Sunday, October 18, 2009

Understanding Personal Injury Law

By Gus Kalakis

In general, personal injury lawsuits can be broken into two general categories: negligence cases and intentional acts or "torts." (The word "tort" is a legal term, which refers to a legal cause of action -- the wrongful act of another person which entitled an injured party to seek damages through the courts.)

Causes of action arise from "negligence" when the person who causes the harm does not intend the injury, but is careless with the safety of other people. Most litigation arising out of motor vehicle accidents charges a driver with being "negligent."

To win a "negligence" case, an injured person must show that the defendant owed him a duty to exercise reasonable care, that the defendant violated that duty, that his injuries resulted from the breach of duty, and that the injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of the violation.

The most typical types of negligence lawsuits are car accident cases, medical malpractice cases, and fall injury cases. In car accident cases, the plaintiff accuses the defendant of failure to reasonable drive his car. In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff accuses some medical professional of not acting within a proscribed standard of care. In fall injury cases, the plaintiff accuses the defendant of failing to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition.

Next, we consider the group of personal injury causes of action known as intentional torts. An intentional tort occurs when someone act intentionally and harm or injury results to another person. This is an important distinction from negligence cases where the action was unintentional.

From a legal perspective, it can be difficult to obtain compensation from a person who commits an intentional tort, as most insurance policies do not cover intentional wrongful acts. However, sometimes injuries result from the acts of more than one party, or multiple causes of action may arise from the same act.

Common intentional torts include assault and battery, child abuse, and defamation of character. Most criminal acts will support a lawsuit based upon the intentional wrongful conduct of the criminal.

When someone is injured in the course of their employment, a unique area of the law is triggered. This is the area of worker's compensation. Before worker's compensation laws were put in place, it was very common for an injured employee to sue his employer for injuries sustained on the job. This created a difficult situation for all parties involved, including the civil justice system. Worker's compensation laws were put in place as a compromise between employers and injured employees. Employers became immune to lawsuits for job-related injuries and employees did not need to prove all the elements of their case in order to recover.

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