Have you been injured by someone and need legal representation? If you have, then you should hire a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer with experience in accident law and personal injury law can also help if you are accused of causing an injury to someone or their property.
A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the legal process. During this process, your lawyer will analyze the facts surrounding the injury to advise you on the best course of action.
You might be thinking, isn’t a lawyer expensive? Not a personal injury lawyer! Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingency fee basis usually, which means you usually don’t pay a fee unless you win. If you win, the lawyer takes a portion of the monetary award in exchange for their legal services. If you lose, then you don’t pay.
In this article, we’re going to explain some general information about accident and personal injury law. This information will help when you meet with a lawyer at an initial consultation. We’re also going to explain different ways that an accident and personal injury lawyer might be able to help your situation. Finally, at the end of the article, we link to our guide which lays out the specific steps to take on how to get a lawyer.
Before we go further, you need to know that the information in this section is only general information about accident law and personal injury law. It is not legal advice, and it is not even specific advice. Instead, it is general information to prepare for your meeting with an accident lawyer and personal injury lawyer. At the meeting, the lawyer can accurately advise you on how accident and personal injury law applies to the facts of your specific situation.
Types of Accident and Personal Injury Claims
The primary goal of personal injury law and accident law, which is also known as tort law, is to compensate you or your property because of someone else’s wrongful actions.
Accident law and personal injury law has several different types of claims that an injured person can bring. We’ll discuss these in detail below, but for now, here is a list of the most common types:
- Intentional Torts
- Invasion of privacy
- Strict liability
Intentional torts are where a wrongdoer intends to cause some harm or knows that the harm is substantially certain to occur. When you speak to your injury lawyer, make sure to give them all the facts about your case. You might not know this, but the wrongdoer might have committed multiple intentional torts from their actions.
Before we dive into the common intentional torts, we should point out that many intentional torts are also crimes. A personal injury or an accident could give rise to both a criminal and a civil lawsuit. The decision to file a criminal suit is at the discretion of the district attorney, but the decision to file a civil lawsuit is up to the victim or their legal custodian.
The first type of intentional tort we’re going to discuss is called battery. In most jurisdictions, battery is the intentional infliction of harmful or offensive physical contact. The contact must have been intentional, it must have been harmful or offensive, and there must have been some physical contact.
A personal injury lawyer looks at the facts surrounding the action and explains whether a battery occurred. In some situations, this determination is natural, such as with an intentional punch or kick. However, in other cases, the decision gets tricky. What if a wrongdoer intentionally tried to punch someone else, but ended up hitting you? Is that battery? What about if someone at work pats you on the back and you’ve repeatedly told them that you don’t like it when they touch you. Is that battery? These are all great questions, and you should ask your lawyer for advice on your specific situation.
Assault is another type of intentional tort, and it is very similar to battery. In most jurisdictions, assault is the intentional infliction of apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive physical contact.
There are a few key differences with assault compared to battery. Unlike battery, assault doesn’t require physical contact to occur. It only requires that the victim has an apprehension that the physical contact is imminent. The apprehension isn’t fear, but more like an awareness that the physical contact will happen.
The other significant difference with assault compared to battery is that physical contact must be imminent. In many jurisdictions, imminent does not mean immediate, but only that the physical contact occurs without a significant delay.
If you feel like you’ve been the victim of an assault, you should reach out to an attorney for a consultation. Assault has many tricky rules which depend on your jurisdiction, and only a personal injury lawyer has the experience to look at what happened and figure out if an assault took place.
False imprisonment is the intentional confinement of a person who is aware of the detention or harmed by the confinement. Just like battery and assault, false imprisonment also requires intention. The other two elements in the test for false imprisonment are confinement and harm. This involves awareness by the person of the confinement or injury from the confinement.
In general, when determining whether confinement occurred, a lawyer looks at whether the area of confinement was a specific area and the person was completely confined. In making this determination, the lawyer also examines whether the person confined had knowledge of a reasonable means of escape or whether they didn’t. Some of the factors include the existence of any physical force against the person or their immediate family, including imminent threats or duress. Also, the person confined must have known about or harmed by the confinement.
The legal issue of false imprisonment is much more complicated than assault and battery. You shouldn’t try to figure out false imprisonment on your own. Instead, consult with a lawyer who practices personal injury law. It is a very technical issue that requires the experience of a lawyer trained in personal injury law.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is the intentional or reckless infliction of severe emotional distress by an extreme and outrageous act.
