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What Is a “Personal Injury?”

What Is a “Personal Injury?”

Legal terms are tricky. While the phrase “personal injury” may sound straightforward, the term itself actually refers to a specific field of law. In personal injury law, attorneys fight to hold people accountable for “torts” or wrongdoings that have harmed or injured another person.

How Does a Personal Injury Case Work?

Basically, when another person hurts you, you can file a lawsuit against that person to help with your recovery. While the majority of personal injury claims come from accidents, they are designed to make sure the “wrongdoer,” or person who caused the accident, shares the consequences of the event with the affected victim. Some cases, like those involving wrongful death, help victims recover from crimes or other “intentional torts” that were meant to cause them, or their loved ones, harm.

The two key components of a personal injury lawsuit involve finding fault and awarding damages.

Finding Fault: Negligence and Liability

Most personal injury cases find fault by determining negligence. Each of us has a responsibility to not let our carelessness affect those around us. When we fail that responsibility, we can be held accountable for it. For everyday people, the concept of negligence comes up most often in car accidents, but doctors and nurses have a special “standard of care” to uphold. As such, car accident and medical malpractice  claims fall under the personal injury field. To understand negligence, check out the real-world examples below:

  • Someone is running late to work. They are worried about getting fired, so they take their phone out and send a text to their boss. While they are not paying attention, traffic slows, and they run into the back of your car. Because they were going so fast, you experience a neck injury. As a distracted driver, this person’s behavior is considered negligent.
  • A medical professional prescribes an opioid painkiller to a patient without properly examining their information. Unfortunately, this person has a family history of addiction, and develops a debilitating dependency on the drug. Because the nurse did not check the patient’s information, and because another medical professional would have done so in the nurse’s place, the prescription was made negligently.

Now, let’s look at liability. If someone owns or manages property, they have a responsibility to keep it safe. If you visit someone’s house and get bit by their dog, for example, the person you are visiting is responsible for the event and your injuries.  The state of California considers dog bites instances of “strict liability,” so the owner is responsible even if they did not know how the dog would behave.

Similarly, if you slip and fall at a business, the owner of that property may be responsible for your accident and injuries. In a regular “premises liability” claim, however, you must prove that the owner knew about the hazard and did not take steps to remedy it. For example, consider a situation in which the owner could have easily prevented your injury by calling a janitor and marking the floor with a warning sign.

One last type of liability is product liability. When you use a product, you assume it will not hurt you, so these cases usually fall under “strict liability” laws as well. For example, consider an active case:

  • Users of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower are faced with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. This is because the products contain  talcum powder, which can be carcinogenic to humans. Because Johnson & Johnson marketed their products as safe, they are liable for ovarian cancer caused by their product.

Car accident law, premises liability, and medical malpractice all fall under personal injury because they seek to solve wrongs with financial awards.

Awarding Damages

Damages refer to any monetary compensation that can “right” the wrong in a personal injury lawsuit. While money cannot change what happened, it can help victims move forward with their lives. This is why some people choose to file civil lawsuits, and thus become plaintiffs. The liable party, or defendant, pays damages to the plaintiff to account for the losses they caused. Damages are commonly awarded to account for:

  • Medical and rehabilitative care
  • Loss of income or diminished earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress or lost quality of life

In severe cases of wrongdoing, and especially cases in which the wrongdoer acted intentionally, plaintiffs may be awarded punitive damages, which seek to punish the defendant and prevent similar wrongs from happening.

How Do I Get Started?

If you wish to hold a person or entity accountable for your injury or loss and receive the appropriate amount of damages, the best thing you can do is hire a lawyer. At Del Rio & Caraway, P.C., our team is passionate about helping real people recover from real injuries. We are available 24/7 to help you navigate your legal situation and will not rest until you have been awarded the appropriate damages.

Take the first step by calling us at (916) 229-6755 and requesting a free case evaluation.


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