Personal Injury Law
Guide to Tort Law
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law refers to the legal remedies and defenses involved in civil lawsuits brought as a result of wrongful conduct. In fact, the word “tort” comes from a Latin term meaning twist, wrong, or harm. In contrast to criminal law, a tort action does not involve the government prosecuting the wrongdoer. Rather, these cases involve a private plaintiff seeking compensation (usually money) for the harm caused by the defendant’s actions.
Most personal injury cases are based on the doctrine of negligence. In essence, negligence requires every member of society to act responsibly and avoid putting others at risk. That is not to say that negligence will result each time someone gets hurt. The doctrine recognizes that some accidents are unavoidable. To establish liability, the plaintiff must show that a reasonably prudent person in the defendant’s position would have acted differently under the circumstances.
Examples of negligence include car accidents caused by drunk drivers, medical complications resulting from a physician’s carelessness, and dog bites that occur when vicious animals are permitted to roam free. In each instance, the responsible party ignored the risk posed to others, and as a result, the plaintiff was injured.
Once negligence has been established in a personal injury case, the defendant must pay the plaintiff for all injuries 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 and loss of earning capacity, expert testimony may be required. Punitive damages, meant to punish and deter particularly egregious conduct, may also be available.
When initiating a tort action, identifying the proper defendants can be difficult. This is because the “tortfeasor” who directly harmed the plaintiff – be it a delivery driver, nurse, grocery store clerk, or other individual – may not have the financial resources to pay a large judgment. An experienced injury attorney can identify and sue additional parties who are liable based on their relationship to the tortfeasor, such as a landlord or employer.
Common Torts and Defenses
Personal injury law encompasses a number of causes of action besides negligence. Many of these fall under the umbrella of intentional torts. As the name suggests, in these situations the defendant acts purposefully to harm the plaintiff. Examples include assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass, theft, and infliction of emotional distress.
On the opposite end of the tort spectrum, there are scenarios in which defendants will be liable even though they did everything possible to avoid causing the harm. This is referred to as strict liability. The law will hold a defendant strictly liable if someone is hurt while the defendant is engaging in a highly dangerous activity, even if the activity is legal and all precautions are taken. Building demolition and transporting hazardous materials fall into this category.
Another common tort involves injuries caused by defective products. Liability in these cases can be imposed based on a theory that the manufacturer acted negligently by designing and selling an unsafe product. Or, if certain elements are met, plaintiffs hurt by a defective product may be able to sue under a strict liability theory. Either way, product liability cases have the potential to become large class action lawsuits, involving many plaintiffs and enormous money judgments.
To defend against personal injury liability, defendants tend to rely on a few common defense theories. In negligence cases, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff did not use due care, and is partially or wholly responsible for his or her own injury. The defendant may also claim that the plaintiff “assumed the risk” by voluntarily participating in a dangerous sport or activity, or that the plaintiff impliedly gave the defendant permission to take the action that ended up harming the plaintiff.
Plaintiffs who want to avoid losing a tort case based on such arguments should hire legal counsel. Retaining an attorney will also help avoid the unfortunate circumstance of violating a statute of limitations (that is, missing the deadline for filing the lawsuit), which is always a concern in personal injury cases.
Know your Rights!
- 10 Important Questions for Your Personal Injury Attorney
Accidents rarely come with any forewarning, leaving most victims unprepared and unsure of how to proceed. When you or someone you know is injured, you will have a lot of uncertainty and need to make a lot of decisions very quickly. You should always seek immediate medical attention for any injuries and also seek the assistance of qualified, experienced legal representation. But, how do you know who the best attorney is for your case?
- How Are Damages Established in a Tort Claim?
The goal of damages in tort actions is to make the injured person “whole” through the award of money to compensate for injuries caused by the accident or incident.
- I Was Given Bad Advice About Fitness or Nutrition, What Can I Do?
I recently spoke to a friend, who is a personal trainer, about diet and exercise. Her advice, while well-intentioned, was wildly off-base from a scientific standpoint. This got me to wondering, what if I had taken her advice to heart and suffered a loss? Would the consequences of choices I made about diet and exercise be mine alone or would she have some liability for her inaccurate assertions?
- Injured at the Beauty Salon, What Should I Do?
Everyday, millions of women have various services performed at beauty salons. Hair cuts, dying, threading, manicures and pedicures, massages, and a host of other services are now available. While one rarely thinks about it, though, beauty salons are actually very dangerous environments. So what should you do if you are injured at the beauty salon?