We’re not going to give a high-level overview of this category because it’s just so darn complicated. Instead, if you feel like you’ve suffered emotional distress by someone else, then you should contact a personal injury lawyer for a consultation. In many personal injury situations, lawyers provide free consultations, and they work on a contingency basis. The only cost to you is your time in meeting with the attorney.
The tort of trespass is easy to understand. In most jurisdictions, trespassing is an intentional entry on the land of another. Usually, a mistaken entry is not a defense, such as if you accidentally went to the wrong house for a birthday party.
The category of trespass has two more intentional torts called trespass to chattels and conversion. Both of these are very similar in that they involve someone intentionally damaging or depriving the owner of possession of their personal property. It’s like a civil lawsuit for stealing. The area where they diverge is that trespass to chattels is where the damage was minor or the deprivation was for a short duration, whereas conversion is where the damage was substantial or the deprivation was for an extended period.
Money As a Remedy
We need to discuss money before we move onto discussing other types of torts. In a civil lawsuit, a court can award money, also called damages, to the injured party. The injured party might receive one or more of the following types of damages:
- Payment for the actual harm or injury
- Money for pain and suffering
- Money for punitive damages
In the first category, money for the actual injury or harm, are things that are easy for the court to calculate. For example, the court can look at a doctor bill that resulted from the injury and quickly determine what the wrongdoer must pay. The court can also look at the statements from the mechanic for a car that the wrongdoer damaged. In some situations, the court might have the wrongdoer pay for the costs associated with hiring your injury lawyer.
It gets a little tricky when bills or receipts don’t exist, such as when the harm or injury was minor. For example, in a situation where the battery was an offensive touching (ex., patting someone on the back when the person being patted on the back was offended), calculating damages could be difficult. If the alleged victim didn’t go to the hospital and wasn’t injured, it is hard for a court to award a significant amount of money.
Those that find themselves in a situation like this shouldn’t lose hope. Speak to your attorney who has experience in these personal injury issues, and he or she can look at the specific facts of your case. A lawyer can give you the best advice and show you legal avenues to pursue that you did not know existed.
In the second category, a court can award damages for pain and suffering. Here, a court looks at a myriad of factors to determine the amount of money to award. It is heavily dependent on the facts of your case, and you should speak to a lawyer experienced in accident law and personal injury law for the best advice.
In the final category, a court can award what are called punitive damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Whether a court awards punitive damages depends on the facts of your case and are at the court’s discretion. A lawyer can advise you on the likelihood of punitive damages in your specific situation.
Invasion of Privacy
The next tort we’re going to look at is an invasion of privacy. It seems that today, less and less of what we do is private. We always hear about how our information gets stolen, and the government and companies are watching us. However, there are still some areas where the law protects our privacy. Here are a few of those categories:
Intrusion Upon Seclusion
The tort of intrusion upon seclusion is when another person intrudes upon your privacy in a way that would be offensive to a reasonable person.
Commercial appropriation occurs when someone uses another’s name or face for commercial purposes without their consent.
The tort of false light occurs when someone gets portrayed in a false way, where the falsehood is, and there is widespread dissemination. Also, the portrayal must be objectionable to a reasonable person.
Public Disclosure of Private Facts
Another common invasion of privacy tort is the public disclosure of private facts. As the name sounds, this involves widespread dissemination of confidential information regarding someone, where the public disclosure of the facts would be objectionable to a reasonable person.
Defamation is very common today with the ability to post things on the Internet about other people. At its most basic level, defamation is a false statement about someone else that they make out as true. If the false statement is written, it’s called liable. If the false statement is spoken, it’s called slander.
Another requirement for defamation is that the false statement must lower the reputation of the person being spoken about or at least make others dissociate with the person. As far as damages and other requirements, it can depend heavily on the context of the defamation, jurisdiction, and person spoke about (i.e., whether they are famous or just an average joe).
If you feel like you have suffered defamation, you should reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. It is essential to collect all the evidence while it’s still available for review by the lawyer.
Misrepresentation, also known as fraud, is when someone intentionally or recklessly deceives you and causes you some economic harm.
There are many exceptions and conditions to the law of misrepresentation, one of which is that the person creating the misrepresentation must not believe it’s true. If he or she thinks it’s true, and so they are just misinformed, that’s not misrepresentation when that pass to you that misinformed belief.
