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Personal Injury: What Makes a Case

Personal injury claims come in all varieties, but there are two basic features that they all have in common:

  • Liability – The legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions; and
  • Damages – The amount of money that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit.
If you can show that a 3rd party is liable for the damages you sustained, which is typically due to some form of negligence, you can be awarded compensation for your loss.

Negligence and Personal Injury

The legal definition of negligence, according to Cornell Law, is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same prudence.” In other words, negligence occurs when a person causes emotional or physical harm to another through their actions – or sometimes inaction – which are considered unreasonable by a typical, sensible person. Negligence is used to establish another person’s fault in an accidental or intentional injury, and it is an essential step in a personal injury claim. There are five elements that must be shown to prove negligence was present in a personal injury claim:

  • A duty of care was required by the defendant
  • The defendant breached that duty of care
  • That breach resulted in harm to the plaintiff
  • The harm was foreseeable
  • The plaintiff’s injuries were a direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty.

Personal Injury Statistics

According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, there are more than 30 million injuries that occur each year in the United States, including nearly 3 million hospitalizations and 200,000 deaths, costing over $400 billion in medical and work loss costs.

Moreover, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among people ages 1-44, including:

  • Car accidents as the leading cause of death among people ages 5-24;
  • Unintentional poisoning (e.g., drug overdose) as the leading cause of death among people ages 25-64; and
  • Slip and fall accidents as the leading cause of death among people over 65.

For non-fatal injuries, the leading cause for all age groups was slip and fall accidents (except 10-24 year olds, where accidentally being hit or struck took the top spot).

However, according to the latest data available from the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there are only around 50,000–80,000 personal injury lawsuits filed each year. Of the lawsuits filed each year, around 75% involve product liability injury claims, including dangerous pharmaceutical medication, while the other 25% are divided between car accident injuries, other injuries such as slip and fall accidents and construction accidents, and medical malpractice.

Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases come in all varieties. While all personal injury cases involve harm as a result of someone’s negligence or misconduct, there are some that are more common than others. Some typical personal injury cases include:

Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney?

Often times, it is challenging to determine whether an injury accident merits the need for a personal injury attorney and possible lawsuit. A typical personal injury case involves state-specific statute of limitations, witness accounts/depositions (and possibly subpoenas), insurance company interactions and evidence gathering. Speaking to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can give you a better understanding of the state-specific process, provide answers to your questions and give you an expert assessment on pursuing a particular personal injury case. If you were injured and are not sure if you should contact a personal injury attorney, you can learn more here.

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