Personal injury law refers to the legal remedies and defenses involved in civil lawsuits brought as a result of the wrongful conduct of another person, a business or a governmental unit. In contrast to criminal law, a tort action does not involve the State prosecuting the wrongdoer but rather the injured individual taking legal action. Personal injury cases involve a private plaintiff seeking compensation (mostly monetary damages) for the harm caused by the defendant’s actions or inaction. Most personal injury cases are based on the legal doctrine of negligence. In essence, negligence is a failure to exercise, in a particular circumstance, a degree of care for the safety of others. That care which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances. It may be the doing of an act which the ordinary prudent person would not have done, or the failure to do that which the ordinary prudent person would have done, under the circumstances that existed.
There are many situations in which a person’s negligent conduct can cause harm and loss to another. Examples are motor vehicle collisions, slip/trip and fall accidents, a business professional’s carelessness, and any other forms of wrongful conduct. In each instance, the responsible party ignored the risk posed to you, and as a result you were injured. Once negligence has been established in a personal injury case, the defendant may be called upon to pay the plaintiff for all of the harms and losses caused by the defendant’s actions. Certain types of damages are easy to calculate, such as property damage and medical bills. For other types, such as emotional distress, pain & suffering and loss of earning capacity, expert testimony may be required. Punitive damages, meant to punish and deter particularly malicious conduct, may also be available in certain situations.
When initiating a personal injury action, identifying the proper defendants is very important. This is because the “tortfeasor” who directly harmed you, be it a commercial driver, nurse, store employee, or other individual, may not have the sufficient insurance coverage or other financial resources to pay for the fair value of the harm or loss suffered by you. Claims against additional parties, who are liable based on their relationship to the tortfeasor such as a landlord or employer, must be included in the action.