Personal Injury - An Overview
When a person is injured due to the negligence of someone else, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed by the injured party (or their representatives). This injury can be physical, emotional or it may develop from specific types of conduct and from various sources. Typical personal injury cases include slip and fall, car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, dog bites, assaults and battery, medical malpractice, as well as product liability. Most often, the goal of a personal injury action is to ascertain the responsible party and to hold the responsible party liable for losses sustained by the injured party. If you or someone you know has been injured by the actions of another, consult a personal injury attorney at our firm to determine what options you may have.
Personal Injury Damages
In order for an injured party to receive the damages to which they are entitled by law personal injury lawyers are often employed. Typically injured parties are legally entitled to compensation that include lost wages, past and future medical expenses, damages for both physical and emotional pain and suffering as well as damages for disfigurement if applicable. In certain circumstance, a direct family member of the injured person, such as a spouse, could also receive damages. The damages award is also known as loss of consortium damages, with a purpose being to compensate the loved one for the loss of the injured or deceased person's services and companionship. Another form of damages, depending on the laws of the state where the lawsuit is filed and based on the facts of the particular case, are hedonic damages, which are granted to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of enjoyment of activities that he or she can no longer enjoy as a result of the injuries suffered. Certain situations may require punitive damages to be awarded when the defendant’s conduct was particularly flagrant and the court or jury determines that the defendant should be additionally punished by paying an amount far greater than the plaintiff’s actual damages. Another purpose of punitive damage awards may be used as a deterrent for others that engage in similar unlawful conduct.
Personal Injury - “Legal Causation”
In regards to damages, not every injured plaintiff will be entitled to recover damages for their injury. Aside from the injury, the plaintiff has the burden of establishing, through credible and pertinent evidence, that the defendant is legally liable for the injuries sustained. In essence, the plaintiff must provide proof of causation for actual causation and proximate (legal) causation. Actual causation is shown by a literal cause and effect. The facts and circumstances of the particular matter in question will determine whether legal causation is present. In certain personal injury actions, legal causation can be determined if the plaintiff can establish that the defendant’s conduct was intentional. Simply put, the wrongdoer intentionally or purposefully harmed the plaintiff or was aware that their resulting conduct would harm the plaintiff.
Negligence and Strict Liability
Negligence is also used to determine fault in personal injury. Based on the negligence theory, a defendant is responsible for the results of their action, or inaction, when an ordinary person in the same situation could have foreseen that the conduct would create an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to others. The validity of other personal injury actions will be based on strict liability, which is a no-fault system whereby liability can be established regardless of the fault of the various parties as well as the plaintiff. This form of liability may be applied in products liability cases, where a manufacturer or seller of a defective product places a product into the marketplace and users of the product are injured. In this scenario a defendant will be held responsible for actions taken or for actions not taken. One example of negligence or negligent acts is when a driver fails to stop at a red light and hits another vehicle thereby injuring the other driver or passengers. An example of strict liability is can be established when a property owner fails to clear the ice and snow from the front steps of a business open to the public. This inaction can establish liability if a patron falls and breaks her leg when attempting to enter the premises.
Personal Injury Cases - Defenses to Liability
In certain situations, the defendant’s conduct, may not give rise to damages. For example, in a situation where a plaintiff knowingly and willfully chooses to enter a known hazard, then the law states that the individual has assumed the risk of injury and therefore the defendant will not be liable. One instance where the assumption of the risk theory is applicable is in a case in which the plaintiff played in a friendly game of tackle football and another player broke his arm. In this scenario, the plaintiff may not be able to recover for his injuries because he was aware of the risks of playing the game and willingly chose to play anyway.
An experienced personal injury lawyer at the Gallegos Law Firm can explain these and other defenses and ascertain whether they are applicable to your case.
Often times personal injury claims require a lawyer’s careful examination of the surrounding facts and circumstances to determine if a legal claim exists. Our firm can look at the facts and issues of your case and determine if the plaintiff is liable for damages, how quickly you must act to preserve your rights, and the amount of damages to which you may be entitled. Moreover, most personal injury cases are on a contingency basis meaning that you will not owe any legal fees unless and until the defendant pays the damage award.