There are almost 130,000 people employed in the personal injury legal industry. The majority of them are lawyers and their staff.
Despite this, many people are unsure of what a personal injury attorney actually does. What kind of cases count as “personal injury”?
There are several different types of personal injury cases an attorney may handle.
A Brief Overview of Personal Injury Cases
What does a personal injury lawyer do? It’s clear they take personal injury cases to court, but what exactly is a personal injury case?
Most personal injury cases have at least one thing in common. Almost every personal injury case will involve the negligent actions of other people. That is to say, almost all personal injury cases involve some kind of liability.
This does not mean the action was intentional. Most injuries are accidental in nature. The perpetrators do not mean to cause harm to the victim, but their actions lead to injury or damage. They are negligent.
People should be held accountable for the actions they take. This is especially true if someone’s actions result in injury to another person.
With these criteria in mind, it becomes easier to identify which cases a personal injury attorney is likely to handle. You may also be able to recognize which ones they are likely to pass on to another legal expert.
A Personal Injury Attorney Handles Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
One of the most common case types is those involving motor vehicle accidents. This has something to do with how frequently vehicle accidents happen.
The National Safety Council provides estimates about traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. According to the NSC’s estimates, almost 40,000 people lost their lives in accidents during 2018.
That is a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of accidents and even the number of injuries. Around 4.5 million were seriously injured in accidents. Millions more suffered minor injuries.
These statistics represent an increase over the last decade. The number of injuries and fatalities did decline in 2018, but not enough to offset the rise of recent years.
Common causes of motor vehicle accidents include:
- Distraction, particularly from mobile devices like smartphones
- Drowsy driving
- Other unsafe practices
Sometimes, an accident happens when someone simply does not see another person. This may be one of the reasons for an increase in the number of pedestrians who are struck by vehicles each year. Impatient and distracted drivers are also a danger.
Why Personal Injury Attorneys Take These Cases
When someone is injured in a car accident, it is usually the result of someone else’s unsafe behavior. Unless the person injured causes the accident, anyone else is a victim of the driver’s decision.
These decisions may be egregious, such as answering a text message while driving. Even in cases where weather or environmental factors play a role, human decision-making is the ultimate factor.
Consider a driver who strikes a pedestrian on a crosswalk while making a left-hand turn. They may not have realized the pedestrian was there, but they still chose to make the turn.
Even minor traffic accidents can result in injuries that affect a person’s well-being and livelihood. Someone who suffers whiplash may experience lingering symptoms for years after the injury. Others suffer even more.
A personal injury attorney can help people injured in motor vehicle accidents claim justice.
Other Types of Transportation Accidents
Accidents involving other types of transportation can also be taken on by a personal injury attorney. These might include:
- Motorcycle and scooter accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Aviation accidents
- Mass transportation accidents
Most of these cases are similar in nature to car accidents.
Slip and Fall Accidents Are Common
Another common type of case to find on a personal injury lawyer’s desk is the slip and fall accident. The CDC reports that falls are a common reason for ER trips among older adults.
Slip and falls accidents may not seem very serious. However, they can result in hip fractures, head injuries, and even death. The risk of fatality increases with age, as does the risk of injury.
Many younger people are also injured in slip and fall accidents each year. Slip and fall accidents are common in retail environments, where customers may slip on freshly washed floors. Even workers may suffer a slip and fall.
If someone falls in a business environment, the business may be liable for injuries. The employees or business owners may have been negligent. An example would be an employee forgetting to place a sign, warning customers of a wet floor.
Another example might be an elderly person at a nursing home who is known as a fall risk. The staff may not take proper precautions to prevent this resident from falling, resulting in injury.
A personal injury attorney may take on many slip and fall cases. Not all slip and fall accidents will be appropriate cases for the personal injury office.
An example may be an employee who slips and falls in the work environment. If they are injured, their claim might be appropriate for workers’ compensation lawyers.
