Personal injury refers to injury which is caused unintentionally by another's failure to use reasonable care. The definition of reasonable care is determined on a case-by-case basis. Personal injury falls under tort law. A tort is a civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal act, recognized by law as grounds to sue the wrongdoer for damages. These wrongs cause an injury or harm, either physical or psychological, resulting in loss by the injured party. The types of damages the injured party may recover include: loss of earnings capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium or companionship, property damage, reasonable medical expenses, costs and attorney fees. They include both present and future expected losses. The primary aim of tort law is to provide relief for the damages incurred and deter others from committing the same harm.
Liability is based upon the offender's failure to exercise reasonable care, where such failure could foreseeably result in the harm which actually occurred to the injured party. A person may be liable for the injury caused through negligent or reckless action. Some of the defenses to liability for personal injury include intervening causes, pre-existing condition, and assumption of the risk, which asserts that the plaintiff knew that a particular activity was dangerous and thus bears all responsibility for any injury that resulted.
Medical Malpractice, Catastrophic Injury, Slip and Fall, Product Liability and Car Accident cases are all forms of personal injury. This area of law is complex and controversial, and many of its critics are pushing for various forms of tort reform to limit tort litigation, contingency fees and the amount of damages that can be awarded. Personal injury lawyers often represent plaintiffs on a contingency fee basis, wherein the plaintiff does not pay legal fees unless and until the plaintiff wins the case and then the lawyer receives a percentage of the recovery as his or her fee. If the plaintiff doesn’t prevail, no fee is owed.
If the parties in a personal injury case cannot agree to an out-of-court settlement, the claim may proceed to trial in a civil court, which is a lengthy process. This can be a state or federal trial court, although most personal injury lawsuits are heard in state court, and the decision is subject to review by an appeals court. Class action cases may be heard in either state or federal court. In instances where the amount of recovery sought is minimal, the personal injury case may be tried in a small claims court.