What Counts as a Personal Injury in a Legal Setting?

Personal injury cases get lots of media attention, and intuitively they make sense; if you’ve been injured as a result of someone’s actions or negligence, you should be entitled to some kind of compensation. But you might be surprised to learn which types of injuries could actually count as a “personal injury” in the legal sense, and what you should do if you’ve suffered one.

Types of Personal Injuries

A “personal injury” refers to any injury to the body or mind, differentiating it from injury to external physical property. These injuries must arise at the fault of another person, either due to their direct actions or due to their negligence. Most personal injury attorneys are able to provide legal consulting for many types of injuries. These are some of the most common types of personal injury covered:

  • Auto accidents. If you were in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, and you sustained injury or mental trauma, you may be entitled to compensation beyond what your insurance policy would pay out.
  • Work accidents. Most employers are required by law to offer workers’ compensation insurance, covering the costs of onsite injuries for any employee, and under any circumstances. However, if your injury was the direct result of someone else’s negligence, incompetence, or direct actions, you may be entitled to more compensation than would be offered through workers’ comp. It depends on the situation.
  • Slip and fall accidents. Most slip and fall claims count as a personal injury. If a business has failed to clear the ice in front of their store, or if there were no cautionary signs advertising the wet condition of a hard floor, anyone who falls because of these conditions could hypothetically sue for damages.
  • Dog bites. In most areas, dog owners are legally responsible for the actions their dogs take. If a dog bites a person, barring any special considering factors, that person is usually entitled to some compensation.
  • Assault cases. Physical assault almost always counts as a personal injury. If someone deliberately causes bodily harm to you, they should be held accountable for the medical bills and damages that resulted from the incident.
  • Defective products. In some cases, if a defective product has resulted in physical or mental injury, you can take action against the company that created it. This is subject to many variables, including the nature of the defect and the responsibilities of the company that designed and/or manufactured it.
  • Medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is a complicated field, and one that can sometimes extend beyond the realm of personal injury. However, if you sustained an injury as a direct result of inappropriate or poorly considered medical advice or action, it will probably count as a personal injury.

Should You Pursue a Case?

Assuming you’ve suffered an injury that falls into one or more of the categories above, should you pursue a personal injury case against the at-fault party?

That depends on several factors, but you can make a better decision when you improve your understanding of personal injury cases overall.

  • Understand the process. Familiarize yourself with the typical process for personal injury cases. It’s good to seek medical treatment immediately, regardless of whether you’re considering a case, so long as you document the treatment you’re getting. Then, you’ll need to speak with an attorney; if you follow through with the case, you’ll usually negotiate compensation for damages sustained, and only if you can’t come to an agreement with the offending party will the case be taken to court.
  • Understand the payout. The average level of compensation for personal injury cases is $52,900, but this number can vary wildly, from cases that pay out next to nothing to cases that pay out millions. If you win a payout, you or the offending party will be responsible for paying legal fees, and in some cases, you may be responsible for legal fees if you lose—which can add up to be quite significant. Understand the potential payout and your personal risk before you pursue the case.
  • Understand the timeline. Even in fast cases, it could take weeks to resolve your personal injury claim. When going to trial, it could take weeks to months to resolve everything, and for complex cases, it could take even longer.

If you’ve suffered a personal injury, you’ve done your research, and you still aren’t sure whether you should move forward with a personal injury case, the best thing to do is contact a lawyer. Most law firms will offer you a free or inexpensive consultation to learn the details of your case and help you understand what your chances of success are. They should be able to provide you much better guidance than you could muster on your own.