Let’s face it, sometimes accidents happen, and it isn’t anyone’s fault. Unfortunately, however, there are many instances in which accidents happen because someone was careless or negligent. Ordinary people are required to act in a reasonably prudent manner. When they fail to live up to that “reasonable person” standard, and cause injuries to someone else, they can be held liable for the damages they cause. Personal injury law is meant to protect and compensate people who have been injured by someone else’s negligence. Injuries caused by negligence can happen in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings, such as in car accidents, at construction sites, in stores, or parking lots, among others. If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s important to investigate your claim as soon as possible, before witnesses’ memories and evidence fade away.
This legal standard holds that a person owes a duty to others to behave as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances. While the specific circumstances vary from case to case, a lay person is expected to behave as a reasonable person would in their decision making. If a person instead chooses to do something that a reasonable person would not choose to do under the same or similar circumstances, then that person has breached their duty of reasonable care, which constitutes negligence.
In any tort claim, there are four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. In a personal injury claim, the duty is to behave in accordance with the reasonable person standard. Other more specific duties may attach depending on the specifics of each case. When one fails to adhere to the standard of care (the reasonable person standard), there is a breach. Causation requires that the specific breach of the reasonable person standard cause the accident or injuries. Only when a plaintiff can prove these elements will they be entitled to put on evidence of the extent of their damages.
Each state has its own rules about how much money a plaintiff injured by another person’s or corporation’s negligence can recover for their injuries. Some states do not place limits on damages, and others do. Some state with limits on damages limit only certain kinds of damages and not others. What this means is that the value of your claim in Texas or New Mexico might be vastly different from the value of the exact same claim in Minnesota, Illinois, or Maryland.
There are two main categories of damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer, as a means to ensure that they will never do the same things again, and Compensatory damages, which are designed to make whole the person who has been injured – in other words, to put them back, as closely as possible, to the condition they were in or would have been in, but for the injury.
Economic damages are those things that we can put a price on: medical bills, lost wages, inability to work in the future, future need for medical care, mileage to and from medical appointments, the cost of hiring someone to help you with household services or in-home care, and the like.
Non-economic damages are all the things we value the most in life, but cannot put a price on: pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship of someone we love, and the like.