Personal injury law allows victims who suffer bodily harm due to another party’s actions to recover as much compensation as possible to help them regain their lives. This differs from negligence, but the basis for most personal injury claims is negligence. Therefore, if you suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligent actions, you may benefit from speaking with a personal injury attorney about the details of your case and learning more about your legal options.
The Role of Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
When you file a claim with an insurance company or a lawsuit against the at-fault party in your case, you are responsible for providing proof of negligence. Additionally, tort law outlines the requirements to prove negligence:
- Duty of care owed to the injured person. You must prove the person named in your claim owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident. For example, suppose your injury stemmed from a car accident. In that case, the other driver owes you and everyone else on the road the duty of acting reasonably to keep you all safe from harm, specifically by following the rules of the road.
- Duty of care breach. You should prove that the defendant violated their responsibility to maintain reasonably safe conditions. In a car accident example, a violation of duty could be speeding, running a red light, or driving recklessly.
- Direct Cause. Next, you must supply evidence to directly link the other party’s breached duty of care and the accident. For example, if the other driver was speeding through a stop sign and crashed into your vehicle at an intersection, that is a direct correlation.
- Resulting damages. Finally, you must prove that your accident directly caused the injuries you suffered and the losses that followed. For example, a trip to the hospital or doctor’s office immediately following the accident would show that you sustained injuries, and your medical records would support that claim. The medical bills are just one example of the resulting damages.
Without damages, there is no reason to file a personal injury claim. So, for example, if the other driver narrowly missed your car, the police could still hold them responsible for the traffic violation, but you would have no grounds for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Recoverable Damages From Personal Injury Cases
The damages available in a personal injury case vary significantly depending on the type of case and the severity of the victim’s injuries. However, all cases involve some form of compensatory losses, which are the economic and non-economic damages associated with your accident and injuries. Punitive damages are much rarer than compensatory damages, but they are possible if the at-fault party’s behavior displays gross negligence.
Economic damages refer to the financial consequences of your injuries, and non-economic damages are the less objective psychological consequences. Examples of both include:
- Medical expenses, such as the cost of emergency treatment in the ambulance and hospital, doctor’s visits, necessary medications and medical devices, rehabilitative therapy, and any future treatments
- Missed income opportunities, such as wages lost from missed work, missed promotions, and loss of earning capacity
- Repair or replacement of damaged property
- Cost of transportation to medical treatments
- Cost of in-home care during recover
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
This is not a comprehensive list of compensatory damages. Every case has unique circumstances, but should you hire a personal injury attorney, they will investigate your case to identify all available damages.
Under circumstances where bodily harm resulted from gross negligence or malicious intentions, the court may deem it necessary to award you punitive damages. The purpose is not to replace something you lost but to punish the defendant for their behavior. For example, suppose a surgeon failed to remove all surgical tools following a surgical procedure, or a dog owner encouraged their dog to attack you during an argument. In either case, the defendant may face an order of punitive damages to deter them from conducting themselves similarly in the future.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases Involving Negligence
Most personal injury lawsuits have a negligence component, but each type has state and sometimes federal laws that govern how the court handles these cases. The most common types are:
- Auto accident cases. Most personal injury claims involve some form of an auto accident. Examples include motorcycle, bicycle, drunk driving, distracted driving, pedestrian, commercial vehicle, and boat accidents. The outcomes and available damages can range significantly based on the severity of injuries and the distribution of fault among all parties involved.
- Semi-truck accident cases. Truck accident cases technically fall under the umbrella of auto accidents. However, the unique liability considerations make them stand out. For example, should a semi-truck cause an accident, several parties could be liable, including the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, the trailer cargo loader, or a third party responsible for maintenance, repairs, and inspections.
- Slip and fall accident cases. A slip and fall accident can occur anywhere, and the causes may range from an unattended spill in a restaurant to unshoveled snow in someone’s driveway. The legal concept that governs these cases is premises liability, which states that all property owners have a responsibility to ensure they maintain reasonably safe conditions for all lawful visitors on their property.
- Medical malpractice cases. Proving negligence in a medical malpractice case can be complex and often challenging. However, you have the right to hold any healthcare professional responsible if their negligent actions result in bodily harm.
- Product liability cases. Manufacturers and product distributors are responsible for ensuring their products’ safe design and manufacturing. Should a flaw in either process render their product defective and that product then harms someone, the manufacturing company would be liable.
- Dog attack injury cases. Most states abide by strict liability for dog bite cases. This means the dog’s owner would be liable for the dog’s actions regardless of any efforts to prevent the dog from attacking another person.
- Wrongful death cases. Any personal injury resulting in the injured victim’s death is potentially a wrongful death case. For example, if you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by another party, you could sue the at-fault party for damages.
Not all personal injury cases involve negligence or even bodily harm. For example, defamation is a form of personal injury. Additionally, assault is a criminal offense, but you could also hold the person who assaulted you liable for damages in civil court.
What a Personal Injury Attorney Can Do for Your Case
Personal injury victims can suffer various physical, psychological, and financial consequences due to another party’s negligent or malicious behavior. Thankfully, tort law provides a resource for recovering a minimum of monetary compensation and the possibility of restoring their lives. A personal injury attorney works explicitly with these victims, often on contingency, to protect their rights and ensure the settlement or award received accurately reflects the damages available in their cases.
If you need help understanding the legal options available after an incident where someone else caused you bodily harm, consider the advantages of hiring a personal injury attorney at Siegfried and Jensen. We understand the importance of having an experienced legal representative during such a challenging time and will fight to recover the compensation you need. Contact us at (801) 845-9000 to schedule your free consultation.