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Personal Injury Cases
When a person is injured in an accident someone is often legally responsible. Personal injury is a branch of law that is designed to protect persons harmed by the careless or intentional actions of others. The personal injury legal system sets out the parameters for compensating victims who have been injured by such careless actions.
To establish a personal injury claim the injured person must be able to demonstrate that another party has the legal responsibility for the injuries. To establish responsibility for the personal injuries, two factors must be proven: 1) liability (culpability), and 2) damages (losses).
Liability: Liability in personal injury law is largely divided into three categories: intentional wrongs, negligence, and strict liability. These areas are discussed in detail below.
Damages: Depending on the circumstances of the case, an injured person can seek damages for physical injury, lost earnings, impairment of future earnings, lifestyle changes, loss of support to loved ones, property damage, and past, present and future medical care and expenses.
If you have been injured you should recognize that a personal injury action can be a complicated endeavor. It would be wise to consult an experienced and reputable personal injury attorney as soon as possible after any accident that causes injury to you or a loved one.
In order to pursue a personal injury claim, you must establish that someone is liable (or culpable) for your personal injuries. There are three broad areas of liability which allow an individual to pursue a personal injury claim: 1) intentional wrongs; 2) negligence, and 3) strict liability. Negligence is by far the most common basis for a personal injury action, but we will look at all three.
1. Intentional Wrongs
This type of personal injury requires an intention by someone to act in a way which results in harm to someone else. For example, if someone strikes you, even as a practical joke, that person could be liable for a battery. In many instances of intentional wrongs, the personal injury victim may pursue a civil personal injury lawsuit in addition to criminal charges. Victims of domestic or sexual abuse, for instance, may file both a civil lawsuit and a criminal complaint claim with the police.
Intentional wrongs are not insurable in California. A claimant generally has to seek the personal assets of the defendant to obtain compensation for intentionally-caused injuries. Because of difficulties that exist with collecting damages against individuals, few attorneys are willing to take cases for personal injuries caused by intentional wrongs, unless the defendant has substantial resources. It is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in order to determine if you have been subjected to an intentional wrong, and the practicality of pursuing remedies for your damages.
Under the law of negligence, a person is liable for your personal injuries if he was careless in causing your injuries. Persons who act negligently do not intend to cause injury. Their liability is a result of careless or thoughtless action. The test of whether a person has acted negligently includes asking how a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation.
During a negligence trial, either the judge or the jury decides what a "reasonable person" would have done after hearing all the facts in the case. The reasonable person is not an actual person or any individual member of the jury, but represents the community's expectations of how a person should act to avoid damages and personal injuries to others.
The question of what is negligent and what is reasonable is an objective one and does not take into account specific abilities of the defendant. For example, a defendant with low intelligence or inexperience is held to the same standard as a person of higher intelligence or more experience. Likewise, intoxication is not an excuse for negligence because the person chose to have impaired judgment.
In the case of individuals with specialized training or knowledge, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots, etc., their standard of conduct is compared to how a reasonable person in those fields or professions would act. This type of negligence is covered by a special area of law called "malpractice."
In order to prevail in a personal injury claim under the law of negligence in California (and most other states) the injures party has the burden of proving that:
3. Strict Liability
Under the strict liability theory of personal injury, the defendant can be held responsible for your personal injuries and damages without regard as to whether he was careless. This means that you do not have to show that the defendant was negligent for your personal injuries for you to recover. This doctrine of "liability without fault" is usually applied to the following types of personal injury cases:
After being injured in an accident, it is very important to protect your rights to all legal remedies available to you. Following are steps that you should take following an accident:
If you have been injured by a defective product do not return it to the retailer or manufacturer, and do not throw it away. Make sure that it is kept in a secure place and do not alter it in any way. Your attorney will need the product to have it examined by experts. If the product is in the possession of someone else, seek an attorney's help. An attorney may be able to file for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to avoid destruction of the product.
