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Common Personal Injury Terms, Explained

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For many people, the term “personal injury lawyer” tends to be associated with stereotypes about “ambulance chasers” – or, it brings up images of disgruntled plaintiffs who would sue anyone over too-hot coffee. Fundamentally, however, personal injury law isn’t about filing frivolous lawsuits: This area of the law deals with rectifying some of the most painful, tragic, and serious accidents that a person can experience.

Because not every act of wrongdoing or carelessness can be prosecuted as a crime, our civil justice system allows victims of negligence to pursue financial recovery from those that hurt them. Covering a vast range of issues from sexual assault to defective products, a personal injury claim can allow victims of traumatic experiences to recover for their losses, as well as cover any medical bills or treatments.

Of course, all the terms that come with personal injury law can be confusing if you’re not regularly using them in your day-to-day life. That’s why our team at Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C. has created a quick guide to the most common legal terms – and what they could mean for your claim.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is the principle that underlies nearly all civil claims, particularly when the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) has been injured. Whether you’re driving on the road, performing a complex surgery on someone, or directing your employee on a construction site, you have a legal responsibility to protect other people from suffering injuries, as much as it is reasonable for you to do so.

This responsibility is known as the “duty of care,” and when it has been violated, the defendant (person who committed negligence) may be held liable for injuries in a civil court. Depending on the type of personal injury claim you’re trying to bring, there may be a different duty or standard of care applied to your case. But as a general rule, negligence can happen in any activity where you are dealing with other people, especially in high-stakes scenarios.  

Here are some examples of negligence:

  • A doctor failing to check someone’s vital signs, leading to a life-threatening illness
  • A driver deciding to drink beyond the legal limit before getting in the car
  • A pharmaceutical company making false advertising claims about a new medication
  • A nursing home operator refusing to investigate claims of sexual abuse
  • A children’s toy company failing to check their products for the presence of lead

Defining Damages

Of course, you can’t bring a personal injury lawsuit unless you have suffered damages. Damages can be defined as the personal toll of someone else’s negligence, and can include everything from tangible losses like medical costs to intangible losses like pain and suffering. If the judge or jury rules that the defendant is liable for damages, he or she will have to pay out appropriate financial compensation to you. The idea is that paying these “damages” should help to make the plaintiff feel whole again after their accident.

Damages can include things like:

  • Past medical expenses: Any past doctor’s visits, surgeries, medical treatments, or lab tests can be considered part of your losses after an accident.
  • Future medical expenses: You can also ask for future medical expenses to be covered, from long-term care to ongoing treatments.
  • Physical pain and suffering: Also called “non-economic damages,” pain and suffering claims rest on the premise that the plaintiff has experienced an unusual degree of physical pain.
  • Lost quality of life and mental anguish: Another form of intangible and non-economic damages, this can be claimed when the plaintiff has suffered emotional injuries and trauma.
  • Lost future wages or income: Injuries take time to heal, so plaintiffs may need to cover time off work. In some cases, an injury may also prevent you from ever seeking meaningful work in your field, meaning that you will need compensation for lost income potential.

Who Is Liable for My Injuries?

Although it may sound like a straightforward matter, determining who is liable for your financial losses can be difficult at times. This is because many personal injury lawsuits involve more than one party.

For example, in a truck accident claim, you may think that a negligent truck driver is solely responsible for your injuries. But things can become more complicated when you consider that truck carrier companies often lease out smaller businesses, and then push drivers to violate federal hours guidelines. There may also be different rules about car accident fault and liability depending on your specific state.

At Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C., you can count on our extensive experience in the realm of personal injury law. For over 40 years, we’ve been helping plaintiffs recover damages after life-altering experiences. When you need assistance, let us help you navigate the legal system, and secure a better future for yourself and your family.

Call (844) 383-0565 anytime, 24/7 to schedule a free consultation.

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