What Is Considered a Personal Injury?

When an injury can lead to a legal claim

By Tim Kelly, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 6, 2023

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Injuries are an unfortunate occurrence in everyday life. We all do our best to avoid them, but accidents happen. Sometimes those accidents are the result of our own conduct. But if you suffer injuries as the result of someone else’s conduct, you might be able to recover your losses with a personal injury claim.

Personal injury law is where people who have been injured by someone else’s conduct can be made whole. This system is not without caveats, and injured parties can only sue under certain circumstances. So, what constitutes an “actionable” personal injury and when can you file a lawsuit for incurring one? Keep reading to find out.

What You Need To Know

  • When someone suffers an injury at the hands of another, that injured person may have a personal injury case.
  • All personal injury claims have their own set of facts that dictate a case’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Tort law varies by state, so seeking an experienced, local personal injury attorney is essential.
  • A personal injury attorney will evaluate your case and help you file your personal injury claim.

How Do I Know If I Have a Personal Injury Case?

Suppose you were driving properly down a one-way street when another driver is going in the wrong direction, and they hit you in a head-on collision. Your airbag does not deploy as it should have, and you hit your head on the steering wheel, causing a minor gash. As the medical staff is stitching you up, they neglect to ask about your gauze allergy. Your small gash becomes infected and leaves a permanent disfigurement. The driver’s negligent act caused an unfortunate series of events, but who can you sue for damages?

Personal injury law allows you to sue each of the above parties in civil court. You can sue the driver for negligently causing the motor vehicle accident (MVA), the maker of the steering wheel for producing a defective product, and the staff that tended to your injuries for medical malpractice.

Here are some key questions to ask if you think you may have a personal injury lawsuit on your hands:

Did Someone Intentionally Cause Harm to Your Body or Property?

This question aims to determine whether you were the victim of what personal injury lawyers refer to as an “intentional tort.”

These are intentional acts committed by a defendant to cause harm to you. This harm can be physical injuries like a battery or even property damage.

For example, if someone takes your watch for themselves without your consent, they have committed the intentional tort of conversion. As the laws around intentional torts can vary between jurisdictions, it’s vital to seek the legal advice of an attorney early.

Were You Involved in an Accident–Caused by Someone Else’s Negligence–That Resulted in You Sustaining an Injury?

In this scenario, someone has behaved negligently, resulting in you sustaining injuries.

This could apply to many scenarios, including dog bites, slip and fall cases, car accidents, and wrongful deaths. Just remember that you (the plaintiff) will have the burden of proving the other party’s (the defendant’s) negligence.

Here, you will need to determine whether the defendant had a duty of care to behave a certain way (such as driving down the correct side of the road). If they did, and a court finds their breach of that duty caused your injury, you can recover the costs of your injuries.

Did You Sustain an Injury as the Result of a Defective Product?

This area of personal injury law allows you to recoup damages you incur from using consumer products such as motor vehicles, yard tools, or even prescribed medicines.

If you suffered harm as the result of using a defective product or arising from a defective component of the product, you might be able to sue the maker as well as parties who touched the product in the stream of commerce.

Did Someone Besmirch Your Good Name, Resulting in Your Reputation Being Defamed – Either in Print or to a Third Party?

If the answer is yes, you might have a defamation case. This is where your reputation suffered injury because of someone else’s words that were published either in print (libel) or spoken to a third-party (slander).

Above all, consider contacting an attorney for a free consultation. A personal injury attorney will listen to the facts of your case and advise if you have a lawsuit on your hands.

What Are the Benefits of a Personal Injury Attorney?

The costs of you or a loved one suffering a personal injury at the hands of another can be immense. First, there is the physical pain and suffering, but few consider the emotional distress that serious injuries can cause. Not to mention the heavy burden of medical expenses and insurance claims.

This is why personal injury attorneys play such a crucial role. They listen to accident victims and help develop a legal game plan. Personal injury lawyers can advise whether you have a case, what kind of case you have, or if there is some impediment in the way, such as a statute of limitations. Most importantly, they will do whatever they can to help make you whole, so your medical expenses are alleviated, and the responsible parties are held accountable.

Finding a personal injury attorney can be a challenging but necessary part of the process. Whether you want to discuss filing a personal injury claim, paying medical bills, dealing with the insurance company, or simply want a case evaluation, the right law firm can be essential to your success or failure.

Find an experienced and reputable personal injury attorney in your area.

For more on personal injury law (also called tort law), see our overview on personal injury law.

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