Other Types of Liability Cases
Just as personal injury attorneys may take on slip and fall cases, they also look at other kinds of liability cases. These might include:
- Negligent security
- Product liability
Cases of product liability arise when a manufacturer’s product injures someone. The attorney may try to prove the manufacturer should have known the risk posed by its product. They may also argue the manufacturer or distributor should have taken steps to reduce the risk, or that the risks were not communicated.
In some cases, the manufacturer may be found to be negligent. They may not have been aware of the risks that should have been obvious. They may not have warned consumers of potential risks.
There are even cases where businesses take no action when risks became plain.
Negligence is also at play in some cases concerning security liability. A security provider, business owner, or another party may not take steps to ensure security.
An example might be a provider that offers security monitoring to homeowners via WiFi and other Internet technologies. If the provider does not take steps to keep hackers out, they may be at fault if their customers are harmed.
Note here that a “personal injury” is not always a physical injury. A break-in could result in physical injury to a homeowner if they happen to be present. They may also suffer mental or emotional injury, such as feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety.
Medical Malpractice Suits
A kind of liability unique to healthcare practitioners is the charge of medical malpractice. Millions of Americans visit a doctor every year, sometimes in emergency situations.
Every one of these patients hopes that the medical team attending to them are competent and well-meaning. Most medical practitioners do want the best for their patients, and many are very good at what they do.
Some medical practitioners are less concerned with patient well-being and codes of ethics. Medical malpractice is much more common than you might think. Millions of doctor’s office appointments and visits to the ER are the result of adverse medical treatment.
Of course, not every adverse incident is the result of malpractice. For example, a doctor may not expect a patient to have an allergic reaction to a drug that is usually well tolerated.
Medical malpractice could arise when the doctor had reason to believe treatment would have adverse effects. Suppose a patient informs a doctor of an allergy to some medications. If the doctor then prescribes medication in the same family, an allergic reaction could be expected.
Negligence may also factor in medical malpractice suits. An example might be a doctor administered a risky treatment with little chance of success without telling the patient. If a doctor ignores a patient’s symptoms, that might also constitute malpractice.
If these scenarios sound familiar, then it may be time to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer to discuss. Medical malpractice suits are often complex. It is best to have the right advice on your side.
Animal Bites and Attacks
Americans love dogs, as proven by the fact that millions of dogs are kept as pets. Not all dogs are friendly, though.
Animal bite and attack injuries are becoming more common as more people opt to keep pets. Pets that are kept in cities and small backyards may encounter more people. This gives an aggressive animal more opportunities to bite or attack someone.
An attack can result in life-threatening injuries, especially if the victim is a child. Even a single bite can be quite serious. Even if the injury is minor, the victim may suffer mental injury, such as a heightened fear of dogs.
Cats can also injure people, although they may be more difficult to track back to the owner if the animal is outside. Although cats are smaller, the injuries they inflict can be quite serious. Cat scratch fever is one potential complication, which can result in death.
It may be difficult to prove negligence or liability of the animal’s owner in some cases. That is why hiring a personal injury lawyer may make sense.
All Forms of Abuse
Another type of case a personal injury lawyer may take on is an abuse case. This may include cases of domestic violence or battery, as well as assault. Workplace abuse may be handled by a personal injury lawyer.
The laws around abuse fall under what is known as tort law. This is the personal injury attorney’s area of expertise.
Another type of abuse has become more common in recent years. As America’s population continues to age, more people are living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, that also means opportunities for abuse of patients and elderly residents is on the rise.
A personal injury lawyer may also take on cases of nursing home abuse and assisted living facility abuse cases. There may be some overlap with medical malpractice. Abuse in a nursing home may include failure to deliver appropriate medical care.
Is it Time to Talk to a Lawyer?
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then it may be time to talk to a personal injury attorney. There are, of course, other types of cases that may fall under “personal injury.”
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury, then it is time to get in touch with the experts. The right personal injury lawyer will be able to advise you on your case and help you make the right choice.