Personal Injuries: Legal Speak for the Lay Person

Image of law books to illustrate Personal Injuries: Legal Terms for the Layperson

Almost any type of personal injuries resulting from the actions or carelessness of a person or business may be grounds for a lawsuit. If you are suffering from physical, psychological or financial injuries, or have been accused of injuring someone, speak to a qualified attorney in your area.

Bodily Injuries

Any kind of bodily injury can, and often does, lead to lawsuits. Personal injuries from car wrecks are a major reason for lawsuits. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2015 report determined that in 2010 alone there were nearly four million persons injured from traffic accidents.

Bodily injuries can be caused by dangers like unsafe stairs or wet floors, and equipment malfunctions.  Exposure to toxins like chemical spills, tainted food or water, or mold are considered bodily injuries. Work accidents that result in bodily injuries can happen suddenly or from repetitive movement and are also fair game for litigation.

Bodily injuries don’t have to be permanent or totally disabling to lead to legal action.

Whether you are the person who was injured or the person being sued, you should know that a bodily injury lawsuit will involve investigation to determine the cost of medical treatments, medications, medical devices like crutches, shower chairs and oxygen equipment, and expenses associated with travel to treatments and therapy that may include mileage, child care and lodging for specialist treatments far from the injured person’s home.

Emotional or Psychological Injuries

It used to be that a person could not recover damages for psychological injuries unless they also had catastrophic physical injuries. Today’s courts are much more enlightened about the damaging effects of mental anguish and stress and will allow a jury to consider evidence of emotional injuries.

A person with bodily injuries may suffer psychological injuries from the stress of pain, hospitalization, the inability to move about and the disruptions of traveling to medical appointments and treatments. It can be troubling to be unable to care for elderly parents, a spouse, or young children.

The injured person may be ashamed to need help with intimate personal hygiene, and body image may be a factor when there are scars or body part distortions.

Unexpectedly becoming sick or hurt because of someone else’s actions or neglect can be traumatic and lead to depression, fear, and anxiety. Sometimes the emotional distress from a traumatic event can trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) or other psychological disorders that linger long after the body is healed.

Psychologically injured persons may become tearful or terrified of situations or places similar to those at the time of the traumatic event, like getting into a car or flying on a commercial airline.

Lawsuits may be brought by persons who suffered traumatic psychological injuries but no physical injuries, like someone who witnessed the severe injury or death of a close family member in a car accident.

In litigation, the injured person who claims emotional damages will look to be compensated for pain and suffering, and the cost for past and future medications and treatment of their psychological problems.

Financial Injuries

It costs a lot of money to be hurt or sick. A person dealing with personal injuries caused by someone else is very likely to sue for financial injury for money they spent in addition to the cost of medical or psychological treatments as well as lost income opportunities.

Lost wages are certainly considered a financial injury but there are other kinds of economic loss that can be blamed on the event that caused the injuries.

The injured person can be expected to seek damages for lost overtime, loss of vacation or sick days used while they recovered, or loss of their job entirely. They may seek to be compensated for loss of secondary income, for example if the person usually worked summer weekends as a lifeguard or river guide and missed the season because they were recovering from accident-related injuries.

Expenses for yard work, child care, elder care or other work that the injured person had to hire out will be included as financial damages, as will the  cost of replacing personal items that may have been lost or damaged when the event occurred.

An Attorney Can Help Handle Personal Injuries

There are all kinds of personal injuries that may be grounds for a lawsuit, such as medical malpractice, in addition to the common categories of injuries described here.  An injured person who believes they were hurt because of the actions or neglect of another person or a business should be aware that there are usually time limits for bringing a law suit.  Most reputable personal injury attorneys will not charge for the initial consultation to determine if you have a good case.

If you or your business have been sued, or you believe you are about to be sued, you need to contact an experienced defense attorney right away. If you are actually served with papers, you must act fast! There are very short windows of time to respond to a legal complaint. If there is no response, the court may find you liable for the other person’s injuries by “default”.

If you are being sued, be sure to contact your insurance carrier immediately. Your insurance carrier may have a “duty to defend” you and hire an attorney for your defense. For example, your insurance carrier is likely to be involved if the lawsuit stems from a motor vehicle accident, an accident on your home, rental or business property, or an injury caused by your employee. Always check with your carrier to be sure.

Have you been involved in a personal injury lawsuit? Do you have questions about lawsuits? Please share your comments and questions below!

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