Personal injury law (also known as "tort" law) lets an injured person get compensation when someone else's wrongful conduct (negligence or an intentional act) causes harm. There are a variety of situations that can give rise to a valid personal injury claim, but remember that an injury doesn't automatically result in legal liability. Let's look at some of the most common kinds of personal injury cases.
Car accidents spur the most personal injury cases in the United States. When an accident happens, usually it's because someone isn't following the rules of the road, or isn't driving as carefully as he or she should be. A careless driver can (usually) be held financially and responsible for injuries stemming from a car accident. Exceptions do exist in the dozen or so "no fault" states, where drivers have to collect from their own insurers except in cases of "serious" injury. Learn more about car accident injury cases.
Slip and fall claims are another common type of personal injury case. Property owners (or, in some cases, those who are renting property) have a legal duty to keep their premises reasonably safe and free of hazards, so that people who are on the property do not become injured. Of course, not all injuries that occur on the property will lead to liability. The exact nature of a landowner's legal duty varies depending on the situation and according to the law in place in the state where the injury occurred.
A medical malpractice claim can arise when a doctor or other health care professional provides treatment that falls below the appropriate medical standard of care, and a patient is injured as a result. But it's important to keep in mind that getting a bad result in the treatment setting doesn't mean malpractice occurred. Learn more about when it's medical malpractice (and when it isn't) and why medical malpractice cases are tough to win.
Defamation in the form of libel or slander refers to an injury to a person's reputation as a result of untrue statements. The exact nature of what a defamation plaintiff must prove will vary depending on who the plaintiff is, and the forum where the statement was made. The average person usually just needs to prove that an untrue negative statement was made and that actual harm (financial loss) came from it. Celebrities or public figures, on the other hand, usually need to prove "actual malice." This means they need to prove that the untrue statement was made either intentionally or with reckless disregard to the truth of the statement. Learn more about the legal elements of libel and slander.
In most cases, the owners of a dog are financially responsible for bites and other injuries caused by the dog. The exact laws on owner responsibility vary from state to state, though. In some cases, strict liability rules exist and the dog owner is going to be liable for dog bite damages even if the dog has never shown any aggression or propensity to bite in the past. In other states, "one bite" rules exist, in which owners only become responsible for personal injury damages once there is a reason for those owners to know their dog is aggressive or prone to biting (like a previous history of bites.) Learn more about "one bite" versus "strict" liability in dog bite cases.
Unlike most other types of personal injury claims, intentional torts are not based on accidents caused by negligence or carelessness, but rather when one person harms or injures another on purpose. These cases can involve the added aspect of a criminal case against the perpetrator. For example, when one person physically attacks another, he or she may face criminal charges. Additionally, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court and demand compensation for injuries resulting from the attack. Learn more about intentional torts.