Personal Injury Law Overview

When someone suffers physical or emotional injury or their personal property is damaged, it is considered in law to be a “personal injury.” The laws covering personal injury allow the injured person to receive compensation for damages caused by someone else’s carelessness, negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions.

Injury actions have three parts: there must be a legal duty between the defendant (the one doing the wrong) and the plaintiff (the person injured); there must be a breach of that duty; and damage must occur because of that breach. When all three elements take place, a personal injury can be brought.

The laws of our society require all citizens not to harm others. This means that not only should people be safe from harm, but their possessions should be as well. When someone harms you or damages something that belongs to you, they may be liable under the laws governing the situation.

Liability can be caused by intentional acts or by negligence. An intentional act is one intended to cause harm or injury: the person committing the act is trying to harm you. A negligent act occurs when someone fails to take appropriate action and you are harmed as a result of that failure. For instance, if an angry person throws a brick through your window, that is an intentional tort (it may also be a criminal act). On the other hand, if a careless driver runs into your car, that is a negligent act.

Another form of personal injury law covers “strict liability.” Strict liability means that there is responsibility whether or not negligence was involved. This usually applies to situations that are abnormally or inherently dangerous. This concept is also found in the area of product liability. Manufacturers are charged with the responsibility of assuring that their product is safe when used as directed. If someone is injured by a product, under the terms of strict liability they do not have to prove intent or negligence; they only need to show that harm was done and the product was defective through no fault of their own.

Once a personal injury has occurred, the defendant has a liability to pay for your injury or property. Damages is the term for whatever is owed to you to compensate you for your loss. Damages can be agreed upon by you and the person responsible, through insurance settlements, or by other means. Often the damages offered to you may not fully compensate you for your loss. This is especially true if you have suffered an injury and have not been able to work. Personal injury law is the mechanism for determining who is in the wrong, or in other words, who is “liable,” and what the liable person should have to pay for the damage caused.

If you have had a personal injury, there are several things you can do to help yourself. First of all, make sure that you seek medical attention and that you follow up with the proper authorities and your own insurance company. If you believe your injury was caused by the carelessness or intentional act of another person, you may want to contact an attorney to discuss this. You should call as soon as it is convenient and avoid discussing the matter with strangers and/or insurance representatives who are not from your own insurance company.

You should be cooperative with the police, your own treating physicians, and your own insurance company. Most personal injury cases are covered by a statute of limitations, which means that you only have a certain period of time in which you can file a lawsuit. If you have a personal injury case that you would like us to review, please call Shoup Evers & Green at (802) 861-6666  for a free consultation or submit our free online case evaluation form.


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