Something’s happened and you’re hurt. Maybe you were rear ended by a texting driver; maybe you got bit by a dog while out for a walk; maybe you fell on the broken step your landlord still hasn’t fixed. Whatever happened, you’re dealing with an injury and the medical bills that accompany it. You thought about calling a lawyer, but you’re just not sure you have a case.
What Is personal injury law?
Understanding what personal injury law is can help you know if you have a case. Personal injury law allows you (an injured plaintiff) to seek compensation through the civil court when you have been harmed due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness. The negligent party can be an individual or a business.
Was it negligence?
The law and societal expectations require that we all use a certain degree of care and caution so we don’t put others around us at risk of injury or even death. We obey traffic laws, businesses display signs to warn us that the floor is wet, and we keep dogs on a leash when in public. We take these precautions to avoid causing others harm. When someone does not take reasonable precautions to avoid causing injury, they are being negligent or careless. If you are injured as a result, you likely have a personal injury case.
It is important to note that sometimes things are purely accidental and not due to someone neglecting their duty. And sometimes injuries come from our own carelessness or poor choices. If your neighbor has a fenced yard with a Beware of Dog sign and you enter their yard uninvited, they are not to blame if you are bitten. They did their duty and there was no negligence on their part.
Negligence is also different than intentional harm. Sadly, sometimes someone may purposefully cause harm to another person. A common example of this is assault. Though many intentional acts of harm result in criminal charges, the victim is sometimes eligible to file a civil personal injury lawsuit as well in order to receive compensation for injuries.
What Are damages?
Damages is the legal term for the financial compensation you receive in a personal injury lawsuit to offset the impact the injury has had on you and your life. You can be eligible for damages to cover the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, or even distress. This compensation is sometimes paid to you directly by the negligent individual or business. It is often paid by their insurance company.
What Are some common personal injury cases?
Car accidents lead to more personal injury claims than any other category. If a driver has been careless by disobeying traffic laws, driving while distracted, or otherwise negligent, and causes an accident that leads to injury, that driver may be liable for the injuries from that accident.
California is a strict liability state for dog bites. If you were injured by a dog bite while in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, the owner is liable for damages.
If property owners (or sometimes renters) do not take reasonable precautions to keep their property safe and someone is injured because of their negligence, the owners may be liable for the injury.
When a doctor or other healthcare professional causes injury to a patient because he or she failed to provide competent and reasonable care, it may be considered negligence and the healthcare provider may be liable.
What do I do if I think I have a personal injury case?
If you’re not sure whether your situation is the result of negligence, imagine yourself telling what happened to a friend. Is your friend is likely to respond by saying something like, “How could they be so careless?” If so, it is likely that you have a personal injury case.