Personal Injury Law: What Accident Victims Should Know

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

You have probably seen commercials or billboards appealing to car accident victims and people suffering from mesothelioma to contact an injury attorney. Such cases fall under personal injury law, which involves the harm or losses you suffer due to someone else’s actions.

After a personal injury accident, you may face mountains of medical bills. You may even have injuries so severe that you cannot earn a living. This field of law tells you what you need to prove to recover compensation for your losses.

What Is Personal Injury Law?

Lawyers do not take a class called “personal injury.” Instead, they learn tort law. This field provides the basis for all the statutes and case law that govern compensation for physical, mental, and reputational injuries caused by the action or inaction of a person or business.

In other words, personal injury cases fall within tort law. However, not all tort cases involve bodily injuries. Torts like defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress only cause reputational or mental harm.

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Types of Personal Injury Claims

Lawyers use three legal theories to prove liability for a victim’s injury. These theories determine what your lawyer must prove based on the type of accident. The theories include:

Intentional Tort

Intentional torts happen when someone causes an injury while performing an action intended to make harmful contact. This tort, called battery, can happen for any action, such as deliberately throwing a coffee cup at you.

Importantly, under the doctrine of transferred intent, you can still pursue a personal injury claim for battery even if you were not the intended target.

Suppose two people are arguing in a bar, and one tries to slap the phone out of the other’s hand. If the person misses and hits you instead, you still have a claim for battery. Since they intended to make harmful contact with someone, that intent transfers to whoever gets hit.


Negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise reasonable care and as a result, injures someone else. To prove negligence, your lawyer must meet the following four elements:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Damages
  • Causation

The duty of care comes from the relationship of the parties. For example, drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Similarly, doctors owe a duty of care to patients. Landowners, property managers and tenants owe a duty of care to guests on their premises.

A breach of duty happens when the person does something that exposes others to an unreasonable risk of injury. This standard is an objective standard. Someone can breach their duty of care without realizing it. The only requirement is that a reasonable person exercising ordinary care would have realized it.

The damages cover losses related to your injuries. When you suffer an injury, you will have medical expenses and lost wages. Your injuries may even reduce your future earning capacity if you have long-term disabilities.

Lawyers prove causation by showing a logical and foreseeable link between the breach and the injury. Thus, a failure to mop a spill in a restaurant will logically and foreseeably lead to a slip and fall accident.

Strict Liability

Strict liability applies in a few limited situations that involve inherently hazardous activities. The two main places where it applies are dog bites and product liability.

In a dog bite case, many states allow the dog bite victim to recover injury compensation even when:

  • The dog had no history of viciousness
  • The owner had no warning that the dog could bite
  • The owner took reasonable measures to restrain the dog

In a product liability case, consumers injured by defective products can pursue compensation simply by showing the injury resulted from a defect that existed when it left the manufacturer’s hands. It does not matter whether the manufacturer intended or knew of the defect.

Procedure for Insurance Claims and Personal Injury Lawsuits

Many personal injury cases start with an insurance claim. Liability insurers agree to pay liabilities incurred by policyholders within the scope of the policy. This is a complicated way of saying that the insurer pays claims that result from a covered person’s actions.

Your lawyer will file a claim and try to negotiate a settlement. Insurers will often use delays and denials to frustrate you into taking a settlement that undervalues your claim. A lawyer can fight denials and try to get a fair insurance payout based on your losses.

If the lawyer cannot settle your claim, they may recommend filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits do not reach trial because the case settles. If it goes to trial, your lawyer will present your case to a judge or jury for a decision.

Learn More About Personal Injury From ConsumerShield

The type of law personal injury cases involve can be complex, as the elements you must prove will depend on the cause of your injury. ConsumerShield provides educational resources so that you can understand what kind of case you have and what you must prove. We also connect you with an experienced lawyer to guide you through your case.

Fill out our contact form for a free case evaluation to learn how we can help you today.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Personal injury falls under tort law. These laws are shaped primarily by precedential cases rather than legislative statutes. Therefore, to determine causation, for example, you look at prior cases instead of looking up the definition in a state or federal statute.

  • Personal injury cases arise when you suffer an injury due to someone else’s actions. The most common example happens when a driver violates traffic laws and injures you due to the violation. Thus, you may have a personal injury case if a driver causes a car accident by tailgating you.

  • The at-fault party and its insurer compensate you for economic and non-economic losses resulting from your injuries. Economic losses include financial costs like medical bills and lost income. Non-economic losses include quality-of-life losses like pain, suffering and disability. In rare cases, you might also receive punitive damages for egregious actions.

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