What is personal injury?
Personal injury refers to a range of injuries, from slip and fall accidents to medical malpractice. Find out how to determine if you have a case.
A personal injury occurs when someone causes harm to another person's body, mind, or emotions. It does not include damage to property, finances, or other assets.
Accidents at home, on the road, or at work
Accidents due to product defects
Medical negligence claims: includes medical and dental accidents
Industrial disease claims: includes occupational injuries like mesothelioma, occupational stress, and repetitive strain injuries
There are two types of damages: special damages and general damages.
Special damages are financial in nature, such as hospital bills or lost wages.
General damages are non-financial losses, which include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, defamation, and emotional distress:
Pain and suffering is the kind of physical and/or mental loss caused by a personal injury. Pain and suffering also refers to the possible future effects of a personal injury. Keep in mind that mental pain and suffering includes negative emotions like emotional distress, anxiety, and shock. Afflictions such as sexual dysfunction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder also fall under mental pain and suffering.
Loss of consortium is the loss of the ability to have a relationship with an injured person. Usually it applies to a spouse in a marriage, but can apply to children too.
Defamation occurs when another person's character or reputation is hurt. Words like libel or slander are commonly used in reference to a defamation case. Libel means that a falsehood was said with written or printed words or pictures. Slander means the same thing except that spoken words, sounds, sign language or gestures were used. Defamation can result in lost wages and pain and suffering.
Emotional distress describes the mental health issues your personal injury caused. Historically, courts awarded emotional distress only in cases where physical harm was evident. However, recent cases recognize that emotional distress can come from personal injuries in which there is little to no physical evidence such as sexual harassment or defamation. These sorts of cases usually require a mental health professional to verify the emotional distress.
A statute of limitations is the period of time you have to file a claim. Personal injury cases have a statute of limitations that vary by state and cause. The time limit usually starts on the day the accident or injury occurred and can last anywhere from 2 to 5 years. If you do not follow the guidelines for your state's statute of limitations, you may lose your right to file a claim.
Personal injury cases require that you have an injury with medical documentation. This includes mental health injuries documented by a certified mental health professional. If the personal injury case is based on negligence, the negligence must be documented in addition to evidence that it caused the accident or illness.
Cases like assault, theft, or emotional distress are usually classified as an intentional tort or wrong. Intentional torts require evidence that the defendant knowingly caused damages. Personal injury cases hold a defendant as strictly liable when someone is hurt in a dangerous activity like demolition or hazardous waste removal. Strict liability claims do not require negligence, fault, or intention. There are also certain circumstances that may disqualify a person from filing a personal injury claim, like signing a release waiver for a recreational activity.
To determine if you have a case, your claim must fall within the statute of limitations for your state for the personal injury cause. A case must also fulfill the requirements of proof and documentation for your type of personal injury case.
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