Definition: Personal injury law is sometimes referred to as “accident law,” as it refers to the area of practice wherein personal injury attorneys often represent people injured in accidents. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents cause personal injury; as do defective products, medical malpractice, dangerous drugs, nursing home abuse, and dog bites.
Examples: Car Accidents, Pain & Suffering, Structured Settlements, etc.
Personal injury law is sometimes referred to as “accident law,” as it refers to the area of practice wherein personal injury attorneys often represent people injured in accidents. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents cause personal injury; as do defective products, medical malpractice, dangerous drugs, nursing home abuse, and dog bites.
Personal Injury Financial Compensation
The goal of personal injury laws is to place the injured person in the position he would have been had the accident never occurred. It is recognized that you cannot be put in a time machine and sent back in time to prevent your injury, but financial compensation is the best means of making you whole in the eyes of the law.
Medical bills, wage loss, loss of earning potential, property loss, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and, perhaps, punitive damages are available to injured parties, as appropriate.
The Personal Injury Case: Going to Court
The injured person and the defendant always have the option of going to a jury trial. However, unlike what you see on television, trials are quite rare. Most personal injury cases are settled, meaning that the two parties reach an agreement without trial.
On occasion, alternative dispute resolution and mediation are used. Alternative dispute resolution imposes a decision best described as a mini-court that functions more expeditiously; whereas, mediation is like settlement in that a mediator helps the parties work out a deal they both can live with.
Proving Liability in a Personal Injury Case: Negligence
But for workers’ compensation cases, an injured party must prove that another individual or company is legally liable for his injuries. Usually, negligence must be proven.
Proving negligence has three prongs. The injured party must show:
- The defendant had a duty to use reasonable care.
- The defendant breached the duty of reasonable care.
- That breach of the duty of reasonable care caused injury to the plaintiff.
In some personal injury cases wherein there is inherent danger, a theory of” strict liability” may apply. In strict liability cases, there is no need to prove fault. Examples would include injuries caused during blasting, or being trampled at the zoo by a hippo.
If you have been injured while on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Happily, for most injured workers, you do not need to sue your employer to get benefits and, so long as you were injured while working, your employer has no defense. However, the employee cannot sue their employer in Circuit Court for negligence.
The goal of workers’ compensation is to get the injured worker rehabilitated and back on the job, while providing cash assistance that would not be otherwise unavailable without lengthy and expensive litigation.
Workers’ compensation benefits include weekly disability payments while you heal, typically equivalent to two-thirds of your normal weekly pay. Medical bills are also paid. If you are permanently disabled, you may be entitled to a lump sum payment.
In limited circumstances, a worker who is injured on the job may sue his or her employer in West Virginia circuit court under a theory called “deliberate intent.” A worker has a deliberate intent claim where he can prove the following elements:
- A specific unsafe working condition, which presented a high probability of serious injury or death;
- The specific unsafe working condition was a violation of a State or Federal safety regulation, or an industry specific established safety protocol;
- The employer had actual knowledge of the specific unsafe working condition and attendant high degree of risk;
- The employer intentionally exposed the employee to the unsafe condition; and
- The employee suffered injury as a result.
Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Accidents
Many personal injury cases involved motor vehicle collisions. Often, drunk, drowsy, and distracted driving are a factor.
In product liability cases, a defective product causes injury. For example, a defective hairdryer shocks the user or a particular medicine causes a death.
In medical malpractice, a medical professional — it does not have to be a doctor — fails to follow standard medical procedure and injury or death results.
Dangerous drugs are really a defective product, as mentioned above.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing homes and their employees are liable where residents are intentionally abused or neglected..
Dog owners are liable for actions of their dogs. Damages are typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Where to Get Help if You or a Loved One has Been Injured
In all personal injury cases, seek medical help first. Seeking medical help gets the needed treatment and documents your injuries.
Do not hesitate in getting medical treatment; you never know whether an infection may set in or if there is unseen injury. In trauma cases such as a car accident, the full extent of pain is not felt for 72 to 96 hours after impact, when swelling reaches its maximum.
At your earliest convenience, consult with a qualified personal injury attorney if you or a loved one has been injured. There are legal deadlines, called statute of limitations, that must be met or your claim will be forever barred. In addition, evidence is best preserved close to the time of the injury.