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Liability and Damages: The Basics of Personal Injury.

May 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Money/Business, Weekly Columns

( Are you considering filing a personal injury lawsuit? Or, are you facing the dilemma of having one filed against you? Either way, understanding the basics of personal injury law is the first step in successfully proving your side of the case.

Here’s a look at what’s involved in a typical personal injury case.

The persons involved

If you file a lawsuit after suffering injury, then you are the plaintiff and the person who injured you and from whom you are seeking compensation then becomes the defendant. Either or both of you may hire lawyers to represent you, and in some personal injury cases, insurers may also become involved.


In personal injury cases, the plaintiff has the responsibility of proving that the defendant was liable for the incident which caused the injury. This is a three-stage process in which the plaintiff must clearly show that:

1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care – In other words, in the given situation, the defendant had a legal responsibility to exercise reasonable care.

2. The defendant breached the duty of care – This means the defendant’s actions went against what could be expected of a reasonable person in the same or similar situation.

3. The breach led to the plaintiff’s injuries – Whether those injuries were to the plaintiff’s body or mind or both, the plaintiff must prove that they were the result of the defendant’s negligence.


Along with liability, the plaintiff must also prove damages. These are the things for which the plaintiff is seeking compensation. Typical damages include

Medical expenses – These are the most common damages awarded and can include the cost of having to seek medical care in the future due to injuries sustained in the accident.

Pain and suffering – Damages may be awarded for both physical and mental pain and suffering.

Lost wages – This refers to loss of a current salary, perhaps during recovery from injuries, as well as loss of earning power in the future.

Property damages – This may include items such as a vehicle or clothing which were damaged or lost due to the accident.

Emotional distress – Sometimes regarded as a part of “pain and suffering” damages, any loss of sleep, anxiety, fears or other psychological issues that result from the accident may lead to the award of emotional distress damages.

These compensatory damages differ from any punitive damages that may also be awarded. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent to future negligent action.

As a plaintiff, you can seek the advice of a law firm on the type and extent of damages you are entitled to. These are not the same in all states and so the best advice is to seek professional legal assistance after your car accident, workplace accident, medical malpractice or any other situation which leads to personal injury. Some other common causes of personal injury are:

Birth injuries

Injuries due to defective products

Slips and falls

Workplace accidents

Swimming pool accidents or drowning

Once you’ve grasped the fundamentals of personal injury law, you can let that understanding guide you as you seek legal advice.

Staff Writer; Peter Brown

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