What is Personal Injury Law? Definition and Examples of Personal Injury Law in the US

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Personal Injury

Personal Injury Law, widely referred to as ‘tort law’, is a legal realm concerning rights of an individual who suffers harm via negligence or intentional wrongdoing of others. It facilitates victims to recover damages through civil lawsuits. For instance, if one suffers severe injuries from a slip and fall accident at a negligently maintained property, they can file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner.

Definition of Personal Injury Law

Personal Injury Law, also known as tort law, is the legal sector concerned with your rights when harmed by another party’s negligence or intentional misconduct.

The word “tort” itself comes from Latin, meaning wrong or injustice. Tort law grants you the ability to file a civil claim, as the plaintiff, against the defendant, seeking compensation for losses incurred. An example would be filing a claim after a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence.

Predominantly, the rules of tort law have been developed by judges over centuries and are not uniform across all states. Judge made law is also called common law. An example of tort law includes cases of medical malpractice where a patient has suffered harm due to negligent treatment by healthcare professionals.

Types of Personal Injury Cases

1. Negligence Cases

Negligence cases in personal injury law refer to situations where a party’s carelessness leads to another’s injury. In these cases, negligence is determined by identifying four elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. For instance, a driver has a duty to operate their car safely. If they text while driving and cause an accident, they have breached this duty. The injury suffered by the victim (another driver, pedestrian, etc.) needs to be directly linked to this breach, establishing causation. Lastly, damages, either physical or emotional, need to have occurred due to this negligence for a case to be valid.

2. Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor Vehicle Accidents, within US Personal Injury Law, refer to incidents where a vehicle’s operation causes injury due to negligence. A common case example is when a Chevrolet Malibu rolled over due to unexpected stopping, leading to physical harm and initiating a legal claim.

3. Product Liability Cases

Product liability cases in personal injury law involve instances where a manufacturer or seller’s defective product causes injury to a consumer. For example, if you use a faulty home appliance that leads to an accident, you could potentially file a product liability case against the manufacturer.

4. Assault and Battery

Assault and Battery in the US legal context are civil personal injury cases that involve physical or emotional harm as a result of another’s intentional conduct. They fall amongst the unique class of intentional torts, a branch of personal injury law wherein the defendant’s actions were not accidental. For instance, should an individual intentionally engage in a physical altercation where they inflict harm on another or instigate fear of immediate harm, this would give rise to an assault and battery case. The plaintiff may seek damages for physical injuries, emotional distress, and other associated harms, reinforcing the need for legal redress in such occurrences.

5. Wrongful Death

A wrongful death in the realm of US personal injury cases refers to a legal action where a person’s demise results from the negligent actions or misconduct of another individual or entity. To illustrate, If a person perishes in a car incident due to another driver’s reckless driving, the victim’s family may pursue a wrongful death claim against the offender.

6. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse, significant in the US legal system, is a personal injury case that involves non-consensual sexual conduct, causing harm to the victim. For instance, a caregiver at a nursing home engaging in unwanted sexual behavior towards a resident can constitute sexual abuse, thus grounds for a personal injury claim.

7. Workplace Accidents

In the US context of personal injury law, “workplace accidents” refer to incidents occurring in the course of employment causing physical harm, which can be attributed to an employer’s negligence. An example is the injury caused due to malfunctioning machinery or unsafe working conditions.

8. Earthquake Cases

In the context of personal injury law in the US, earthquake cases typically refer to lawsuits filed due to injuries sustained during an earthquake. These fall under premises liability, which holds property owners accountable for unsafe conditions. For instance, if a building’s poor structural integrity due to non-adherence to safety regulations leads to injuries during an earthquake, victims could potentially file a lawsuit.

9. Duties to Persons on Premises

The ‘duty to persons on premises’ in personal injury cases refers to the responsibility of property owners or occupiers to ensure a safe environment for visitors. For instance, grocery stores maintain a duty of care to prevent slip-and-fall accidents. This implies that should a shopper trip over a loose floor tile and suffer injuries, the store could potentially be sued for breaching their duty. Not fulfilling this duty could result in legal consequences under the negligence theory in personal injury law.

10. Strict Liability Cases

Strict liability in personal injury law, often prevalent in products liability cases, puts the onus on defendants regardless of their fault. For instance, if a defectively manufactured product harms a consumer, the manufacturer could be held strictly liable even without the necessity of proving negligence or wrongdoing. This legal principle means that liability is assigned even if the defendant didn’t act negligently or intentionally.

How Personal Injury Law Works

Personal injury law or “tort” law in the US, protects individuals who are harmed due to others’ negligence or intentional actions. As the plaintiff, the victim may file a claim against the defendant(s) in either state or federal court. A case example could be a car accident caused by reckless driving. The plaintiff needs to establish that the defendant breached a legal duty of care, thereby causing harm. If successful, the plaintiff deserves compensation or “damages”. An experienced personal injury lawyer can offer valuable assistance throughout this process.

Personal Injury Law and its Importance


1. Compensation for Physical Injuries

Personal injury law in the US provides individuals who’ve experienced physical harm through accidents, with a route to seek financial compensation. It caters to damages including, but not limited to, bodily injuries, lost wages, and emotional distress. For example, if you were involved in a car accident caused by a reckless driver and sustained a broken bone, you could file a personal injury lawsuit. This would involve claiming compensation for medical bills, loss of earnings during recovery, trauma, and any sustained disablement, among other damages.

2. Compensation for Emotional Distress

‘Compensation for Emotional Distress’ in personal injury law in the US refers to the monetary damages awarded to victims for psychological impacts post-incident, such as anxiety or depression. For instance, an individual too frightened to drive after an accident may seek compensation for this distress. It’s often challenging to quantify, requiring thorough documentation and professional assessments.

