Personal injury law or “tort law” covers any situation in which an individual´s body, mind or even emotions are hurt as a result of someone else´s carelessness or negligence. Wrongful death is the most extreme case of personal injury.
The injured person, the plaintiff sues the defendant, which may be a person or business. In the case of wrongful death, of course, it is the decedent´s family members or heirs who initiate the case.
A personal injury claim demands compensation from the defendant based on the injuries caused to the plaintiff. Typically, the compensation sought is a monetary payment, known as damages.
Personal injury law or tort law focuses on the injuries caused to a person. Property damage may be presented too but personal injury law focuses on the injured person first, and on the damaged property in second place. An example of this is when in a car accident the plaintiff gets injured and his car gets damaged too.
In most cases, personal injury involves negligence from the defendant to address his/her duty of care, resulting in the plaintiff´s injuries. In some case, the concept applied is “strict liability” instead of negligence. Strict liability means that a defendant who hurt a plaintiff is responsible regardless of how careful he had been. Of course, strict liability is accepted only in certain specific cases, such as in some consumer product liability, extremely hazardous activities or keeping dangerous wild animals.
Leaving strict liability cases aside, for a personal injury claim to succeed, the personal injury lawyer will have to demonstrate the following:
- That the defendant had a duty of care
- That the defendant actually breached that duty of care toward the plaintiff or failed on it
- That it was the defendant’s breach what caused the injuries to the plaintiff
- That the plaintiff suffered damages (which will be quantified).
In the majority of the cases, personal injury cases do not go to trial and are resolved in arbitration or mediation, where the personal injury lawyer of the plaintiff and the defendants discuss the issue and decide – on a settlement- the amount that the plaintiff will receive.
When personal injury cases go to trial, a jury or the judge alone will listen to both parties and decide each party´s liability as well as determine the damages or financial compensation that the injured shall receive.
Any potential personal injury claim should be evaluated by a personal injury lawyer given that many aspects need to be evaluated. Thorough understanding of the law, facts, and processes is mandatory, and only an experienced lawyer will have the knowledge, and objectivity to determine if it is feasible to present a personal injury claim.