In its most basic definition, “personal injury” is damage to one’s body that inhibits a person’s ability to enjoy his or her property. But personal injury is more profound than that.
Damage to one’s body or mind can result in long-term consequences to life, earning potential, and family. The culprit is often another person or business acting recklessly or with negligence.
A civil personal injury attorney can help rectify wrongdoing by taking the offending parties to court or seeking a settlement. This not only helps personal injury victims get the justice and compensation they deserve, but also helps discourage similar situations from happening again.
A personal injury case often begins with an injury. If someone is legally responsible for causing — or not acting in a reasonable way to prevent — injury, they can be taken to court. The injured party becomes the plaintiff, and the responsible party becomes the defendant.
Not every injury a person suffers warrants a personal injury case, however. First, the person must suffer an injury to the body, mind, or emotions.
If a leg breaks during a slip, that is a physical injury. But if a phone breaks during a stumble at the market, that is only considered property damage.
Next, a case cannot be brought unless the injury occurred as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness. That must be proven through the elements of negligence.
Finally, evidence of financial or personal harm must be established. For example, if a woman became paralyzed in a car accident, she could be awarded damages for lost wages and medical bills.
The definitions and rules surrounding personal injury law are complicated. Personal injury law is not established in penal codes or statutes. Instead, personal injury law is established almost entirely through court decisions, according to FindLaw.
Some states have established personal injury law in statutes based on developments in the court over the years, but court decisions remain the guiding force of personal injury law.
Although some personal injury cases are a result of intentional conduct, the majority of injuries come from negligence.
According to Justia, it is generally accepted that everyone has a duty to “use reasonable care to avoid the risk of foreseeable injuries to others.” For example, the driver of a commuter train should not drive the train above the speed limit because he knows it will cause a derailment.
Although state law differs, a plaintiff must typically show a defendant was negligent through four elements.
One of the most famous cases of personal injury is Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. In this case, a 79-year-old woman was burned severely after hot coffee spilled on her lap. Her attorneys argued that because McDonald’s sold her the coffee, it had a duty to serve her food safely as other establishments would.
Although many people dismiss the case as frivolous, McDonald’s directly caused her third-degree burns because there were no warnings on the cup and the coffee was served at a dangerous temperature.
Because she had to undergo treatment at a hospital, including skin grafting as a result of the incident, she accrued medical bills. A jury found in her favor, and she eventually settled with McDonald’s for an undisclosed amount.
The types of personal injury cases that can be taken to court vary significantly. These are just some examples.
Navigating physical injury law is no easy task. Not only does the law vary by state but much of the law is established in previous court rulings. A qualified personal injury lawyer can help.
Research conducted over the years by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an independent organization, has found that people who hired attorneys received higher payments from insurance companies in auto injury cases.
Hiring an attorney will help you understand the law better while getting the maximum amount of financial compensation possible.
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