In a legal claim for personal injury, a plaintiff claims that they have sustained an injury due to an act or failure to act by the defendant. This injury may be either mental, physical, or both. In response, a court may award the plaintiff money damages for personal injury, which is intended to compensate the victim for monetary losses they have experienced as a result of the injurious incident.
There are some circumstances in which the events that form the basis of a personal injury claim may also form the basis of criminal charges. An example of this would be how a defendant may face a civil lawsuit for assault, as well as a criminal charge for assault and battery charge.
To reiterate, a personal injury damages a plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both. Examples of mental health injuries include emotional pain and anguish sustained by an accident. Examples of physical injuries include injuries to organs, limbs, or other parts of the anatomy. Additionally, the injury sustained by a personal injury plaintiff does not need to manifest itself instantly, as such injuries may develop over time.
There are several different types of events or accidents which may form the basis of a personal injury claim, including:
- Accidents and injuries;
- Construction accidents;
- Dog bites and animal attacks;
- Defective products (class action);
- Elder abuse;
- Nursing home abuse;
- Premises liability;
- Product liability injury;
- Toxic exposure (class action);
- Unsafe drugs (class action); and
- Wrongful death.
A personal injury may occur intentionally, such as when a defendant deliberately injures a victim. Another example of intentional personal injury would be when the defendant intends to commit an act that results in injury. Intentional injury more specifically occurs when a defendant commits battery, assault, and/or false imprisonment.
Additionally, a personal injury can occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the negligent behavior. Automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries sustained from medical malpractice, are all common examples of negligence cases.
To further clarify, a negligence personal injury claim is one in which the plaintiff claims that a defendant injured the plaintiff as a result of breaching a duty of care that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If a plaintiff can prove that this breach is what caused their injury, which then results in damages, the plaintiff has made out a successful claim for negligence.
The duty of care that is owed to a plaintiff largely depends on the circumstances, as well as the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. A defendant is under a legal duty to exercise the same degree of care that an ordinary person would use under a specific set of facts.
An example of this would be how if a defendant is driving their vehicle on a highway in non-inclement weather, they have a duty to adhere to motor vehicle laws. However, if the defendant is driving their vehicle on a one-lane road and the weather is stormy and inclement, the defendant would owe a greater duty of care. What this means is that the defendant must exercise the degree of care considered to be appropriate for inclement weather. Examples of such care include driving at reduced speed, using windshield wipers, and using headlights and taillights.
Whether a duty of care to a plaintiff exists largely depends upon the foreseeability, or predictability, of harm that may result if the duty is not exercised. The test for whether a plaintiff is owed a duty of care questions whether an average person, in the position of the defendant, would foresee that the type of injury sustained by the plaintiff was likely to take place.
When the answer is yes, the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care. When the defendant breaches that duty which causes an injury resulting in damages, the defendant has committed personal injury through negligence. However, if the answer is no, no duty is owed and the defendant cannot have committed negligence.