What is a "Personal Injury" Case?

iStock_000002891011SmallA personal injury case is a legal dispute which occurs when one person suffers injury or harm, and holds another person legally responsible for that harm. When a personal injury case occurs, the injured party or “plaintiff” files a civil complaint against another person, business, corporation, or government agency. The other party is the “defendant.” When the plaintiff files the lawsuit, they are claiming that the defendant acted irresponsible or unreasonably careless, and that carelessness caused their harm or injury.

However, a personal injury case does not have to result in a formal lawsuit. It is very common for cases regarding an accident or injury to be resolved through an informal early settlement. A settlement usually occurs between those personally involved in the accident, as well as their insurers and attorneys. Typically, a negotiation takes place until both parties can reach an agreement. Then both parties sign a written agreement which states that they will not take any further legal action, and will instead resolve the issue with an agreed upon amount of money.

A personal injury case can result from:

  • Accidents. A personal injury case can result from accidents such as car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and other situations. It is typical for a personal injury case to happen when one party acts in a negligent manner, meaning they were unreasonably careful, and their carelessness caused injury or harm.
  • Defective products. Personal injury cases can also happen when there is no negligent behavior, for instance when a defective product causes harm to the plaintiff.
  • Intentional acts. Personal injury cases often occur when the defendant intentionally harms the plaintiff, for instance assault and battery and other intentional torts.
  • Defamation. A personal injury case can also occur when one person’s defamatory statement causes harm to another person’s reputation.

Other areas of the law find their rules in statutes, such as penal codes in criminal cases. Personal injury law, however, has taken place through court decisions, referred to as “common law rules.” When a judge makes a decision in a court case, the judge’s ruling becomes a precedent for all other courts in the state that are “lower” than the deciding judge’s court. The lower courts will have to apply the first judge’s ruling to decided their case. That judge’s ruling becomes a precedent for other case’s, so eventually that law becomes a common law. Common law varies a great deal from state to state.

In addition, some legislatures have passed formal legislation or statutory law that can be applied to personal injury cases. Workers’ compensation is an example of this legislation. When legislatures passed worker’s compensation laws, they basically took cases of work-related injuries separately from personal injury cases and made workers’ compensation the exclusive remedy for injured workers.

Any possible personal injury case contains a multitude of variables. Any case requires a detailed understanding of the circumstance, facts, the players, and the law. If your life was impacted by an accident or injury and you feel you may have grounds for a personal injury case, seek counsel from an experienced attorney to see if you should pursue a lawsuit.


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