Is Personal Injury the Same as Negligence?
A personal injury refers to any harm done to a person by another. The damage can be physical, mental, or reputational, and it most commonly involves negligence. As a legal concept, negligence is a failure to act with the level of care expected from someone in the same situation. If you suffered a personal injury because of another individual’s negligent behavior, you could seek compensation for any financial, physical, or psychological damages.
Negligence as a Framework for Fault in Personal Injury Cases
While some personal injury cases involve intentional tort, most are based on negligence. The components of negligence include the at-fault party’s duty of care and the proof that they breached that duty of care. When you file a lawsuit against the person who caused your accident and injury, you have the burden of proving the defendant owed you a duty of care. Then, you have to prove they breached that duty, causing an accident. Finally, you must present evidence of your injuries and directly correlate them with the accident.
Duty of Care
Duty of care refers to a person’s responsibility to act in a way that avoids causing harm to others. For example, when driving on the road, you owe a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians. Your actions should never endanger them or cause them harm. The law sets the standard for how you can protect others. Examples include:
- Abiding by road laws helps keep everyone safe.
- Property owners, including residential and commercial, keep all areas of their property clear of potential hazards, such as spills or snow and ice, to ensure the safety of visitors.
- Healthcare professionals have a medical standard of care designed to ensure patient safety during diagnosis and treatment.
- Leash laws keep dogs restrained to keep them from attacking others.
Each individual’s and company’s responsibility is to understand the duty of care owed to those around them. Then, when they breach that duty, the civil court can hold them accountable for negligence.
Breached Duty of Care
In the course of a personal injury case, the next step in proving negligence is showing the defendant’s violation of duty. For example, suppose you suffered significant injuries in a side-impact car accident in which the other driver ran a red light. Your responsibility is to prove that driver violated road laws and endangered you and other drivers by running the red light. You and your attorney may prove this using one or more of the following forms of evidence:
- Photographs or videos of the accident
- Your testimony of what happened before and during the collision
- Testimonies from eyewitnesses
- Proof of a traffic law violation from a police report
Sometimes, fault does not definitively belong to one party. When both the plaintiff and defendant share responsibility in a personal injury case, such as an auto accident or slip and fall case, the court may apply the comparative negligence rule.
Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
Comparative negligence is a concept that governs the distribution of damages to the plaintiff when they share liability for a personal injury. Each party’s contribution to the accident determines its percentage of fault. Using the previously mentioned car accident case, the court may determine both parties contributed to the accident, with the plaintiff’s percentage equaling 25%. Once the court determines a final value for the listed damages, the plaintiff can only receive 75% of the award.
If the case occurred in a state following the modified comparative negligence rule, the plaintiff’s percentage of fault could not be more than 50% to qualify for compensation. For example, if the court determined the plaintiff had a 60% contribution to the accident, the plaintiff could not claim any compensation in a modified comparative negligence state. In a pure comparative negligence state, the plaintiff’s percentage does not matter as long as it is less than 100%.
Common Types of Cases Involving Negligence and Personal Injury
Personal injury is a broad category in tort law, with many types of accidents and injuries falling under the term. For example, assault is a criminal offense, but it also qualifies as a personal injury, and victims of assault can also sue the perpetrator through civil court. However, the most common types of personal injury cases involve negligence. They include auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice.
Auto accident cases make up the majority of personal injury cases. Some common examples include accidents involving:
- One or more passenger vehicles
- Commercial trucks
- Pedestrians and vehicles
- Motorcycles and vehicles
- Bicycles and vehicles
Most personal injury attorneys have extensive experience with auto accident cases, and while some are relatively straightforward, it is often in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. Commercial truck cases make up some of the most dangerous and are often very complex. For example, if you suffered injuries in a truck accident, there could be multiple liable parties in your case.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents fall under a personal injury concept called premises liability. According to premises liability, property owners have a duty of care to all lawful visitors, meaning they must keep the property safe and free of potential hazards. If you suffer an injury on someone else’s property because they violated the duty of care owed to you, you could sue for compensation. For example, if your neighbor does not remove snow or ice from the sidewalk in front of their property and you slip and fall, they are responsible for the resulting damages.
The common types of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose or effectively treat a patient
- Birth injuries
- Surgical mistakes
- Writing an improper prescription
- Failure to get consent
- Nursing home abuse
Medical malpractice is often a challenging type of personal injury case. Proving the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or any other healthcare professional requires help from medical experts with a clear understanding of the evidence, which is often complex and difficult for someone without a medical degree or experience with medical malpractice. Additionally, proving negligence can be expensive. You must demonstrate that the doctor failed to do what any reasonable doctor would, requiring an expert witness.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
The average personal injury lawyer works on a contingency basis, meaning they represent you without requiring any payment until you receive a settlement from the defense or an award from the court. This means there is no risk when hiring legal representation in a personal injury case. Other benefits include:
- They file the paperwork with the local civil court to begin the lawsuit.
- They consult with experts in fields relating to your injury and start investigating to gather evidence.
- They handle all discussions with the defense, including other legal representation and insurance companies.
- They begin trial preparation immediately.
- They can guide you through the legal system and protect your best interests.
If you have questions about personal injury law and how an attorney can help you, the lawyers at Phillips Law Group are available to listen to the details of your case. We practice many areas of personal injury and negligence, and our team of experienced attorneys can help you collect evidence and value your claim. To get started, contact Phillips Law Group for a no-obligation case evaluation.
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