Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is designed to protect you if you or your property is injured or harmed because of someone else's act or failure to act. In a successful tort action, the one who caused the injury or harm compensates the one who suffered the losses.
Every tort claim, regardless of its basis, whether intentional, negligence, or strict liability, has two basic issues—liability and damages. Was the defendant liable for the damages you sustained, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of your damages? If you can prove liability and damages, our system of justice will award you compensation for your loss.
Negligence is the basis for most personal injury lawsuits, from auto collisions to slips and falls.
If someone causes an accident and I am hurt, on what basis will that person be responsible (liable)?
A person is liable if he or she was negligent in causing the accident. Persons who act negligently never set out (intend) to cause a result like an injury to another person. Rather, their liability stems from careless or thoughtless conduct or a failure to act when a reasonable person would have acted. Conduct becomes "negligent" when it falls below a legally recognized standard of taking reasonable care under the circumstances to protect others from harm.
What’s an example of negligence in a car accident?
A driver has a duty to use reasonable care to avoid injuring anyone he or she meets on the road. If a driver fails to use reasonable care and as a result of that failure injures you, then the driver is responsible (liable) to you for those injuries.
Will the person who caused my injury get punished?
No. Punishment comes from criminal cases, not civil cases. Defendants in civil actions for personal injury do not receive jail terms or stiff fines as punishment. Those are criminal sentences and personal injury cases are civil disputes. (But juries and courts can award what the law calls punitive damages when the defendant's intentional acts have injured you. These awards are rather rare.)
Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider—a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital or hospital worker—whose performance of duties departs from a standard of practice of those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient or patients.
What do I do if I think I have a medical malpractice claim?
Talk to a lawyer who specializes in such work. Tell the attorney exactly what happened to you, from the first time you visited your doctor through your last contact with him or her. What were the circumstances surrounding your illness or injury? How did your doctor treat it? What did your doctor tell you about your treatment? Did you follow your doctor's instructions? What happened to you? Answers to these and other relevant questions become important if you think your doctor may have committed malpractice. Like other personal injury claims, the case will either be settled or go to trial, usually before a jury.
How does a jury determine if a doctor's actions were within the standards of good medical practice?
A jury will consider testimony by experts—usually other doctors, who will testify whether they believe your physician's actions followed standard medical practice or fell below the accepted standard of care. In deciding whether your heart surgeon was negligent, for example, a jury will be told to rely on expert testimony to determine what a competent heart surgeon would have done under the same or similar circumstances. A specialist, like a heart surgeon, is held to a higher standard of care—that of a specialist—than would be expected of a nonspecialist.
Strict product liability, now the law in nearly every state, allows an action against a manufacturer that sells any defective product resulting in injury to a buyer or anyone who uses it. If you are injured by a defective product, you do not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, but only that the product was defective. A strict liability action can be brought against the parties that designed, manufactured, sold or furnished the product.
What is a typical product liability case?
Let’s say a brand-new power mower backfired and injured you. You can try to recover damages by proving that the manufacturer of the lawn mower made a defective product. Most courts today hold companies responsible for a defective product strictly liable to consumers and users for injuries caused by the defect. The product may have had a design flaw or a manufacturing defect. Another possibility may be that the producer or assembler failed to provide adequate warning of a risk or hazard or failed to provide adequate directions for a product's use.
What should you do if you are injured by a product?
Keep the evidence. If a heating fixture ruptures and injures someone in your family, keep as may pieces of the equipment as you can find and disturb the site as little as you can. Make note of the name of the manufacturer, model and serial number. Keep any packaging or instructions. Keep any receipts showing when and where the product was purchased. Take pictures of the site and of the injury. Make a record of exactly when the incident occurred and under what circumstances. Be sure you have accurate names and addresses for all doctors and hospitals treating the injured victim.
© Legal Grind® LLC - All Rights Reserved.
Access LegalGrind.com Lawyer Referral Service
Certified by The State Bar of California
(#110, LA County)