In most situations, damages are limited to actual damages. A lawyer that has experience dealing with fraud and personal injury claims can help you understand if what you was a misrepresentation.
The law for negligence is a huge subset of tort law with many rules and requirements. Unlike intentional torts, negligence doesn’t require intent. It only requires negligence.
So what is negligence? The law holds someone negligent, and thus at fault if their actions are unreasonable given the circumstances and their unreasonable actions harm someone.
Negligence has four different elements: a duty of care, breach of the duty, causation, and harm.
The duty of care element spells out who is owed a duty of care and how much care they are owed. In general, a person owes a duty of care to all foreseeable victims of their carelessness. The amount of care owed is the care a reasonably prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances. The amount of care can change depending on the person and situation, and there are many additional rules and exceptions to this element.
A breach of the duty of care occurs when a person does not exercise the amount of care a reasonably prudent person would use under similar circumstances. To prove a breach, a personal injury lawyer must point to specific conduct by the wrongdoer and argue that it constitutes a breach.
As for the causation element, negligence usually requires proving that absent the wrongdoer’s conduct, the injury wouldn’t have occurred. In general, the wrongdoer is generally liable for foreseeable types of harm which result from his actions.
The last element required to prove negligence is harm. The injured person must show that they suffered some personal injury or property damage. Besides, a lawyer who practices accident law and personal injury law might be able to argue for punitive damages if the conduct was wanton, reckless, or malicious.
You should know that the law for negligence is extraordinarily complex and requires the experience of a personal injury lawyer. At the end of this article is a link to a guide which explains how to go about hiring a lawyer to help with your injury. It’s a good read, and we recommend studying it before hiring a lawyer.
The last category of torts we’re going to discuss is strict liability. In the area of strict liability, a court can find someone liable for harm or damage regardless of how careful or cautious they may have been. There are many different categories of strict liability, but we are going to discuss the more common groups briefly. However, keep in mind that you should always consult with a lawyer that has experience in personal injury law because they can look at your specific situation and review your options under strict liability.
In general, the only time someone is strictly liable for an animal is when either: the entire species of the animal is dangerous or wild; or where a domestic animal is known by the owner to have dangerous propensities. In either of these situations, the owner would be strictly liable if the animal injured another person. In both of these situations, the rules and exceptions can get a little tricky, so be sure to consult with an attorney who can look at the facts of your case and give you the best advice.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities
Another area where strict liability applies is with abnormally dangerous activities. In these situations, the injury must be the kind of harm that makes the activity abnormally dangerous in the first place.
Usually, the types of cases that fall under the guise of abnormally dangerous activities include blasting, storage or release of hazardous materials, and dangerous transportation or transmission. This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about the activity that occurred and caused injury. A lawyer also knows what the plaintiff must show in court and how to persuade the judge and jury.
The law for product liability falls under strict liability and applies to defective products. This area of law has a lot of rules and exceptions, so be sure to consult with your product injury or accident lawyer. However, in general, there are three different ways that a seller or merchant might be liable for product liability related claims:
The first way is manufacturing defects. A manufacturing defect is where a single item is defective, but not an entire line of products. The second way a seller or merchant might be liable for product liability is a design defect. A design defect is where there was an alternative way to make the product which is safer, cost-effective, and practical. Finally, the third way to find liability is through a failure to warn. There are certain types of products that should have a clear, prominent, and understandable warning to anticipated customers.
The last category of strict liability we’re going to talk about is called nuisance law. In many jurisdictions, there are two types of nuisances: a private nuisance and a public nuisance. A private nuisance is a conduct which causes substantial and unreasonable interference with someone’s use and enjoyment of their land. A public nuisance is a conduct that unreasonably interferes with the health, safety, or property rights of the community.
As with just about everything else in tort law, there are many requirements and exceptions to the rule of nuisance. The information provided here is only general information, and you should not interpret as specific advice to your situation. Always consult with a lawyer, which is often free as most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis.
As we’ve already said, there is a lot more to accident law and personal injury law than what you have read in this article. There are many other torts that are cause for a lawsuit, and there are also many defenses to these torts. In this article, we have just provided general information to help you speak with an attorney and make the best use of your time during the consultation. Make sure to check out the end of the article which has a link to our guide on how to pick out an attorney in personal injury law.
