When someone is injured, physically or emotionally, has personal property damaged, legally it is considered a “personal injury.” Personal injury laws allow for an injured party to seek compensation (damages) for harm resulting from another’s carelessness, negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions. Another name for personal injury law is “tort” law. Both states and federal government legislate tort law, with the intention of protecting your rights. Regardless of the variety, all tort actions have three common elements: a legal “duty” (responsibility) on the part of the defendant (the one doing the wrong) to the plaintiff (the person injured); a breach of that duty; damage as a result of of that breach. When all three elements are present, a personal injury has occurred.
Inherent in our society is an expectation that citizens not do harm to one another. This means that not only people, but their possessions also, should be safe from harm. When someone harms you or your possession, he/she becomes liable for that damage, and must answer to those personal injury laws governing the situation. Violation of personal injury law may be the result of intentional action or negligence (inaction). An action designed to cause harm or injury is intentional: the person committing the act wants to harm you. A negligent act, on the other hand is committed by a failure to take appropriate action, resulting in your harm.
As an example, suppose that an angry person throws a brick through your car window. That is an intentional action, and a violation of personal injury law (it may also be a criminal action). Now, suppose that a careless or reckless driver runs into your parked car, causing damage. That is negligence: there was no intended harm, but the person still bears responsibility for failing to act in a safe manner.
In the first case, the defendant planned and intended to cause damage; in the second, the defendant did not set out to cause damage, but failed to take the appropriate action to prevent it, i.e. driving resonably. Both cases outline the defendant’s duty not to injure: either you or your property.
There exists another variation on personal injury law, called “strict liability.” It is, in fact, more strict in that the responsible party is liable for damage regardless, whether intention or negligence can be demonstrated. This is applied to abnormally or inherently dangerous situations and is seen most often in the area of product liability. Product manufacturers must assure the safety of their product when used as directed. If the product injures someone, under the terms of strict liability the manufacturer is immediately responsible, given that the product was used correctly by the injured party. The fact that harm was done is all that is required.
After a personal injury has occurred, the defendant is responsible for rectifying the situation, and compensating for any and all damage done. “Damages” may be agreed upon by you and the defendant, perhaps through an insurance company settlement, or by other means. Often, however, compensation offered to you may not be satisfactory. This may be especially true in cases in which you have suffered physical injury and have not been able to work.
Remember to do these things if you find yourself the victim of a personal injury:
- Seek proper medical attention.
- Follow up with the proper authorities and your insurance company.
- If your injury was caused by another’s carelessness or intentional action, contact an experienced Charleston personal injury attorney.
It is important that you call as soon as it is convenient, and that you avoid discussing the matter with strangers and/or representatives from insurance companies other than your own. Be cooperative with the police, your own medical professionals, and your own insurance company. Personal injury cases are usually covered by a statute of limitations, meaning that you only have a certain period of time in which you can file a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Underwood Law Offices, Inc. at (304) 522-0508 or toll free 866-523-0499 or submit an online questionnaire. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.