Personal Injury 2013-05-23T22:08:26+00:00

Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body, mind or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property.

The term is most commonly used to refer to a type of tort lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff’s injury has been caused by the negligence of another, but also arises in defamation torts. Damages include bodily injury, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED).

The most common types of personal injury claims are road traffic accidents, accidents at work, tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home, product defect accidents (product liability) and holiday accidents. The term personal injury also incorporates medical and dental accidents (which lead to numerous medical negligence claims every year) and conditions that are often classified as industrial disease cases, including asbestosis and peritoneal mesothelioma, chest diseases (e.g., emphysema, pneumoconiosis, silicosis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic obstructive airways disease), vibration white finger, occupational deafness, occupational stress, contact dermititis, and repetitive strain injury cases.

Depending upon the intent or negligence of a responsible party, the injured party may be entitled to monetary compensation from that party through a settlement or a judgment. In the United States, this system is complex and controversial, with critics calling for various forms of tort reform. Attorneys often represent clients on a “contingent fee basis” in which the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the plaintiff’s eventual compensation, payable when the case is resolved, with no payment necessary if the case is unsuccessful. Legal aid from the government may not be available; for example it was largely abolished in England in the late 1990s and replaced with arrangements whereby the client would be charged no fee if her or his case was unsuccessful.

 

Negligence is a tort which depends on the existence of a breaking of the duty of care owed by one person to another from the perspective of a reasonable person. Although credited as appearing in the United States in Brown v. Kendall, the later English case of Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] brought England into line with the United States and established the ‘tort of negligence’ as opposed to negligence as a component in specific actions. In Donoghue, Mrs. Donoghue drank from an opaque bottle containing a decomposed snail and claimed that it had made her ill. She could not sue Mr. Stevenson for damages for breach of contract and instead sued for negligence. The majority determined that the definition of negligence can be divided into four component parts that the plaintiff must prove to establish negligence. The elements in determining the liability for negligence are:

The plaintiff was owed a duty of care through a special relationship (e.g. doctor-patient) or some other principle

There was a dereliction or breach of that duty

The tortfeasor directly caused the injury [but for the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff would not have suffered an injury].

The plaintiff suffered damage as a result of that breach

The damage was not too remote; there was proximate cause to show the breach caused the damage

In certain cases, negligence can be assumed under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing itself speaks”); particularly in the United States, a related concept is negligence per se