What is personal injury law? Keep reading to find out.
Personal injury laws (sometimes called “tort” law) allows an injured individual to file a civil claim in court and receive a legal compensation (“damages”) for losses incurred as a result of an accident or other event.
The intent of the personal injury law system is to enable the injured individual to receive compensation financially or “made whole” after they have suffered harm because of someone else’s carelessness or intentional behavior.
The Fundamentals of Personal Injury
There is a wide variety of different circumstances in which personal injury rules apply:
- Accidents. Personal injury laws apply in cases in which an individual acts in a careless manner, and that negligence causes harm to another individual. Instances include car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractices, among other kinds of cases.
- Intentional Conduct. Personal injury laws pertain to situations in which a defendant’s deliberate actions causes harm to another individual. Instances of this include assault and battery, and other deliberate torts.
- Defective Products. When a vehicle part, products consumer use, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, or other products that are defective or excessively dangerous; anyone harmed by using the product could be able to file a product liability lawsuit towards the manufacturer.
- Defamation. Personal injury law applies when one individual’s defamatory statements cause harm to another.
Who Creates Personal Injury Laws?
A lot of personal injury laws can be traced to old “common law rules.” Common law is in reference to law created by judges, rather than laws created by legislatures or passed through bills and statutes.
When a judge hears and comes to a decision on a case, their decision on that issue of law becomes imposed precedent over any other courts in the state that are “lower-level” than the presiding judge’s court. Those other courts then must enforce what the first judge said, and ultimately, all this imposed precedent creates a body of “common law.”
Common law can and will differ by state, so the regulations for personal injury law might not be consistent across the US. A lot of the common law has been concentrated into something known as the Restatement of Torts, in which is a type of guidebook that establishes what the regulations are, and many states take direction from this on personal injury issues.
Common law isn’t the only source of personal injury law. Legislation have passed laws that touch on personal injury matters. For instance, when legislation passed workers’ compensation statutes, they basically took all causes of work-associated injuries outside the field of personal injury and turned workers’ compensation into the sole remedy for injured employees (in many cases preventing injury-associated lawsuits towards employers).
One other state law that affects personal injury cases is the statute of limitations, in which places a limit on the period of time you have to file an injury- associated lawsuit through your state’s civil court system.
How Do Personal Injury Cases Work?
No two accidents are going to be the same, therefore no two personal injury cases are going to be the same. However, there are some general steps that a lot of personal injury cases take, from an overall view standpoint.
- Defendant Does Something Injuring Plaintiff. This could be almost any careless act on the part of the defendant, except for contractual breaches, in which are overseen under a different body of law called “contract law.”
- Plaintiff Establishes that Defendant Breached a Legal Responsibility. The particular legal responsibility is going to depend on the situation in which the injury happened. For instance, semi drivers have a responsibility to operate their trucks with the degree of care that a reasonable person would demonstrate while on the road. Dentists have a legal responsibility to treat their patient according to the applicable dental standard of care. Manufacturers and distributors have a responsibility of not putting defective or excessively dangerous products on store shelves.
- Settlement Talks Happen. When it is clear to everyone involved that the defendant breached their legal responsibility, then the defendant (or their insurance company) might seek to settle out of court. This involves making an offer of monetary compensation to the injured individual, in exchange for the injured individual’s unbreakable promise to not file a lawsuit over the injury.
- When a plaintiff agrees to settle, the case concludes. If not, the plaintiff might go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit over the issue. Settlement negotiations can also progress after the lawsuit is filed, and a settlement can be reached at any time before the civil case gets handed over to a jury for a finding as to the defendant’s accountability.
If you’re contemplating about filing a personal injury case following any sort of accident or incident, your ideal first step might be going over your situation (and your choices) with a personal injury lawyer.
David Goguen, J. D. (2020, November 15). Learning the basics: Personal injury law. www.alllaw.com. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/personal-injury/introduction.html
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