Personal injury law is the legal avenue for an injured person, in this case the plaintiff, to bring a claim against the defendant or defendant. The purpose is to get the person responsible to pay financial compensation for the damage caused.
Personal injury cases involve torts. These are civil wrongful acts that result in personal injury or harm.
Grievances are classified into three groups:
- Negligent torts: When someone acts carelessly. For example, in most car accidents .
- Intentional torts: Done on purpose, with the intent to cause harm. For example, a punch to the face.
- Strict Liability Torts: Impose liability without regard to fault. For example, dangerous activities.
The plaintiff in a civil action must prove with evidence that the defendant caused the harm or that it is their fault. This step is considerably easier to prove than in a criminal case, because in a civil case guilt is beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is also important to clarify that each state in the United States has its procedural rules for filing personal injury claims, as well as its statute of limitations .
Negligent torts: Causing harm through carelessness
The frequency of personal injury lawsuits due to negligence is high. In a typical negligence case, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care to protect him from possible injury.
- The defendant failed to act reasonably under a certain set of circumstances to preserve that care.
- The carelessness of the defendant, specifically, was the cause of the injury inflicted on the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff suffered actual harm due to the defendant’s breach of duty of care.
For negligence to exist, it is not required that the defendant had the intention to cause harm, it is only sufficient that he or she did not act with the care of a reasonable and prudent person in the same circumstances. Hence, the usual defense strategy in a negligence case is to allege that there was no reasonable duty of care in favor of the injured party, or that there was another factor causing the personal injury.
Intentional torts: Causing harm on purpose
The plaintiff alleging a tort with intent must show that the defendant intended to cause the injury. A very different situation than that of negligence. Some examples of intentional torts are assault, assault, unlawful imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
However, torts committed with intent can also be prosecuted under criminal law . But, civil law allows an injured person to bring an action for the same cause so that the plaintiff has access to compensation from the responsible party who caused the damage.
- Example: The case of OJ Simpson. Although Simpson was acquitted in the criminal case he had open, which received more press coverage and generated more comments, he was only found liable for damages in the civil case.
Strict Liability Torts: Causing Harm Regardless of Intent or Carelessness
Strict liability occurs in the types of torts where the defendant is liable for the injury, even though they did not act negligently or intentionally.
Typical situations that result in strict liability claims are those related to highly dangerous products or activities. For example, the storage of dangerous substances or the demolition of buildings. Some employers may also be held liable for the negligent or criminal actions of their workers.
In some states, animal owners may also have strict liability if their pets injure other people.
What type of compensation is obtained in a personal injury lawsuit?
Personal injury attorneys can give you a broad insight on this topic. However, in most states the personal injury law intends that the affected person achieve financial compensation, which allows covering financial losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, specialized medical attention, payment of services, among others.
It is also common for some people to seek compensation for pain and suffering and the loss of a loved one. This compensation allows surviving family members to have sustenance to continue with their lives.
In some exceptional circumstances, the law may allow extra damages, called punitive damages, to be imposed with the intention of punishing the responsible party for their misconduct or willful misconduct. This added compensation is for the purpose of setting an example to society, to prevent others from doing the same, and to discourage the defendant from continuing his actions.
But not all personal injury claims go to trial. Lawyers almost always achieve a negotiation with the plaintiff and the defendant. Most people prefer this action to go to court.
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Speak to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative, but legal matters can be complicated and stressful. A qualified personal injury attorney can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local personal injury attorney to discuss your particular legal situation.