This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.
1. What is Personal Injury?
Personal injury actions require, by their very nature, that someone be injured. The requisite injury can either by physical or, in some cases, emotional. The general goal of personal injury actions is to place the blame for the injury on the party who caused it and to require them to compensate the injured for the losses sustained.
Not every injured plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for the injury he or she sustains. Besides an injury, the plaintiff must establish, through evidence, that the defendant is legally liable for his or her injuries. This requires proof of causation both in terms of actual, factual causation and proximate, or legal causation. Whether legal causation is established depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular matter in question. The defendant can be held liable as a result of either the actions that are taken, or the actions that are not taken.
Some personal injury actions revolve around legal causation derived from a concept of intentional conduct, whereby it is generally held that if one intentionally harms another, or knows that the conduct which is engaged in causes a substantial likelihood that harm will result, liability for the resulting harm will in fact attach. Other personal injury actions have as their legal causation a looser concept of fault called negligence. Under a negligence theory, in comparison, one is liable for the results of actions, or inaction, where an ordinary person in the same position should have foreseen that the conduct would create an unreasonable risk of harm to others. Still other types of personal injury actions are based on strict liability, a no-fault system where liability may attach regardless of the fault of the various parties, including the plaintiff.
2. Common Personal Injury Actions
Personal injury law can involve many different types of claims, theories, and principles. The following is a summary of some of the more common types of personal injury actions:
- Animal bites can result in the animal owner's liability to the person who is bitten or who is injured while trying to avoid a bite.
- Assault and Battery are two intentional torts that involve improper contact with another, without permission or consent, or the threat of such contact.
- Aviation Accidents quite often result in either serious injury or death. When these accidents occur, serious questions regarding the liability of the airline, its employees, or the government may arise.
- Defamation and Privacy are two separate causes of action that concern the rights of individuals to have their names and reputations protected, and also to have their privacy preserved.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents raise numerous questions regarding the liability of one participant to another and who should be responsible for covering the losses.
- Premises Liability concerns the responsibilities of owners and possessors of property to safeguard others from dangerous conditions or hazards on the property and to prevent others from being injured while on the property. "Slip and fall" cases are a very common type of premises liability action.
- Property Damage causes of action concern the rights of owners or possessors of property to protect their property from damage, theft or intrusion.
- Railroad Accidents may result in personal injury or death and subject the railroad to liability.
- Wrongful Death actions may be brought by the dependents or beneficiaries of a deceased individual against the party whose action or inaction was causally related to the death.
3. Do's and Dont's of Personal Injury
- DO seek medical attention before doing anything else.
- DO summon the police, in appropriate cases.
- DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency personnel who respond to the scene.
- DO get the license plate numbers of all other vehicles involved in car accidents and the drivers' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and insurance information.
- DO get the name and address of the animal's owner and any license information if you were injured by an animal bite or attack.
- DO write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all potential witnesses to an accident.
- DO contact your health, homeowner's, and/or automobile insurance companies, as appropriate.
- DO take photographs of all of the following, as applicable, as soon as possible after the accident:
- The scene of the accident, from all angles.
- The surrounding area.
- The product or animal that caused your injuries.
- Your injuries.
- Any property damage
- DO contact your attorney.
- DON'T move your vehicle after an automobile accident unless necessary for safety or required by law.
- DON'T subject yourself to further injury by standing or waiting in an area of traffic or other safety hazards.
- DON'T leave the scene of an accident until the police tell you it is okay to do so.
- DON'T throw away any potential evidence in the case, such as defective products, or torn or blood-stained clothing.
- DON'T engage in discussions as to fault with anyone, and don't apologize for anything - an apology can be considered evidence that you were legally at fault.
- DON'T agree to settlement terms without contacting your attorney.