What is Personal Injury?

When another person's reckless acts cause you injury, you have a legal right to recover compensation for your damages. Filing a personal injury claim is a good start towards settling your injury case. A personal injury case will help you know how much compensation you can recover from your injury claim.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 15, 2022

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  • Personal injury law falls under civil law
  • Often personal injury law overlaps with insurance law
  • The majority of personal injury suits are settled rather than reaching a jury verdict

Personal injury law is an area of legal practice that allows injured individuals to recover compensation resulting from another person’s malpractice, negligence, or intentional inflictions of injury. Injuries from reckless accidents, unsafe premises, and defective products occur, and their consequences can seriously affect our mental and physical health, finances, and daily routines.

Personal injury cases involve the plaintiff — the injured person — and the defendant — the person accused of causing injury. Often one or both parties are represented by attorneys.

A personal injury claim and lawsuit offers injured individuals an opportunity to seek compensation for damages resulting from injury.

What does personal injury include?

Filing a claim for a personal injury will offer you a chance at compensation for damages suffered in a variety of ways.

Types of Personal Injury Cases:

  • Medical malpractice. Holds a medical professional like a doctor or surgeon responsible for injury arising from improper drug dosage, premature discharge, failure to diagnose conditions properly, giving unnecessary surgeries, and conducting wrong-site surgeries.
  • Intentional infliction of injury. Holds an individual responsible for damages when they cause injury to other individuals. The person does these acts deliberately to undeserving individuals, that is to say, it may arise from invasion of privacy, conversion, false imprisonment, and trespassing.
  • Premises liability. Holds a property owner responsible for injury from trip and fall accidents on the premises. Unsafe areas on the premises include uncleared snow, open sewers, crumbling curbs, icy walks, open excavations, and slippery pavements.
  • Liquor or Dram shop liability. Holds any establishment responsible for selling alcohol to intoxicated individuals who go on to cause injury or death while under the influence. The most common acts of violence from alcohol intoxication which cause injury include rape, assault, and battery.
  • Workplace accident. When employees get injured during work, with cases like broken bones or injury from appliances or equipment, they are required to file a claim under their state’s Worker’s Compensation Act to be eligible for benefits from their employers. When the injury stops you permanently from working that specific job, be it machinery or a company appliance, your coverage is supposed to compensate weekly or monthly for your disability.
  • Defamation. Making statements or accusations that injure an individual’s reputation. Spoken statements are known as slander, while written statements are libel, and both may cause individuals to lose their business, clients, or standings in society. Libel includes digital posts, newspaper, or magazine briefs that cause loss of standing over a long period. Contrastively, slander includes death threats and false utterances, which cause loss of standing over a short period.
  • Product liability. Holds a manufacturer responsible when customers experience an injury after using one of their defective products. Defective products include electronic appliances, medical devices, consumer products, and pharmaceutical products that cause harm to an individual.
  • Infliction of emotional distress. Holds an individual or entity responsible for infliction of stress leading to injury. Emotional distress may arise from slander and libel. Additionally, it may result from experiences of medical malpractice, incidences of assault, and harm caused by defective products. 
  • Negligence. When someone owes a duty to someone else and fails to perform it, resulting in injury, that’s negligence. The most common example is the duty to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
  • Wrongful death. Holds an individual responsible for their reckless acts that resulted in the injured party’s death. Car and pedestrian accidents are the leading cause of wrongful death globally.

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What is a personal injury claim?

A personal injury claim or complaint is when you open a case to recover compensation from a person or entity responsible for your injury.

How a Personal Injury Claim Works

A successful claim often results in compensation from the insurance company covering the defendant. The process includes:

  1. Cause and effect. The injured person’s life is affected by the unexpected accident or incident due to another person’s negligence or recklessness. 
  2. Hiring a lawyer. The injured person hires an attorney to discuss the case and determine if the claim or complaint is worth pursuing and will likely result in compensation.
  3. Evaluation of costs. A lawyer will evaluate financial costs like the medical expenses you incurred associated with the accident.
  4. Filing a claim or complaint. The injured person or party files a claim against the defendant to obtain compensation for damages.
  5. Building the case. The lawyer will work with the plaintiff to develop a case to prove the extent of injuries and that the defendant caused them.
  6. Negotiating a settlement or trial. When both parties agree on a form of compensation, the insurance company will move forward to compensate the defendant. However, the case goes to trial when the parties cannot agree to a settlement.

What is a personal injury lawsuit?

It is a legal case that involves determining whether a complaint or claim will be compensated as a personal injury or not. It is also known as personal injury litigation.

Requirements for a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Similar to other legal processes, filing a claim that will lead to a lawsuit requires some conditions to be met:

  • The type of case. Personal injury cases are civil. Even if the injury occurred during the commission of a crime, your efforts to recover from your injury will appear in the state (or, rarely, federal) civil court.
  • The time since the injury. The reported injury must fall within your state’s statute of limitations, which is the amount of time you have to file a claim — such as within two years or three years in some states. The time allowed begins on the date of the injury or, sometimes, the date you become aware of the injury
  • Nature of injury. Can you demonstrate harm from the actions of the defendant that are “compensable”? These are damages that are compensable with money — medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and even pain and suffering.
  • The age of parties involved. Different states have an age limit under which parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit will qualify for compensation. Some states may not allow suing minors under 18 years. These cases are finalized and compensated in court when juveniles become adults or, more often, may hold the parents or guardians liable.
  • Third-party liability injuries. Sometimes the defendant is not the direct cause of an accident. They may have started a chain of events that led to the accident. For instance, when a driver causes an accident, that creates a series of accidents causing injuries to an individual. This situation can lead to having to file against multiple different defendants.

Sometimes lawsuits take time but that should not be a reason to worry. Holding reckless people accountable is the most reasonable way to settle the matter and recover from the pain and damages caused. Remember, lawsuits will give both parties a say in the matter and reach a resolution — even if it’s usually in the form of a settlement.

How are personal injury damages compensated?

Compensatory damages reward the injured party for losses caused by another person or entity. The amount provided as compensation to an injured individual considers the degree of injury and the circumstances in play during the incident.

Common Personal Injury Damages Include:

To start off, physical or mental pain is the primary damage. Other damages include medical expenses, maintenance costs on the destroyed property, and losing standings in society. It is also crucial to remember future lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and legal fees when considering the fairness of a settlement offer.

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Reaching a Settlement

Personal injury cases are settled using formal and informal settlements. Sometimes injured individuals can reach an informal settlement with the defendant; hence, they won’t need to file a complaint, require a lawyer’s services, or involve an insurance company to cover the damages. However, most cases will require the services of a personal injury attorney since they are best suited to determine if you have a claim against the defendant or not. 

You should feel confident exploring your personal injury settlement options with our free tool by entering your ZIP code. Find out how much compensation you can recover on your sustained damages when you are ready. Personal injury lawyers will give you legal counsel and help you build a case against the defendant and their insurance company to compensate you for damages.

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