Torts in Personal Injury Cases
I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Modesto. Oftentimes, I am asked just what is personal injury law. This is an interesting question since personal injury claims deal with a varied group of injuries to a person’s psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Let’s explore how personal injury law evolved, and what sort of accidents are covered under the umbrella of personal injury.
Personal injury law is a form of tort law, meaning that it covers torts or civil wrongs. Torts are a legal classification that deals with wrongful actions that cause injury to another person. Tort law allows those who have been harmed by civil acts (or omissions for that matter) to be able to recover damages. There are two kinds of torts: willful or intentional and accidental or negligent torts. At the center is the belief that whoever caused the harm must take legal liability for the losses resulting from it.
Willful or Intentional Torts
This category involves those actions that are performed to intentionally hurt another or play a trick on someone else. They include acts of assault where someone threatens harm to another whether or not the harm actually occurs. The key is the belief that the individual could carry out his or her threat of violence. Battery includes the threat of harm as well physical contact with the other person. Other examples include:
- Imprisoning someone against their will
- Defaming their character
- Lying or fraudulent misrepresentation of the truth
- Causing emotional distress to another person
- Invading another’s privacy
- Taking another’s property and misrepresenting it as your property
Accidental or Negligent Torts
The majority of personal injury cases involve accidental injury. In such cases, the harm inflicted on another is not done intentionally. In order for a negligent tort to proceed, the injured individual must prove negligence. This is done by showing that the defendant (the person who inflicted the injury) had a duty to the other person to act in a particular way and that the defendant breached that duty. This caused an accident in which the injured individual was harmed. This harm results in financial damage. Once the four elements are satisfied, negligence is proven. The damages are then either compensatory such as medical bills or punitive such as pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
Common Personal Injury Accidents
There is a wide spectrum of personal injury accidents. The most common are:
- Traffic accidents are the common cause of personal injuries.
- Accidents in the home can be involved in personal injury claims.
- Occupational accidents or disease: This includes mesothelioma, asbestosis and repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel. It can also include those not covered by workers’ compensation.
- Product defects such as defective toys, automotive part defects or other defective items are personal injuries. In California, strict liability makes proving negligence unnecessary.
- Medical mistakes such as physician negligence and defective medical devices are also considered personal injury.
- Premises Liability: Accidents resulting from injuries such as slips, trips, and falls are under the umbrella of personal injury.
Damages in Personal Injury Law
There are two basic types of damages: Economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are those of financial loss due to the accident. These include medical expenses due to transport to the hospital, medical care in the emergency room and the hospital as well as at a doctor’s office. It also includes prescriptions, surgical procedures, and rehabilitative care. In addition, lost wages due to the inability to work because of the accident are part of the economic damages. Such damages can be current bills as well as future costs.
Noneconomic damages are not as easily translated to dollars and cents. Rather, they represent the pain and suffering an individual experiences after an accident and other psychological and emotional losses. Some are:
- Pain and suffering: These are the mental and physical losses an individual suffers. They may include anxiety, shock, depression, sexual dysfunction and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Character defamation: This can include written or spoken forms of slander or libel. In some situations, a person whose character was defamed may lose their livelihood and undergo other physical, mental and/or psychological losses.
- Loss of Consortium: This usually references a spouse’s inability to have a relationship with the injured party.
Period Allowed to File a Personal Injury Case
There is a period of time that is allowed to file a personal injury claim. Although there is some deviation, the majority of claims must be filed within two years. If the claimant is a minor, the time is extended until they become 18. If the claim is against the government, such that the accident happened in a government building or a highway whose upkeep is the provenance of the city, state or federal government, an administrative claim must be filed within six months. The government must answer you within 45 days. If the government denies the claim, a personal injury suit can be filed within six months. However, if the government fails to answer, you have two years to file the claim.
Modesto Personal Injury Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Modesto. If you or a member of your family suffered a traumatic injury, please call my office at (209) 227-1932 in and around Modesto or (800) 404-5400 toll-free. I’ll provide you with free and friendly advice.
I’ve practiced law for 35 years and have helped residents of Modesto with all types of personal injury accidents including brain injuries and truck accidents as their injury lawyer.
You can read my reviews and comments by prior clients on:
I am a California member of the Million Dollar Advocates. We are a nationwide gathering of trial lawyers who have won or negotiated $1 million for clients.
Please feel free to browse my settlements and verdicts page to see how I’ve resolved other cases.
Photo Attribution: By “Activedia” via Pixabay
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