Personal injury law is the body of law that applies when someone harms you. Personal injury law is also called tort law. Tort laws allow you to pursue a legal claim against one or more individuals who have damaged you or caused you to experience some type of loss.

There’s a lot to know about personal injury law. This guide explains what types of cases arise out of personal injury law, what your rights are under the law and when and how you can recover monetary compensation if you are hurt.

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What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is the area of law that establishes your rights when you are harmed by someone else.

You can file a claim in state or federal court for personal injury cases. You are the plaintiff in your case, while the people, companies or other entities you make claims against are the defendants.

Personal injury laws govern what kinds of situations create grounds for a claim, who you can make a case against, what you must prove to win your case and what damages you are entitled to if your claim is successful.

What Types of Legal Claims Arise Under Personal Injury Law?

Many different kinds of legal claims arise under personal injury law. This includes the following situations.

There may also be other circumstances where you can use personal injury laws as the basis for a claim against a defendant who wronged you. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of understanding the laws that apply to your situation.

Who Can You Sue Under Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law dictates who exactly you can make a claim against when something goes wrong.

In most cases, your case is against the person, company or other entity (such as a government agency) that was directly responsible for harming you. In some cases, however, there are multiple potential defendants.

For example, in medical malpractice claims, you may be able to make a case not just against the doctor who actually provided substandard care, but also against the clinic employing that physician.

A legal doctrine called vicarious liability applies in this situation, holding the clinic accountable for the actions of their employees on the job even if the clinic itself wasn’t negligent. This is just one of many examples of vicarious liability. In fact, any employer can be held liable for torts committed by their workers during the performance of job duties.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you to review the law to determine all parties who may be legally liable for compensating you.

Regardless of which specific persons or companies you sue, though, you’ll most likely deal with an insurance company during your personal injury claim. Insurers providing coverage such as homeowner’s, auto, business or malpractice insurance pay damages up to policy limits when their policyholders cause harm. An insurer may offer you a lump sum settlement or payment agreement in exchange for waiving any future claims.

What Must You Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case?

If you are a plaintiff, you must prove a defendant is liable to you in order to prevail in a personal injury case. The specific elements of your claim vary based on whether the tort was an intentional tort, whether the defendant was negligent or whether strict liability rules apply.

In general, however, you need to show the defendant had some kind of obligation (such as to drive safely or produce safe products) and the defendant failed to live up to this obligation (either intentionally or negligently). Or, you need to prove that the law says the defendant should be held accountable regardless of whether they did something wrong or not.

You also need to show the defendant was directly responsible for harming you through their actions or inactions and that you suffered losses you can be compensated for. It is up to you to show the extent of how badly you were harmed.

You usually need to prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that more likely than not, the evidence you are presenting is accurate and shows the defendant should be held liable for your losses under the law.

What Damages Can You Receive in a Personal Injury Claim?

If you successfully make your case under personal injury law, you are entitled to be “made whole.” This means put back into the position you were in before the defendant harmed you.

Some of the different kinds of compensation available include:

Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, are available in limited circumstances.

Some states, however, have limits on punitive damages and even limits on non-economic damages—at least for certain types of cases. For example, you may be limited to recovering a maximum of $500,000 or $750,000 in non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you to understand if there are limits on damages and assist you in proving the extent of your loss so you can get the maximum possible compensation available under personal injury laws applicable to your situation.

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How Are Personal Injury Claims Resolved?

Personal injury laws give plaintiffs the right to file a civil lawsuit to recover monetary compensation if there are grounds for a claim. But you do not have to go to court to get the money you are due from a defendant who harmed you.

Many personal injury claims are resolved outside of court through a settlement agreement. The defendant’s insurer may offer to settle your case by paying you a certain sum of money in exchange for you giving up future claims. If you settle, you can usually get paid faster than if you went to court and avoid the stress of a full trial, but you may not receive as much money as you would be awarded after a courtroom trial.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury lawyer will help you understand the laws that apply to your injury claim and guide you through every step of your case. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are hurt and a person, company or agency is to blame.


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