What is a "Personal Injury"?
It’s a term thrown around a lot but what does “personal injury” actually mean? Generally it describes a situation in which someone is physically hurt due to someone else’s negligence. That injury usually requires medical treatment or results in permanent damage. Such cases often include claims for property damage, as with a motor vehicle accident, and they can involve emotional and psychological injury as well as physical. It is a broad term that covers a lot, so here is a quick non-exhaustive breakdown of what “personal injury” usually means.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The most common usage of "personal injury" involves injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident (“MVA”). These accidents can involve cars, trucks, motorcycles, or even bicycles, but the common theme is that you suffered an injury that requires medical assistance.
You may have been operating a vehicle that was struck, but sometimes these injuries happen when you are a passenger or a pedestrian.
There may be more than one driver at fault, including the driver of your car, and you may need to seek recovery for your injuries from multiple sources.
Even though the State of Connecticut requires a minimum insurance policy, sometime drivers are uninsured or don't have enough and your own uninsured/underinsured policy may be necessary to cover you for your injuries.
Slip & Fall Injuries
These injuries are sometimes called “premises liability” cases, and involve situations in which you are hurt due while on someone else’s property due to someone else’s negligence.
This could be failure to maintain the property, or failure to warn you of a dangerous condition.
Examples can be simple slipping on ice outside of a store, or falling due to a neighbor’s collapsing deck.
Sometimes the injury does not even involve a slip or a fall, and can be caused by a defective condition on a premises, in general, such as a friend’s loose gutter falling on you.
These claims involve homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, however can be heavily contested.
This category is often listed separately as its own type of claim, but is also a personal injury. These claims involve injuries due to a medical professional’s negligence: either a nurse, doctor, or other.
The classic examples are a doctor leaving a surgical sponge inside of a patient or performing unnecessary or improper surgery.
These claims involve much more up-front cost and investment than other types of personal injury and, therefore, many attorneys will only want to take extreme cases with extraordinary injuries or won’t take it at all.
Medical malpractice claims also have very specific logistical issues that make them highly technical and complicated at trial. Make sure you hire an attorney that will spend the time and effort to understand your injury, the procedures involved, and the medical terminology required to prosecute such a claim.
If someone is attacked by a dog, those injuries would fall under the "personal injury" umbrella. Dog bites can be severe depending on the size of the dog and the size of the victim, and sometimes children are permanently disfigured by the attack. In Connecticut, the dog bites fall under a "strict liability" statute, meaning simply that the owner or handler of the are generally liable for the actions of their dog.
When you are injured due to a defectively designed product, that would also be considered a personal injury. If a fan or heater was designed improperly and that defect caused injury to you, or if a food product contained something harmful or caused sickness, a lawsuit can be brought to recover amounts to cover your injury or sickness. Even food poisoning can be grounds for a lawsuit if the medical expenses warrant it.
Usually, an assault is not considered a personal injury, although as a technical matter it could be. Most attorneys do not intend to include assault when they say personal injury because there are no insurance companies that cover an intentional attack against you and recovery becomes much more difficult. That means you would likely have to collect directly from your attacker’s financial assets. This would be easier if your attacker was a famous actor or football player, however many times there is no way to recover enough from an assailant to pay for your injury and medical bills. There may be recovery where the assault happened at an establishment that had neglected to provide adequate security or failed to perform some other duty that resulted in a failure to protect its patrons.
Surprisingly a workers’ compensation, or “workers’ comp” claim, is a personal injury, but it is generally not considered a lawsuit. Workers’ comp claims involve injury to you while you are performing your work duties. Many of the above can double as personal injury and workers’ comp at the same time. For example, if you were driving as part of your job and were involved in a motor vehicle accident, that could involve recovery through both workers’ comp and the other driver’s insurance. This creates a complication for lawyers who are not well-versed in both areas of law and many attorneys that do personal injury do not also handle workers’ compensation claims. You should look for a lawyer that can handle both cases so that you don’t have gaps in your legal claims or mis-handling between two law offices that do not communicate with each other about files or strategy. And most importantly, if both cases are not handled together appropriately, you may not recover as much as you are entitled to.
Personal injury claims exist to help you recover for your injury: either for permanent disabilities, medical bills, pain and suffering, rehabilitation or otherwise. In Connecticut, there are no "punitive damages" against the person who hurt you and the goal is always to help you recover instead. If you have questions about your injury, feel free to contact us here.