Personal injury claims come in many forms. The common denominator in each of these claims is that someone is injured. The injury can be physical and/or emotional or psychological. After that fact is established, the cases diverge in type. Sometimes an injury claim can come about because of an intentional act by another person, but most personal injury cases come about because someone acted or failed to act in a manner that constitutes negligence. Negligence is a concept that has different articulations depending upon what the duty owed to another person is under the circumstances of that case. A driver has a duty to follow the rules of the road, a doctor has a duty to act in a manner that meets the “standard of care” under the circumstances in which the doctor was acting as a medical professional. Different duties are owed to different people by property owners, depending upon what the actual circumstances of that exact case would be. In short, if a person or entity acts in a negligent manner and causes injury to another person then a claim for personal injury might be brought.
The most common example of a personal injury claim is a car accident. A driver who has failed to follow a law governing how to drive, such as running a red light, can be shown to have been driving negligently. Striking a vehicle when it is legally favored – where it has a legal right to be – will also likely be considered negligence. Sometimes accidents occur where both drivers act in a negligent manner. While car accidents seem like straightforward cases, and they can be that there are a great many ways for them to go awry. Insurance companies train adjusters and attorneys in finding ways to deny and delay claims in order to save money by not paying fair compensation to an injured person. Most people don’t appreciate how the elements of a claim work, including the importance of establishing that the car accident, and not any other thing, caused the injuries complained of. Even most attorneys who do not work in the personal injury field are not equipped to understand the different areas needed to effectively handle a car accident claim. There is both statutory laws about driving but then the laws and interrelationship of the different types of insurance need to be understood. Moreover, the medical aspects of an injury claim have to be analyzed to ensure that causation can be proven. Even if all of this falls into place, there is still the ability to negotiate and, if needed, file a lawsuit and pursue it in court. Car accident cases can become very complicated very quickly if not handled properly.
A slip and fall incident resulting in injury is another common type of personal injury claim. Liability is often the most difficult issue in a slip and fall matter. First, the place where the incident happened and the nature of the relationship between the injured person and the property owner needs to be properly understood. Some places, like a grocery store, invite people into their location for the purposes of doing business and they, therefore, owe a higher level of care to ensure that the premises are safe from defects that could injure someone. A homeowner, on the other hand, who did not invite someone to their door for business, would have a different level of responsibility depending upon the nature of the other person’s being on the homeowner’s property.
These cases can also become complicated as it is always necessary to show that the premises owner acted in a negligent manner. This requires evidence of mindset very often and these kinds of cases can therefore be hard to prove. Notice of the hazardous condition is often a requirement to establish liability. Premises cases usually require some type of investigation and are better pursued earlier than later.
Intentional torts, like assault and battery, are torts whereby the actor intended to cause injury to the victim. While these types of cases often involve criminal conduct, they also fall under the umbrella of torts, and so both a prosecution by the government and a private civil suit might be brought.
Doctors, lawyers, and other professions have their own standards of care for the people whom they work for. When a professional fails to adhere to the standard of care in a matter and that failure results in injury to the person to whom the duty is owed, then a claim for professional negligence exists. Usually, the harm is a physical injury, but it can also be an injury to someone’s property or their financial well-being. These cases are extremely complex and almost always require an attorney to handle.
Sometimes the negligent act causing injury occurs in a workplace. Workplace injuries can come about, however, without regard to someone being negligent. Some workplaces are inherently dangerous and injuries can occur even though everyone is doing everything right. Sometimes injuries occur in the workplace due to the fault of the injured person making a mistake. Injuries in the workplace can also occur when someone from outside of the workplace causes an injury, such as when a driver negligently causes an accident to someone who is driving as part of their job duties.
Workplace injuries are usually handled through the State’s Department of Labor and Industries. They are often labeled as workman’s compensation cases. A worker can be entitled to have their medical bills paid for simply because their injury occurred during their time working. Issues in these cases are similar after that to other types of injury claims and causation. Whether or not the claimed injury was caused by the event or events at work is often a contested issue.
While worker’s compensation is designed to take care of the injured worker’s medical bills and lost wages, it often does not provide much or anything for the pain and inconvenience that the injuries caused the worker. If the injury was caused by someone who is considered a “third party,” then the worker might have an additional cause of action against that person (in addition to his or her worker’s compensation claim with the State). If a third party not under control of the employer has liability for acting negligently and causing personal injuries, then the worker can also seek compensation for all of their damages from that third party. For example, in construction settings, there are often several subcontractors working on the same project. If a worker gets hurt due to the negligence of an employee of a different subcontractor then the worker would have both an LNI claim as well as a third party claim for negligence.
If you were to suffer an injury due to a defective or unsafe product, you could file a personal injury claim against the distributor and/or the manufacturer of the product. These claims are often strict liability claims as they focus on whether or not the product is fit for the purpose it was supposed to serve. The flaw could be mechanical breakdown or a design flaw that causes injury. It could also be a failure to prevent injury by not having an appropriate safety mechanism, such as an electric saw without a blade guard.
Dog bites in Washington State are interesting claims. Washington has a strict liability statute that applies to dog bites. The statute allows for some defenses, however, in that provocation of the dog can disallow a claim. In addition to this statute dog bites also can be personal injury claims based upon negligence of the dog owner in terms of properly handling and housing the dog, or if there is a known history of biting or aggressive behavior. The strict liability doesn’t apply to injuries caused by a dog other than biting, such as knocking someone down.
A wrongful death claim is a personal injury claim, typically stemming from one of the above-described types of claims that has resulted in a death instead of only an injury. These claims are brought by the Personal Representative of an Estate and are more complicated, for obvious reasons, than most personal injury claims.
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