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
- Civil Lawsuits Involving Sexual AbuseSexual abuse occurs through cases reported in the thousands each year. Some are tied together, while some crimes stand alone. Unknown in many instances, the victims of this abuse have a legal right afforded to them to sue the abuser that caused the damage and injury. These lawsuits are civil suits with less news coverage in most situations.
- Civil Compensation for Sexual Abuse VictimsSexual crimes and offenses are rampant through the United States. The crimes often increase in number each year, and some of the victims are repeatedly subjected to this abuse. Worse is the fact most individuals subjected to these crimes know their attacker. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, compensation may become available for injury and treatment. Other assistance for pain and suffering or therapy may be possible if compensation payouts are obtained through a successful trial.
- Importance of Filing Tort Claims Act Notice in New JerseyThe New Jersey Tort Claims Act (“NJTCA”), N.J.S.A. 59:1-1, et seq., provides that “parties suing public entities must comply with strict requirements for notifying and suing those entities.” Feinberg v. N.J. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 137 N.J. 126, 134 (1994).
- Injured at a Health Club? Check the Fine PrintTens of thousands of citizens join health clubs or gyms to stay healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise every week, and many people join a health club to improve their overall health.
- Ashley Furniture’s Safety ViolationsAccidents at work can happen anywhere. Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest furniture manufacturer, recently settled claims of safety violations brought by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for $1.75 million. OSHA found numerous safety violations in the company’s manufacturing plants which it alleged caused over 1,000 worker injuries, including amputations.
- Amtrak Sued Following Fatal AccidentAn April 3, 2016 collision on the southbound tracks just outside Chester, Pennsylvania fatally injured two railroad workers. The family of one of those men recently responded by filing a negligence action against Amtrak. According to the complaint filed on behalf of the worker’s two grown children, Amtrak failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the tragedy.
- Workers' Compensation Files Allegedly Hacked in CaliforniaThree of the largest Workers’ Compensation insurance companies in California have been accused of hacking into over 32,000 confidential Workers’ Compensation files in a federal lawsuit filed by a California worker. The lawsuit is seeking class action status after being originally filed in April of this year.
- IKEA Recalls 29 Million Pieces of Furniture Due To Tipping ConcernDue to the accidental deaths of several children, IKEA has recalled millions of dressers and chests for the safety of the general public.
- How Does International Law Affect Airplane Crash Liability?Tragically, airplane crashes often result in catastrophic losses. Hundreds of people may die in a single incident. Those lucky enough to survive often suffer from debilitating injuries. When an airplane crash occurs, those affected may consider how to seek compensation for the losses that they have suffered. Airplane crash investigation and liability can often be complex.
- Damage Cap LawsPersonal injury victims who successfully establish that a defendant’s negligent, reckless or intentional actions caused them to suffer injury are entitled to seek damages. However, damage cap laws may put a maximum recovery amount on the award, limiting the victims from being able to receive the full compensation to which they may be entitled.
- 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.