Monday, January 28, 2008

The Basics of Personal Injury Law

Personal injury refers to the injuries done to a person, private property, rights and reputation. Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Each area is further narrowed down into subcategories in order to define the specific situations with which the injury occurred.
Personal injuries may be categorized into intentional and unintentional torts. A tort is defined as an injury to one person for which the person who caused the injury may be deemed liable.
Intentional Tort
An intentional tort is a deliberate act that causes harm to another, for which the victim may sue the offender for damages. A tort is also considered intentional if the tort-feasor (i.e. the person who committed the tort) doesn’t wish for it to happen, but is aware that it would happen anyway. Common law intentional torts include:
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Slander, Defamation or Libel
  • False imprisonment or false arrest
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)
  • Trespass to property
  • Nuisance
Intentional Tort
An unintentional tort on the other hand, is an act that results not from intention to cause harm or to perform some harmful act, but because the offender did not conform to the standard or duty of care required by common law. This failure to comply is the actual or proximate cause of the damages.
Unintentional tort is primarily the result of negligence. Some unintentional torts include:
  • Professional malpractice
  • Product liability
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Premise liability
  • Unintentional infliction of Emotional Distress (UIED)
Strict Liability
Tort liability is set upon the defendant without need to prove intent, negligence or fault; as long as the plaintiff can prove that it was the defendant’s object that caused the damage. It is a liability without fault and based neither on intent nor negligence.
Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury is also subject to a statute of limitation. A statute of limitation is the time allowed for a person to file a claim. Rights to filing charges beyond the set deadline will be waived.
Every tort claim, regardless of its nature, must address two basic issues – liability and damages.
First, is the tort-feasor liable to the injuries and damages a person sustained? Second, what is the nature and extent of the damages?
If the court finds the defendant guilty of personal injury, the plaintiff will be awarded economic and non-economic damages. Damages are also categorized into: general damages; special damages; and punitive damages.