- Sports Injury Laws
But what happens if an injury occurs as a result of a deliberate hit or someone acts so recklessly that injury is almost certain to occur?
- What is Negligence?
One can only bring a lawsuit for negligence if they can establish all four of the required elements. If any one of the elements is missing, then there is no negligence from a legal standpoint, and a lawsuit cannot be sustained.
- What is the Economic Loss Doctrine and How Does it Apply to My Case?
If you have been involved in a product liability dispute (or some other types of cases), your attorney may have mentioned that your claim is subject to the “economic loss doctrine” or the “economic loss rule.” That could leave you asking what that is and when it applies.
- What to do After a Bike Accident
First, the rider must try to keep his or her cool. What you do in the immediate aftermath of any accident, including a bike accident, may have a big impact on how much you recover for your injuries and damage to your bike. It may also affect the outcome of any lawsuits resulting from the accident.
- What to Do after a Personal Injury
The moments following an accident or other injury are confusing and overwhelming. You may not know what to do or where to turn if you or a loved one has been injured due to someone's negligence or wrongdoing.
Personal Injury Case Handbook
- Personal Injury Case Handbook
Do you have a Personal Injury Case? This information will help you understand your legal issue and what to do.
Articles About Personal Injury Law
- Will Recent Court Opinion Place New Limits on Construction Scaffold Law?According to a recent, yep sharply divided, opinion issued by the New York Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- employers may not be automatically liable for injuries when construction workers suffer falls on the worksite.
- Using an Expert Witness to Establish Damages in Business Defamation CaseIf defamation has occurred against a business, it may take steps to recover damages for the harm done to its reputation. An expert witness may be able to provide information about the availability of damages and the extent of damages. This information may be shared with the business as part of a consultation or as testimony provided during court.
- Trampoline Park Accidents and the Park's LiabilityAccording to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, children under the age of six should not be permitted to use trampolines. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against the use of trampolines by children altogether.
- Slip and Fall Accidents in StoresA slip and fall accident can turn an enjoyable day of shopping into a nightmare. Every year, more than one million Americans visit the emergency room with injuries they sustained in a slip and fall accident. Many of these types of accidents happen in retail stores. Store flooring is often made of laminate materials or wood, which can become very slippery when wet.
- Raising Awareness about Faulty Takata AirbagsThe list of recalled cars containing the defective airbags is expected to grow as time goes on.
- When Patients Place Trust in Professionals, Accountability is VitalWhen you suffer from a medical condition in the United States, you are forced to place your trust in the hands of a vast network of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers. If you’re told that you have a heart condition, you might be able to seek a second opinion if you’re lucky enough to have the financial resources or health insurance, but you can’t double-check the diagnosis based on your own intuition or a quick web search.
- Expert Witness Explains Hotel Liability for Negligence of FranchiseeHotel owners and franchisees have a relationship that benefits the brand behind the hotel. However, when the franchisee engages in activity that may lead to litigation, the hotel could be liable for these actions and an expert witness may be needed for the court case.
- Why You Need Underinsured Motorist CoverageArizona law requires drivers to have insurance coverage. However, many drivers lack adequate coverage and are actually underinsured. As a driver, you are at risk from underinsured drivers.
- Illinois Receives High Workplace Safety Score from National Safety CouncilWhile workplace injuries remain a serious problem in Illinois, the state scored the highest in measures of workplace safety by the National Safety Council as compared to other states. The rating was derived from data about worker health, workers' compensation, accident prevention programs, regulatory enforcement, and preparedness.
- Long-term Impact of Workplace InjuriesWhen an employee suffers from an injury at work, in most cases, that employee is eligible for Workers’ Compensation through their employee. Workers’ Compensation benefits cover lost wages, medical bills, physical therapy, and other costs related to the injury.
- All Tort and Personal Injury Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Tort and Personal Injury including: animal bites, asbestos mesothelioma, back and neck injury, bicycle accident, birth injury, brain injury, burn injuries, catastrophic injuries, construction accidents, construction injuries, defamation, libel and slander, defective products, industrial injuries, mass tort, negligence, nursing home abuse, pedestrian accident, personal injury, premises liability, product liability, sexual abuse, slip and fall, spinal cord injury, torts, toxic mold, toxic torts, workplace injuries and wrongful death.
