Personal injury law, which is part of tort law, is an area of the law that allows an injured individual to seek compensation and, if need be, go court (often with the help of a plaintiff lawyer) to recover damages and losses resulting from an accident or incident. The injured individual may then be financially compensated after suffering physical, psychological, or emotional damages due to the careless, reckless, or intentional actions of another.
The term “personal injury” is used generally to describe a wide variety of “injuries”, such as those resulting from car accidents, defective products, intentional actions or defamation. Personal injuries can occur at the workplace, in a traffic accident, because of a medical error, because of a faulty product, or because someone slipped and fell on a wet floor.
A victim’s right to recover damages is based on the principle that an innocent individual should not have to bear the burden of the loss as a result of the misconduct of another individual or entity – such as a driver on the road, an employer, doctor, landlord, manufacturer, or any other person or organization that owed the victim a duty of care.
Personal injury laws differ from state to state, as do the statute of limitations – which can be a set limit on the amount of time a person has to file an injury-related claim in the state’s civil court system.
What happens in a personal injury case?
While many personal injury cases have similarities, no two are exactly the same.
In many activities, like driving a car, providing medical care or making and selling products to name a few, the law typically requires that the person doing the act meet a certain “standard of care.” If a person or company intentionally or unintentionally violates this “standard of care” and someone is injured or hurt as a result, the potential for a personal injury case exists.
Part of what a personal injury attorney does is to determine if the person or company violated a legal duty, such as in the case of a manufacturer or distributor who has a duty not to sell unreasonably dangerous or defective products. Another example could be a driver who has a legal duty to operate a vehicle safely, and with the level of care that any reasonable individual would exhibit on the road.
If the defendant indeed breached a legal duty and that breach caused the injury or harm sustained by the injured party, that party may demand monetary compensation from the person or company breaching the legal duty. Settlement talks involving offers of monetary compensation in exchange for the victim’s promise not to file a claim over the injury may occur.
If the parties come to an agreement to settle, then the case can end there. If not, however, then the plaintiff may file a lawsuit. In many cases, the parties settle during the lawsuit process. In cases where the parties cannot settle a jury may decide if the plaintiff is entitled to compensation and if so, how much should be awarded.