5 Of The Most Common Personal Injury Claims
The term “personal injury” encompasses a virtually endless range of events that may lead to the physical (or psychological, or emotional) injury of another’s person or well-being. Because of the open-ended nature of personal injury, the entire complex is painstakingly built, tested and hopefully refined – one case at a time. Case facts are always different. The series of events that result in a personal injury claim will never exactly match those of another case.
But that doesn’t mean every case is brand new, either. There are commonalities between many cases, and finding those commonalities is the first step to establishing the merit of any personal injury claim. In fact, many cases may be so routine and similar to each other that they may not even need an attorney to be involved.
Now, with decades of case law on the books, and millions of personal injury claims made each year, we have an increasingly strong understanding of how cases are going to unfold – and which ones are most likely in the first place. These are five of the most active areas of personal injury law.
1. Car and Truck Accidents
Far and away, the most common claims of personal injury revolve around automobile accidents. These include vehicle collisions, accidents involving pedestrians or bicycles, or trucking incidents. If you ever find yourself in a personal injury case, it’s probably traffic-related.
How Does Auto Insurance Come Into Play?
Car insurance is meant as a way to protect the insured from becoming wrapped up in a lengthy or expensive case. Following an accident, the insurance companies of the involved parties determine fault and which party must pay. Most of the time, insurance companies handle everything, including payment of damages, and the worst thing that happens is a rise in premiums.
But because of the immense number of car accident related cases each year, there is still a large number that are dealt with outside of insurance. Cases that go beyond what auto insurance will cover, or cases involving an uninsured motorist may very likely end up in a personal injury dispute.
2. Workplace Injury
On-the-job injuries are commonplace due to the general expectation of safety a worker has.
While there are safeguards in place that are intended to protect both workers and employers (workers’ compensation and workers compensation insurance, respectively), the myriad factors that can interfere with even a “cut-and-dry” injury can quickly transform a claim into a case.
Workplace injury can happen at any job.
Just because a job may not seem dangerous, that doesn’t mean the possibility for injury is absent. Office workers, teachers, coffee shop employees all face a degree of risk at their place of work, even if that risk manifests in different ways. Office workers may commonly experience injury related to constant computer use.
Injury is far more likely in construction or labor industries.
3. Medical Malpractice
Though not heavily litigated, medical malpractice claims are a mainstay of the legal system. Like any case, medical malpractice cases can vary wildly. There are, however, a few types that make up the lion’s share:
- Misdiagnosis/Failure to Diagnose
- Prescription accidents
- Negligent child birth
- Surgical error
- Improper administration of anesthesia
- Wrongful death
Most will be heard out of court and settled privately between the parties’ attorneys. Whether a medical malpractice case is heard in court or settled, they take time and a combination of medical and legal expertise to navigate.
To prevail in a medical malpractice case, an attorney must be able to argue the specific nuances of medical negligence to the degree a doctor can.
4. Slip and Fall and Injuries on Commercial Property
Though slip and fall cases can, and do, commonly involve a victim slipping and falling, the catch-all term also commonly refers to any incident that leaves a person injured on the premises of another party. Like many personal injury cases, they will typically revolve around claims of negligence, with failure to maintain the safety of a property being at the core of every case.
Some examples may include:
- Unreasonably dangerous premises
- Wet floors
- Injuries that occur in disorderly parking lots
- Poorly lit areas
- Icy sidewalks
- Overhead and ground-level hazards
- Injury to head or body
- Elevator or escalator injury
- Any negligence-related injury on another’s property
Property owners and managers should take the steps needed to protect against accidents as well as their subsequent legal claims.
Keep areas clean and clear of hazards that could conceivably lead to injury. These may not always be apparent. The best defense against a claim is the one that also brings you the greatest peace of mind — the certainty that danger or injury was impossible on the premises.
If possible, video monitoring of the premises is advisable. Among the many benefits of video recording is that if injury does occur, it’s important to know exactly how it occurred. On-site cameras also allow for a quick response if hazards arise (such as a newly wet floor).
If there is a danger, use obvious signage. One of the main defenses against premise-related injuries is signage or anything that clearly shows the danger was obvious, known to passersby, and easily avoidable. The classic “wet floor” sign is a good example of this. Similarly, signs that clearly indicate if a person is not allowed (such as to a storage area or employee-only section) will offer further support.
5. Product Liability
A major driver of litigation and settlements is product liability. Product liability may apply to the manufacturer, distributor, or potentially anyone along the chain, being responsible for a product the harms a consumer. Product liability is governed by state law and has no federal law in place.
Typically, claims of product liability are framed in the legal context of negligence, strict liability, warranty breaches. Victims in Washington state are statutorily limited to bring a case within three years of the accident.
Much of the challenge of product liability claims is identifying the parties responsible. With many entities involved along the distribution chain, assigning liability to any one party is a primary challenge of product liability lawsuits.
Protecting Against the Unknowns
Because personal injury is so broad, it’s impossible to fully protect against everything all the time. But with knowledge of the incredible potential for random injury or the possibility of negligence or egregious behavior in other parties, the frequency of both accidents and claims can be minimized.