Every day, situations occur that leave innocent people injured at no fault of their own. Whether these incidents are accidental or intentional, victims deserve the right to hold negligent parties accountable. If you or a loved one suffered a devastating personal injury, you may find it necessary to utilize personal injury law to pursue a claim against the party who caused you and your family harm. But what is personal injury law, and why might you need an attorney who specializes in this area?
What Is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law addresses cases when a person has sustained injuries as a result of an accident or other incident, and the legal responsibility falls on another individual or entity. It’s considered a civil matter, not criminal. While other legal areas have statutes dictating rules, personal injury law has been developed through written works by scholars in the field, and by related court decisions. While some states may have personal injury law statutes on the books, court decisions are typically considered as the origin of law for these cases. This is generally referred to as case law or common law, as opposed to statutory and regulatory law.
In a personal injury case, a plaintiff—the injured party—seeks compensation for damages related to the injury from the defendant—the person or entity thought to be careless, negligent, or reckless. These damages are primarily economic and non-economic, but in more extreme cases, could also be punitive.
- Economic damages are rather straightforward. They range from compensating for present medical expenses to future loss of earnings potential, among other monetary issues.
- Non-economic damages are a little more complex, as your personal injury attorney has to prove aspects of your claim such as emotional and psychological difficulties suffered as a result of accident trauma and your injuries.
- Punitive damages apply to circumstances of gross negligence, such as when the at-fault party demonstrated an awareness of known risks but did nothing to resolve them.
A personal injury lawsuit may be filed in court, or the parties may agree on a settlement.
Common Personal Injury Law Practice Areas
Legal firms that handle this area of law usually take on various types of cases. Common practice areas include, but aren’t limited to:
- Automobile accidents, motorcycle wrecks, and large truck accidents
- Fireworks injuries
- Medical malpractice, defective drugs, and defective medical devices
- Pedestrian accidents and bicycle crashes
- Nursing home abuse and neglect