For laypeople whose only contact with the legal system has come through watching Law and Order or late-night auto accident injury attorneys’ infomercials, it can be confusing to dive into the world of tort law and personal injury lawsuits. Unfortunately, workplace or auto injury lawsuits are often the only way to get fair injury settlements to cover medical expenses that weren’t your fault. So how can you navigate the system? The best option, of course, is to hire an experienced accident injury attorney who can guide you through the process and help you make the wisest decisions. But it never hurts to educate yourself a little, too. There’s no better place to start than with some vital terminology. Here are the first five terms you should learn:
- Tort Law
Tort law is a broad category that encompasses personal injury lawsuits from car accidents, workplace injury and employee lawsuits. Tort laws are applied in civil suits, and offer compensation to people who have been harmed by the wrongdoing of others.
In most cases, tort cases rest on the principle of negligence, meaning that the person filing the lawsuit must demonstrate that the other person had a responsibility to do something, and failing to do it caused harm. Drivers, for example, have a responsibility to drive legally and carefully. When they drive carelessly and cause an accident, that means they can be held accountable for the harm that follows.
An accident injury claim is often the precursor to tort litigation. Claims are typically filed with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier as a third-party claim. If a settlement can be reached that is agreeable to both parties, then a lawsuit is often never filed at all.
This term refers to the monetary payments that may be awarded to the victim, the person who files the lawsuit. There are several types of damages, but the two main categories are compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are intended to, as the name suggests, compensate the victim for economic, physical or emotional burdens. Punitive damages are more rarely put in place by the court, and are intended to penalize the negligent party for doing something particularly wrong or reckless.
There are certain types of entities that are immune from tort litigation. For example, governments are sometimes insulated from lawsuits if officials do something wrong while acting in an official capacity. It is unlikely that immunity would apply in a typical personal injury case, but it’s best to talk to a accident injury attorney if you’re not sure.
Have you seen any other terms relating to personal injury law that have confused you? Ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments.