The Basics of Personal Injury Law
The goal of personal injury law is to restore or "make whole" someone who has been injured by the negligence or carelessness of another person. In this article, we will explain the basics of personal injury law, which may serve as a starting point if you have been injured and need guidance.
Personal Injury Law OverviewPersonal injury law is the area of law pertaining to injuries to another person, rather than to property. Personal injury law is an example of tort law, which allows someone who has been injured to file a lawsuit in civil court in pursuit of damages (financial recovery). Every state has individual personal injury statutes (laws and procedures), but all are relatively similar in that their goal is to provide victims with the opportunity to pursue justice and compensation after being injured.
Common Types of Personal InjuryPersonal injuries are any physical, mental, or emotional injuries caused by negligence or carelessness of someone else. Personal injury law is fairly broad and includes situations including (but certainly not limited to):
o Accidents - Examples include automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, unsafe workplace conditions, unmaintained property, etc.
o Medical malpractice - Examples include surgical errors, failure to diagnose, failure to administer treatment in a timely manner, retained surgical objects, medication errors, birth injuries, improper diagnosis, etc.
o Defective products - Examples include defective, dangerous, improperly labeled, or contaminated products sold to consumers.
o Intentional acts - Includes assault and battery and other intentional acts causing harm to someone else.
Defamation - Defamation may fall under the umbrella of personal injury if the derogatory statements cause harm to the victim's reputation or mental wellbeing.
Personal Injury DamagesPersonal injury laws allow the victim (plaintiff) to pursue certain damages. These damages may be considered "general" or "special" damages, which are defined as:
o General damages - Non-financial losses, such as defamation, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companion/spouse/significant other)
o Special damages - Financial losses, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, or lost earning capacity
The type of damages that can be sought in a personal injury lawsuit largely depends on the individual facts and nature of the claim being made. These examples are designed to offer a baseline to help you understand damages that may be pursued, and should not be construed as being an exhaustive list.