Brief Overview of Personal Injury Law

Personal injury law covers a broad spectrum of issues when one has been physically or emotionally injured, and/or personal property has been damaged. In legal circles, personal injury law is also known as "tort" law, the French word for "wrong." Personal injury or "tort" law is the body of law that allows one to be compensated in the event that someone's carelessness, recklessness, or intentional misconduct injures or damages you or your personal belongings. Automobile accidents are classic examples of the types events covered by tort law. If someone hits the back of your car while you are stopped at a red light, that person commits a tort, and is referred to as the "tortfeasor" (French for "wrongdoer"). In America that person is generally referred to as the "defendant" once a lawsuit is filed, and the person harmed is called a "plaintiff" or "claimant." State law usually governs personal injury lawsuits, but federal law may apply in certain circumstances. For example, an injury suffered on federal property may be covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act, or liability for injuries suffered in an airplane crash may be governed by international treaties. A claim for personal injury must be accompanied by an injury that can be compensated. In other words, one must prove an injury in order to seek monetary damages. For example, if you were to slip and fall due to someone else's fault or negligence, you could not recover damages if you were not injured in some way.

The law of personal injury is concerned with determining who may be responsible (who is "liable," or has "liability") for causing injury and how much the responsible party should be required to pay for any damages resulting from the injury. Personal injury law can be classified in the following three broad categories, or degrees of fault: negligence, intentional torts and strict liability torts. Each category is comprised of different types of legal wrongs (or "causes of action") and indicates a different "standard of care" that may apply to a given incident.


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