Statute of Limitations by State
Alabama - Section 6-2-38
- Alaska - Sec. 9.10.070
- Arizona - Title 12, Article 3
- Arkansas - Sec. 16-56-104
- California - Sec. 335.1
- Colorado - Rev. Stat. Secs. 13-80-102
- Connecticut - Ch. 926 Sec. 52-584
- Delaware- Title 10, Ch. 81
- District of Columbia - Title 12, Ch. 3
- Georgia - Sec. 9-3-20
- Hawaii - Rev. Stat. Secs. 657-7
- Idaho- Title 5, Ch. 2, Sec. 5-219
- Illinois - 735 ILCS 5/13-201, 13-202, 13-212
- Indiana - Title 34, Art. 11, Ch. 2, Sec. 34-11-2-3, 34-11-2-4
- Iowa - Chapter 614, Section 614.1
- Kansas - Chapter 60, Art 5, Sec. 60-513
- Kentucky - Title 36, Chapter 413, Sec. 413.140
- Louisiana - Ci. Code. Art. 3492
- Maine - Title 14, Part 2, Ch. 205
- Maryland - Sec. 5-101
- Massachusetts - Title 5, Ch. 260, Secs. 2A and 4
- Michigan - Chapter 600, Act 236, Ch. 58
- Minnesota - Ch. 541, Sec 541.05, 541.07
- Mississippi - Title 15, Ch. 1, Secs. 15-1-36, 15-1-35, 15-1-49
- Missouri - Title 35, Ch. 516, Secs. 516.105, 516.120, 516.140
- Montana - Title 27, Ch. 2, 27-2-204 and 27-2-207
- Nebraska - Title 25, Section 207, 25-207
- Nevada - Chapter 11, Sec 11.190
- New Hampshire - Title LII, Chapter 508, Sec. 508.4
- New Jersey - Title 2A, Ch. 14, Sec. 2A:14-2, 14-3
- New Mexico - Ch. 37, Art. 1, Sec. 37-1-8
- New York - Art. 2, Secs. 214, 214.s, 215
- North Carolina - Title 1, Section 1-52, 1-54
- North Dakota - Title 28, Ch. 1, Secs. 28-01-16 and 28-01-18
- Ohio - Title 23, Ch. 5, Sec. 2305.10
- Oklahoma - Title 12, Ch. 3, Sec. 95
- Oregon - Ch. 12, Secs. 12.110, 12.115, 12.120
- Pennsylvania - 42 PA Con. Stat. Sections 5523, 5524
- Rhode Island - Title 9, Ch. 1, Sec. 9-1-14
- South Carolina - Title 15, Ch. 3, Secs. 15-3-530, 15-3-545, 15-3-550
- South Dakota - Title 15, Ch. 2, Secs. 15-2-14, 15-2-14.1, 15-2-15
- Tennessee - Title 28, Ch. 3, Secs. 28-3-103, 28-3-104
- Texas - Civ. Prac. & Rem Code, Title 2, Ch. 16, Secs. 16.002, 16.003
- Utah - Title 78B, Chapter 02
- Vermont - Title 12, Ch. 23, Secs. 512, 521
- Virginia - Title 8.01, Ch. 4, Secs. 8.01-243, 8.01-247.1
- Washington - Title 4, Ch. 16, Secs. 4.16.080, 4.16.100
- West Virginia - Chapter 55, Sec. 55-2-12
- Wisconsin - Chapter 893, Secs. 893.54, 893.55, 893.57
- Wyoming - Title 1, Ch. 3, Sec. 1-3-105
Personal Injury Law - US
- ABA - Personal Injury
The American Bar Association’s personal injury web page contains information about pursuing a claim, as well as general discussions of negligence, medical malpractice, and products liability law.
- ABA - Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS)
TIPS brings together legal professionals from all sides of tort law, including plaintiffs’ attorneys, defense lawyers, and insurance representatives. While aimed at practitioners, the site contains news and events of interest to the public.
- Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)
The U.S. House of Representatives provides this online summary of the FTCA. Those looking to sue an employee of the federal government will find this to be a useful starting point for further research.
- Personal Injury - Wikipedia
This web page offers an encyclopedia-style description of personal injury law in the U.S. and abroad. The discussion includes information about insurance coverage and the taxation of damage awards.
- Theories of Tort Law
Stanford University has compiled this outline of tort law theories and practices. A significant portion of the discussion deals with the economic aspects of the subject. An extensive biography is provided.
- Tort Law - Overview
Cornell University Law School maintains a series of web pages known as the Legal Information Institute (LII). The tort law page offers a thorough overview, with in-text links to related topics.
- USDOJ - Torts Branch
This page explains the role of the U.S. Department of Justice in tort legislation involving the federal government and its officers. The page also provides access to an expandable flow chart of the entire USDOJ civil division.