How an Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
A personal injury lawyer or a lawyer who practices accident law can help you in many different ways with your case. While there might be some fields of law that you could handle on your own without an attorney, personal injury law is not one of those types of law. You should always use a lawyer, or at least meet with one for an initial consultation. With that said, here are some of the different ways that a lawyer can help:
Identify if an Injury Recognized by the Law Exists
The information in this guide is not an exhaustive list of all the different types of torts. When you speak with an attorney and tell them the facts about what happened to you, they can determine whether an injury exists.
In some situations, your lawyer might tell you that you can’t recover anything. It could be that you find out a court won’t award any damages for the mental anguish you suffer when your kid doesn’t make the little league team because they weren’t any good. However, there are also instances that you may think it’s impossible to recover damages, but your lawyer thinks it’s possible. It’s because of these type of situations that you should at least reach out to a lawyer for a free consultation and get their opinion before deciding a course of action.
Help Identify Defenses
Anytime you find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit is when you should hire an attorney to represent your bests interests. For almost all of the various intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability claims, multiple defenses might be available.
Make sure when you speak to a personal injury lawyer during a free consultation to bring along all supporting evidence from when the action occurred. The lawyer should review the evidence and suggest ways to defend yourself from specific claims brought by the plaintiff.
Figure Out Who to Sue
In some instances, it’s easy to figure out whom to sue. If someone punches you in the face, it’s generally the person that punched you that you should sue.
Things can get difficult when there is more than one person involved. For example, what happened if Tom’s pit bull got loose and didn’t attack anyone until Jim kicked it. After he kicked the pit bull, it attacked Bob. Who should Bob sue? Tom, Jim, or both of them?
As another example, let’s say Bob buys a lamp manufactured by Big Electric from Big Box Store. Bob takes the lamp home, turns it on, and it catches fire and burns down Bob’s house. Who should Bob sue? The manufacturer Big Electric, the merchant Big Box Store, or both?
Every one of these is a great question and is why you should always consult with a lawyer who has experience handling personal injury claims.
Explain State Law
In almost every accident and personal injury claim, the state law determines the rules. A personal injury lawyer can first identify which state law controls the case. Is it the state where the accident occurred, the state where the lawsuit is brought, or the state where the defendant is located, or somewhere else?
A lawyer who practices personal injury law or accident law should also have experience with the law of the state that controls the case. In every state, the laws for personal injury and accidents vary slightly and what might be negligence in one state might not be negligence in another state. So try to find a lawyer who has experience with the state law that controls the case because it increases their effectiveness when representing your interests.
Help Calculate Damages
As we discussed above, when you go to court with a doctor bill or a repair bill, it’s easy for a court to determine an amount owed for the harm. However, what about instances of pain and suffering and punitive damages?
A personal injury lawyer looks at numerous factors to calculate an amount for pain and suffering and punitive damages. Some of these factors might include past case law, the gravity of the injury or harm, the degree of recklessness or intention on behalf of the wrongdoer, etc. The lawyer asks the court for the specific amount and then makes arguments as to why the amount is justified. A personal injury lawyer never guarantees that the court is going to award the amount, but at least they can get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Negotiate with Insurance Company
In many personal injury or accident claims, a trial doesn’t occur because both parties settle outside of court. Usually, an insurance company gets involved and pays the bill depending on the nature of the claim.
Most personal injury lawyers have experience negotiating these types of deals and can save you the expense of having to go to trial. Yes, a personal injury lawyer works on a contingency fee, but they still bill by the hour. So if you can save time by settling out of court for a similar amount that you would have received in court, you can end up saving money in lawyer fees.
How To Get An Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve come this far, then you should have enough general information about personal injury law to assist a lawyer in advising you about your specific situation. Also, you should have a general idea about how an accident lawyer and personal injury lawyer can help your situation.
But before you start searching for a local injury lawyer, there is one more step you should take. We highly recommend reading our guide about how to get a lawyer. In the guide, you will learn many things about how to get a lawyer. Here is an example of what you will learn:
- How to find a lawyer experienced with personal injury law.
- How to research the lawyer’s background.
- Questions to ask before an initial consultation.
- Questions to ask during an initial consultation.
- Observations to record about the lawyer
- How to decide whether to hire a personal injury lawyer.
Once you read this guide, you should be prepared to hire a lawyer to help with your accident and personal injury needs.