Personal injury law (also known as tort law) allows an injured plaintiff to get compensation when someone else's negligent or intentional act caused the plaintiff harm. There are a variety of different situations that can give rise to a personal injury case, although not every situation in which someone is injured is going to lead to liability. In this article, we'll 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 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 cases.
Medical malpractice claims can arise when a doctor or other health care professional fails to provide competent and reasonably skilled care, and a patient is injured as a result.
Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex types, and you'll see why in our section on Medical Malpractice.
Slip and fall cases are another very 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.
Defamation of character in the form of libel or slander refers to the fact that a person can suffer an injury to his or her reputation as a result of untrue statements. The exact nature of what 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 aboout libel and slander claims in our section on Defamation Law.
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 do 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.)
We've got state by state laws, as well as general liability issues in our Dog Bite Injury section.
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 with intent. These cases almost always involve the added aspect of a criminal case against the perpetrator. For example, when one person physically attacks another, he or she will probably face criminal charges. Additionally, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court and demand compensation for the injuries.
Learn more about these types of personal injury cases in our Intentional Tort Law section.
If you think you may have a personal injury case, see the articles in our personal injury section to learn about the legal elements, or find a lawyer if you need expert advice.