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Personal Injury Statistics
Accidents can occur anywhere and at any time, and their numbers are significant:
The concept of negligence in a personal injury action is not limited to an individual's action. Small businesses, organizations, companies, partnerships, and even large corporations can all be liable if they have breached their duty of care and caused personal injury or other damages to someone. This is especially true in cases of defective products. Other types of responsible parties include the following:
For example, if an employer sends an employee on an errand and the employee injures a person after running a stop sign, the employer would normally be held liable. However, if the employee instead of going on the work errand goes to a baseball game and injures someone while driving there, the employer would not be liable. In the latter case the employer is not liable because the employee was not in the course and scope of his duties.The employer also has a duty to protect its own employees from accidents and personal injury while at work. However, these rights and protections exist under a specialized area of law known as workers' compensation.
Under the U.S. Constitution, government entities are immune from liability. However, most governments have passed laws that waive their immunity and allow for the filing of injury claims against them. Examples include the California Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. These laws have very specific requirements for giving notice of your injury and for filing claims. If these rules are not followed you can automatically lose your right to receive compensation from the government. The complexity of filing a personal injury claim against the government makes it imperative to get the assistance of an attorney experienced in government entity claim lawsuits.
A defendant will often try to introduce evidence to negate one of the elements needed to show negligence as discussed above, such as claiming that no duty was owed to the plaintiff or that reasonable care was exercised. Two of the most common defenses used to eliminate or limit liability are "comparative fault" and "assumption of the risk."
Another defense can be raised if you >used the product in a way that it was not intended to be used. For example, if you turn a lawn mower on its side to trim the hedges and are injured, there is no strict liability because a lawn mower is not intended to be used as a hedge trimmer. Likewise, if you alter or modify a product you cannot claim strict liability for any resulting injuries.
If you have been injured by someone's intentional act, negligent act, or by a defective product, it is important that you consult an experienced lawyer without delay. Personal injury cases are often quite complex and will require an attorney's expertise from the beginning, in order to ensure all relevant evidence and potential claims are preserved.
If you have been the victim of an accident and have been injured, you have a right to be compensated for your losses. There are two main types of personal injury damages: 1) compensatory or actual damages, and 2) punitive damages. Punitive damages are discretionary and are usually awarded to a victim in addition to actual damages when the defendant's conduct has been especially malicious or egregious. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for his or her reprehensible conduct and to act as a deterrent to prevent the defendant and others from acting the same way.
Compensatory or actual damages are intended to cover all the expenses and aliments caused by the personal injury. Your family members may also be entitled to recover if your injuries in certain circumstances. Damage awards can include the following:
Personal injury cases are serious matters that can have devastating and long-lasting effects on your health, finances, and family relationships. Most accident victims must depend on the damages they are awarded to cover the costs of their medical bills and lost income. Choosing the right California personal injury lawyer is therefore a critical decision. The following factors are essential when making your choice:
Personal injury cases can be expensive to prosecute. Damages that are claimed by an injured individual, for example, must be proven. Proving damages sometimes requires the hiring of expensive treating physicians, such as neurologists and orthopedic specialists, and experts such as engineers, economists, vocational rehab and life-care planners. It is therefore very important to retain a personal injury lawyer who is not only experienced and effective but who also has the monetary resources to pay for litigation costs that are often expensive.
The legal process can be a daunting experience and you will not be able to properly assess the merits of your case unless you speak with a personal injury attorney who can explain your legal rights. Make sure you have the information you need to make an educated decision on choosing a lawyer.
The Reeves Law Group has handled thousands of personal injury cases and achieved exceptional results for our clients, while earning a reputation for professionalism and competence. The Reeves Law Firm has both the substantial experience and the resources to best handle your personal injury case. You can be assured that our team of highly skilled attorneys will diligently pursue exceptional results in your case. For a free consultation, please call us at (800) 644-8000 or e-mail us.