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What is A Personal Injury? Tort Law Basics

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Female legal advocate.

One of the most frequently asked questions people have is "What is a Personal Injury?" A personal injury is an injury to an individual's person caused by another party.

  • Personal injury law is the common term used by people who bring insurance or court claims to recover money for their injuries.
  • Personal injury lawyers are the state bar members who will usually file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of a hurt plaintiff such as you.

Is this making sense so far? Good, because this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Tort Law Basics

  • First, let's understand that this is all to be handled under what law students call: "Tort Law."

So let's try it this way. Annually there are millions of accidents of various types. These can result in thousands of fatalities and millions of people injured.

  • When an injury or death occurs during an accidental incident, it is governed by personal injury law (aka "tort law.")

In fact, personal injury law enables injured victims like you or your family to get money for your reasonable losses in a tort case. A tort case can also include losing a loved one in a wrongful death. You are entitled to money for the losses you suffered as a survivor.

Because of the risks and rewards in bringing a case, specialized plaintiff's personal injury attorneys are often called upon. These experts can help you to devise plaintiff's tactics to win money. The end game is M-O-N-E-Y!

So naturally, these advocates know how to maximize the compensation a tort victim can receive. At least you hope they know what they are doing, right?

So What Exactly is a Tort?

The thing to understand about tort law is that it does not involve criminal charges. Generally, only civil actions are involved in a California tort claim. But arguably, you can bring a private attorney general's action in an unfair business practices case under a Business and Professions Code §17200 lawsuit.

But beyond that complex area of mixed bag claims, what if a criminal violation is charged that resulted in harm, death or serious injury? The answer in that case is that these are charged under criminal law.

That means the penalties will not be a part of your civil case brought under tort law in a civil action. Getting this so far?

  • In other words, the criminally charged party can't be tried in a civil court for a criminal act.
  • The civilly liable party accused of a criminal violation will have that case heard in criminal court. There they get prosecuted by a DA or City attorney on behalf of the state. The state is the victim in that case. The criminal's sentence can include fines or jail, or some other penalty.
  • But you as a tort victim can still sue the wayward defendant in a civil court if they hurt you or killed your loved one while the guilty criminal is behind bars.

Are Traffic Accidents the Largest Percentage of Tort Law Cases?

Probably. There are a significant percentage of tort cases brought involving traffic accidents.

  • Mostly, these include negligence when the liable party’s actions were reckless or careless. That means actions or inaction led to the incident.
  • The next type of the main tort cases are from slip and fall incidents that occur in a public place, business or property.
  • Santa Monica personal injury lawyers are very familiar with these types of claims. This is because of all the tourism in this city.

In these cases, the property owner has been careless. And this defendant may be entirely responsible or partially liable.

The other kinds of cases that involve tort law are:

  • Medical malpractice claims
  • Dog bite attack cases
  • Defective product claims, etc.

This type of case may also include defamation of character.

What are the Fundamentals of Tort Law?

Tort law has different fundamentals that apply in personal injury cases. Also, some elements may differ from one state to another. These claims will take place in the jurisdiction of the mishap, the plaintiff's business or residence location. But this is based upon local or federal laws.

  • The most common claims that may involve parties in different places or even different states would be products liability.

Product liability laws include:

  • Defective products design.
  • Manufacturing defects; it may include distributors and retailers.
  • Another part of products liability law is the failure to warn of potential hazards; which can include the requirement of instructions or directions for a product that can be dangerous if improperly used.

How Do You Bring a Legal Action Under Tort Law?

  • You, as the plaintiff bring a legal action in tort law against the liable defendant.
  • Typically, you hire a lawyer to do this for you.
  • Next, your claim is either negotiated with the insurance company or it gets litigated in a civil state or federal court.
  • In many cases, your claim will be settled satisfactorily before the case goes to court for a specific settlement amount.

When a measure isn't decided before going to court, a jury will hear the case. If you win, the panel awards you monetary compensation.

  • Some lawsuits brought in civil court using tort law are called class action claims. In those complex cases, there will be more than one plaintiff. Most of us have seen national TV class action campaigns for Vaginal Mesh and Asbestos claims right?

So in some cases means there will be many plaintiffs’ who have suffered harm by the same cause. And his could be something like a defective product, drug or automobile. In these cases, the jury award or negotiated settlement will be divided.

In other words, it gets shared among the plaintiffs. And usually the split is based upon a percentage of the degree of harm sustained by each wrongdoer. In tort cases, monetary damages are sought by the plaintiff for damages such as medical expenses.

In class actions sometimes a gift certificate is awarded to most class members, and the main award goes to the original one or two class members and a ton of money goes to the lawyers.

Damages for most personal injuries include:

  • Lost wages
  • Future costs of permanent or temporary disabilities
  • Emotional pain and suffering

Is a Wrongful Death also a Tort?

Yes. Except here, the damages are for non contact injuries to you. In other words, you were not touched physically, at least not directly.

In wrongful death claims the damages will include money for:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of earnings
  • Funeral, and burial costs

The defendants in these personal injury cases will use sneaky defenses and insurance company tactics. All of this is done to try and lower the amount of the settlement or jury award. In any event, personal injury cases are the specialty of the tort law lawyer.

These are jurists who can litigate a solid court case against the tort defense attorney's case. In these types of claims the damages, your Los Angeles, wrongful death attorneys, for example, will include your other losses too. 

To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney at ELFPI (213) 596-9642.

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