Understanding “Personal Injury” as a Legal Term

Understanding “Personal Injury” as a Legal Term

While “personal injury” is a pretty straightforward legal term, personal injury cases come in all shapes and sizes. Many situations, accidents, and types of injuries can lead someone to file a personal injury lawsuit. Also, in personal injury law, circumstances are critical to case viability.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

What Is a Personal Injury?

The term “personal injury” is a bit misleading because it does not refer to an actual injury, but rather the field of law that deals with preventable accidents and injuries. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff, or person filing the lawsuit, attempts to hold the defendant, or the person they think is at fault, liable for the accident that caused their injuries.

If the plaintiff wins, they are often entitled to damages, or legal remedy in the form of financial compensation. Damages are only applicable in “tort” law, which seeks to use civil legal action to remedy negligent or wrongful acts known as “torts.”

Types of Damages

Instead of being dealt with fines, probation, and jail time, civil cases are resolved through an award of damages. These damages are designed to alleviate suffering in victims and compensate them for any pecuniary (financial) or non-pecuniary (emotional) losses. In personal injury cases, damages can be awarded for:

  • Lost income, lost future wages, or diminished earning potential
  • Medical and rehabilitative expenses
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress or suffering, mental anguish, and lost quality of life

Negligence and Finding Fault

Most personal injury cases are based on the concept of negligence. This happens when an individual violates their “duty of care” towards others. As humans, each of us has a duty of care to one another. We cannot run down a crowded street swinging a machete, nor release toxic chemicals into the air without being considered negligent. Still, there are some specific situations in which the duty of care is clear:

  • Anyone operating a motor vehicle assumes a duty of care that requires them to follow traffic rules and take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of their driving. Because everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous, for example, anyone who causes an accident while texting has violated their duty of care and can thus be found negligent.
  • Medical professionals accept a duty of care when they are hired. If they do not meet the standards of their profession, they can be considered negligent.
  • Under premises liability laws, property owners owe a duty of care to anyone who steps foot on their property. If they fail to reasonably address potential hazards on their property, or fail to maintain a reasonably safe environment, they may be negligent.

If an individual is found to be negligent, they are usually considered to be at fault for the accident.

That being said, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence affected them. If someone is driving recklessly, we cannot sue them, but if they are driving recklessly and harm us, we can claim damages in the form of real injuries and resulting losses.

Essentially – if there is no injury, there is no personal injury case.

Personal injury law can sometimes involve liability, which is similar to negligence, but applied to business. Premises or product liability violations can occasionally be the basis for a product liability lawsuit. For example, if you use a product and it gives you cancer, the business can be held liable for failing to disclose that risk.

Common Cases

Car accidents, medical errors, and premises or product liability cases are common within personal injury law, but there are other types of cases that come up frequently, as well:

Getting Help

Understanding the legal terms surrounding personal injury law is definitely a step in the right direction if you want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. You might have noticed, however, that this field of law is more than a little complex. Hiring a lawyer can help you navigate your claim and achieve the best possible resolution for your personal injury case.

Our attorneys at The Barrera Law Firm, PLLC. have more than 60 years of combined experience and are ready to stand by your side.

Get started with a complimentary consultation or give us a call at (571) 290-2390 today.