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PERSONAL INJURY LAW 101 – THE BASICS

personal injury lawIn lay terms, an injury is commonly known as a physical harm or damage to a person’s body.  From the legal perspective, the term “injury” needs to be analyzed along with the term “tort.”  A tort is a wrong committed by one person either through an act and/or omission which injures another person and can be intentional or unintentional.  Therefore, the tort is the act and/or omission, and the injury is the consequence.  Personal injury is a legal term for a harm to a person’s body, mind or emotions, as opposed to harm to property.  This topic is complex.  Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explain it in simple terms.        There are three types of torts that can lead to personal injury, namely: (1) Intentional Torts, (2) Negligence, and (3) Strict Liability.  Intentional torts can be classified as intentional torts to persons and intentional torts to property.  We will focus on the intentional torts to persons which can be in the form of battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Battery is basically an offensive contact.  Assault is a conduct that creates reasonable apprehension of imminent offensive contact.  False imprisonment takes place when someone confines another person in a bounded are against that person’s will.  Lastly, intentional infliction of emotional distress will occur when someone engages in extreme or outrageous conduct that causes another person severe emotional distress.  The element that all of these intentional torts have in common is “intent” by the person doing the conduct.  The injuries and their extent will vary depending on the specific circumstances and the tort committed.

The second type of tort that can lead to personal injury is negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise the type of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same or similar situation.  There are certain elements that must be satisfied in order for a person to be able to bring a negligent action such as (1) Duty to exercise reasonable care, (2) Breach of that duty, (3) Cause in fact, (4) Proximate cause, and (5) Damages.  For a detailed description of negligence, please read the blog titled “Negligence in a Nutshell.”

Strict liability is the third main tort. Strict liability is not concerned with the person’s conduct or intent in causing the injury, but with the thing itself responsible for causing it.  The best way to put this into perspective is by listing the main categories of this tort, and by illustrating each one of them.  The first category is “wild animals.”  If you have a wild animal and it injuries someone, you will be strictly liable regardless of whether you intended or were negligent in producing that harm.  That rule does not apply with domestic pets (i.e. cats and dogs) which requires a previous attack for the owner to be put on notice regarding its dangerous propensity.

Another category of strict liability is abnormally dangerous activities.  In this case, a person can be found liable if he is engaged in this type of activities like blasting dynamite, implosions, storing explosives, handles chemicals, fumigation, crop dusting, pile driving, and maintenance of hazardous materials, among others.  Once again, this is regardless of whether there was intent or negligent conduct of any person.

The last category of strict liability is product liability.  Strict product liability in this context is not concerned with the conduct of the seller of the product, but rather the product itself.  If a product that is defective or unreasonably safe was placed in market and somebody was injured because of it strict liability may be imposed.  A product can be considered defective if it has manufacturing defects like an improper assembly, loose parts, missing parts or the product’s manufacturing process did not conform with usual standards of the same type of product.  For more information regarding product liability, please read our blog “Product Liability in a Nutshell.”

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries by the intentional or negligent conduct of a person, contact us immediately for a free consultation.