well as their relatives, may be able to file a civil lawsuit for emotional distress.

Emotional distress may make a person show:

  • Feelings of shame or humiliation;
  • Insomnia;
  • Depression;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Anxiety;
  • Stress; or
  • Other emotional reactions that come from a traumatic event.

Can I Sue for Libel, Slander, and Defamation?

Yes, a person may be able to sue for libel, slander, and defamation. Defamation is when a person makes a false and malicious statement about another person, either in writing or verbally.

Defamation, as a legal area, is meant to fix a situation where a person’s words harmed another person’s reputation or livelihood. Defamation of character is a general term for any statement that hurts another person’s reputation.

Libel is written defamation, such as defaming a person in a book or a newspaper. It may also include visual images and published statements that are made on audio, radio, and video.
Slander is spoken defamation. It is the verbal publication of defamatory remarks that are heard by a third party.

What Types of Damages Can a Judge Award an Injured Plaintiff?

An injured plaintiff who proves that a defendant is liable (who proves the defendant did intentional or negligent harm) can get compensatory damages. Under the law, a plaintiff can get two types of damages: damages for the harm, and damages for the consequences of the harm.

The law makes this distinction. Under the law, there are two types of compensatory damages, which are called general damages and special damages.

General damages are those damages that are awarded for the harm itself. These damages include pain and suffering, and mental distress and trauma.

General damages cannot be easily given a money value. Therefore, to get these damages, the testimony of an expert, such as a doctor or psychologist, is needed to give a money value.

Special damages are damages that pay someone for a specific result of the harm. Specific results include medical bills and lost wages.

These items can be given an exact money value. A doctor’s bill, for example, shows the amount due, while a pay stub, which is a record of a plaintiff’s income, can be used to figure out the amount of wages lost because of the harm.

Special damages will be awarded to pay the plaintiff for those costs that their insurance or medicare and medicaid did not cover.

Do I Need the Help of a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have suffered a personal injury because of the illegal act of another, then you should contact a personal injury lawyer. A skilled personal injury lawyer near you can look at the facts of your case, tell you your rights and choices, and represent you at hearings and in court.

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