3. Compensation for Lost Wages

‘Compensation for Lost Wages’ in Personal Injury Law, pertains to the monetary amount awarded to an individual who has missed work, thus losing income, due to an injury caused by another’s negligence. For instance, if a person is unable to work for three months due to a car accident, they may be entitled to recuperate the salaries lost during that period.

4. Compensation for Medical Expenses

Compensation for medical expenses under the U.S. personal injury law pertains to the monetary restitution awarded to personal injury victims for injury-related medical costs. These costs may begin accruing right from the time of the incident, as in a car accident case, where medical expenses start accumulating from the moment an ambulance arrives at the scene. The compensation not only covers immediate medical expenses but also estimated long-term costs, especially in case of severe or catastrophic injuries requiring extended recovery periods. This financial redress helps victims mitigate the burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses and concentrate on their recovery journey.

5. Payment for Pain and Suffering

“Payment for Pain and Suffering” in Personal Injury Law refers to the monetary compensation awarded to the victim for emotional distress and physical discomfort endured due to another’s negligence. For example, if a reckless driver caused an accident, resulting in depression for the victim, the victim may seek such compensation.

This concept is crucial for justice as it acknowledges that the impacts of personal injury extend beyond tangible damages. It considers emotional tribulations like anxiety, PTSD, or reduced quality of life. Therefore, “Payment for Pain and Suffering” ensures comprehensive redressal, making it an essential component of Personal Injury Law.

6. Compensation for Property Damage

Under personal injury law in the US, compensation for property damage is a legitimate claim when a tangible asset is injured or destroyed due to someone else’s negligence. This means that in such scenarios, you are entitled to receive monetary compensation for the full repair or replacement value of the damaged property.

For instance, if you’re involved in a car accident where another driver was at fault, you can claim compensation for the damage to your vehicle. It’s crucial to remember that the amount compensated will reflect the fair market value of the damaged property rather than its sentimental value or potential future worth.

7. Dog Bites and Cat Scratches

Dog bites and cat scratches qualify under US personal injury law as they are caused by another’s negligence or failure to control their pet. If bitten by a neighbor’s dog unprovoked, for example, you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim.

8. Jury Awards

‘Jury Awards’ in personal injury law in the United States refer to the monetary damages awarded to a plaintiff by a jury after a trial. For instance, a jury may determine that a car accident victim is entitled to a certain sum for medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. These awards aim to compensate for the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party.

9. Intentional Torts and Negligence

Intentional torts and negligence form the rudiments of personal injury law in the US. They involve purposeful harm and failure of duty of care respectively. Intentional torts occur when harm is deliberately inflicted, such as in cases of assault or battery. Negligence, on the other hand, arises when individuals fail to exhibit the caution expected of a reasonable person, like in car accidents due to reckless driving.

10. Fairness Doctrine

The Fairness Doctrine does not strictly apply to Personal Injury Law. It is more relevant to broadcasting and telecommunication law where it was used by the FCC to demand balanced coverage of controversial issues. In the context of Personal Injury Law, the analogous and closer principle would be the duty of care or the negligence principle, where for instance, a person has a responsibility to act with the prudence of a reasonable person to avoid causing harm to others.

The Role of Personal Injury Lawyers


1. A personal injury lawyer represents clients in claims for compensation for physical, psychological and financial injuries.

A personal injury lawyer is a legal expert engaged in safeguarding the rights of victims who have suffered harm due to someone else’s negligence in the US. Their responsibility revolves around substantiating the victim’s claim, attributing financial liability to the culpable party, and ensuring a fair settlement. For instance, in a car accident claim, they facilitate the victim in recovering costs for medical treatment, lost income, and mental distress.

2. A personal injury lawyer helps clients file and prepare claims, conducts investigations and prepares court documents.

A personal injury lawyer in the U.S. legal context is a professional who represents clients who have suffered harm due to the negligence of others. These lawyers play a crucial role in claiming just compensation for the damages suffered. They assist clients in preparing and filing claims, collecting evidence such as medical reports, witness statements, and incident photos. The attorney also negotiates financial settlements where possible and ensures compliance with local statutes and timelines. For instance, if an individual is a victim of a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, a personal injury lawyer would guide the victim through the process of securing fair compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other related losses.

3. A personal injury lawyer negotiates with the defendant and assists in reaching a settlement or verdict.

A personal injury lawyer assists victims of personal injury incidents in the US, defending their rights and pursuing compensation on their behalf. Their primary role involves the investigation of claims, gathering evidence, formulating legal strategies, and conducting negotiations for fair settlements. Your lawyer can compile a strong case file which may include police reports, medical bills, witness statements, and expert testimonies to demonstrate fault and claim value. If initial negotiations fail to secure fair compensation, the attorney can bring your case to court, presenting your claim before a judge or jury. An example includes a plaintiff injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence; the lawyer would compile proof of negligence, compute damages, negotiate with the erring driver’s insurance, and, if needed, escalate the case to trial. They ensure that timelines, local statutes, and legal requirements are adhered to, aiming to prevent undervalued or underpaid claims.

4. A personal injury lawyer provides legal representation in court and assists with the collection of any damages.

A personal injury lawyer in the context of US law serves as an advocate for individuals who have sustained injuries due to the negligence of others. They navigate legal proceedings, ensuring fair compensation for their clients.

For instance, in a case of a pedestrian hit by a reckless driver, the lawyer would present evidence of negligence, liaise with the defendant’s insurance company for a potential settlement, and if necessary, represent the injured party in court. He/she would aim to help the victim acquire substantial damages to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other related costs.

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