What is Personal Injury Law?


Personal injury suits may involve any of the types of lawsuits for which a person can sue for personal injuries including automobile accidents, trucking accidents, premises accidents, construction accidents, product liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death and a number of other situations. The common element in most tort actions is negligence, which is characterized by inattention, thoughtlessness, inadvertence, and mistakes. Negligence must be proven in personal injury cases.

The critical elements of negligence include:

  1. a duty owed by defendant to the injured party
  2. the defendant failed in that duty
  3. the injury was caused by the defendants’ breach of duty and that damages resulted from the injury

Automobile Accidents

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years from the date of the accident.

In New York, injured car accident victims can receive compensation for their damages through personal injury protection (PIP) claims. If you are an insured driver, this coverage is part of your insurance policy and if you are injured in an accident, you must seek compensation through this coverage rather than seeking it from another driver involved in the accident. If your injury is beyond the “serious injury threshold” you may file a personal injury claim with the negligent driver’s insurance provider.

Trucking Accidents

Commercial trucks pose dangers to motorists that other types of vehicle do not. For example, a tractor trailer can jackknife, which occurs when the driver loses control of the trailer portion of a vehicle. Tractor trailers are also substantially heavier than passenger vehicles, giving them different steering and braking needs and making them more dangerous in collisions.

If you are injured in a trucking accident, you will need to file your personal injury claim with the driver’s motor carrier insurance or with his or her employer’s insurance policy, depending on whether the driver was an owner operator or an employee of his or her company. The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the accident.

Wrongful Death

For a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the victim’s death. Unlike personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim cannot be “tolled,” or delayed, because of the victim’s age.

Through a wrongful death claim, a victim’s loved ones can seek compensation for the victim’s medical bills, the victim’s funeral expenses, the loss of the victim’s income and benefits, the loss of the victim’s companionship and love, and the survivors’ own pain and suffering. In New York, a family member must be a representative of the victim’s estate in order to file a wrongful death claim.

Medical Malpractice

Doctors and other healthcare providers have the duty to act within a reasonable standard of care when diagnosing and treating patients. Failure to comply with this standard of care can cause the healthcare provider to potentially miss a patient’s symptoms or provide inappropriate or insufficient treatment, which can result in injury or a worsened condition for the patient. This is a form of negligence.

When a healthcare provider, which can be a hospital, a nurse, or another non-physician professional in the healthcare field is negligent, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation for his or her resulting damages. In New York, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two and a half years from the date of the patient’s injury in most cases. In cases where the victim is injured, because a piece of surgical equipment is left inside his or her body, the statute of limitations is one year.

Premises Liability

Property owners are responsible for the conditions present on their properties. When a non-trespassing individual is injured in an accident because of a hazard on a piece of property, such as a broken staircase, accumulated ice, or a frayed wire or unconfined flame, that individual can file a premises liability claim against the property owner alleging his or her negligence.

For a property owner in a premises liability case, negligence means that he or she failed to take a reasonable amount of care to protect social guests and business invitees from harm by removing or repairing a hazard. When a hazard cannot be removed or repaired in a timely manner following its discovery, the property owner has the duty to adequately warn visitors about it.

Construction Accidents

A construction zone can be a dangerous place for workers and passers-by alike. Often, workers injured in this type of accident can seek compensation for their damages through third party claims against the owners of the properties where they are working or other parties present at the job sites.

Like other types of personal injury claim, the statute of limitations for a construction accident claim is three years from the date of the accident. Through this type of claim, an injured victim can seek compensation for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages.

Product Liability

Product manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure that their products are safe for consumers to use. Victims injured by defective products can seek compensation through product liability claims as long as they do so within three years of their accidents.

A victim can allege that a product was poorly designed, improperly constructed, or mislabeled through his or her product liability claim. In all of these scenarios, the product’s manufacturer may be liable for the victim’s damages. In some cases, a product’s distributor or retailer can also be found negligent in a product liability case and thus liable for a victim’s damages.

FELA Injury Claims

Under the Federal Employers Liability Act of 1908 (FELA), railroads are held to certain responsibilities to keep their workers safe. Railroad workers cannot file Workers’ Compensation claims; they can file FELA claims instead if they are injured on the job. The statute of limitations for a FELA claim is three years from the date of the accident.

One significant difference between a FELA claim and a Workers’ Compensation claim is that with a FELA claim, the injured worker must prove that his or her employer’s negligence directly caused the accident that resulted in his or her injury.

Like with a personal injury claim, a FELA claimant can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Like with a Workers’ Compensation claim, a FELA claimant can receive additional compensation if he or she lost a limb or organ in a workplace accident.