You have suffered a personal injury if you have medical expenses caused by the wrongful act of another. If the wrongful act caused the death of a loved one, a “wrongful death”, you would also have a claim categorized as a personal injury. If you witnessed the injury of a loved one, you might have an action for emotional distress. You might claim the defendant committed a “tort” or violated a statute.
A tort occurs when someone commits a wrongful act which is not a breach of contract and not necessarily a crime. Everyone has a duty to use reasonable care in their daily dealings. When someone violates that duty of reasonable care, that is a tort.
Some laws assume the injured person is entitled to compensation even without proof of a wrongful act. Strict liability laws vary from state to state, but examples include laws governing dog bites, airplane crashes, and dram shops or social hosts (selling or giving alcohol to an intoxicated person who causes injury.)
Someone who brings a claim against another to collect money for a personal injury is a “claimant,” and, once a lawsuit is filed, is properly called a “plaintiff.” If the person or entity against whom the claim is brought is insured, that person or entity is the “insured.” Once a lawsuit is filed, the person or entity against whom the claim is brought is the “defendant.” Defendants can also sue each other and bring in additional persons or entities for reimbursement. Depending on the state, those persons or entities might be called cross-defendants, counter-defendants, or third-party defendants. Any of these parties can also file a claim against the plaintiff within the same lawsuit. In this book, we’ll call the person who has the original claim the “plaintiff” and anyone who might be called upon to pay will be called the “defendant.” The terms “claim” and “case” are used interchangeably.
Common categories of personal injury cases include:
- Vehicle collision
- Slip and fall, also called “trip and fall”
- Dog bite
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Wrongful death of a close relative
- Emotional distress of a bystander to a physical injury of a close relative
- Failure to provide proper security or supervision in places such as schools, nursing homes, stadiums, taverns
- Other types of negligence
- Statutory violations