Injury law is among the most misunderstood branches of the law. The average person might think of this type of law as the domain of frivolous lawsuit and late-night television commercials, but the truth is that injury law plays an important role in the regulation of dangerous behaviors as well as helping individuals to be made whole if an injury does occur. The basics of injury law need to be known by anyone who might interact with the legal system, as a failure to understand them can cost those who’ve been hurt the chance to make important decisions about their futures.
What is an Injury?
The best place to start with injury law is defining what counts as an injury and what does not. As a skilled lawyer will surely tell you, injuries are not merely those actions that cause you pain. Instead, an injury is usually defined as a situation that causes you some type of damage and – importantly -for which there can be some kind of restitution made. While an individual who pushes you might leave your arms sore, for example, it would be incredibly difficult to file any kind of injury suit if his or her actions did nothing more than make you feel uncomfortable.
Damage is usually seen not only in a physical sense but in a financial sense. An injury is generally something that has a pecuniary impact on your life – it causes you to spend money on seeing a doctor, to miss work, or even to go to therapy. If an incident results in the harm that has no short or long-term financial impact on your life, it may be hard for the courts to see how you could receive any kind of reasonable compensation for the harm.
Another major factor in understanding injury law is the concept of responsibility or fault. If you were to bring an injury suit of any sort, you’d have to prove that – to at least some extent – the injury was the fault of another person. It should be noted that injuries can be considered the fault of the other party even when he or she doesn’t take any kind of action – a lack of action in those situations in which an individual has a responsibility to act can still be seen as a cause of injury.
Individuals have different levels of responsibility to one another based on their relationships. These levels of relationships, also called duties of care, can be important factors when it comes to figuring out whether a person could be held liable for an injury that occurs. Individuals owe a different duty to care to those for whom they take responsibility than for strangers, for example, just as ownership of property implies as a certain set of responsibilities that don’t necessarily exist if two people are simply occupying spaces near one another. Responsibility, then, is a key part of understanding how injury law could be applied.
Looking at Causation
A skilled lawyer will tell you that one of the most important parts of injury law is figuring out what caused an injury. This isn’t just a matter of fault, but a matter of determining whether the other party had a legal obligation to make sure that the harm didn’t occur. This is generally significantly easier to figure out if the other party knowingly and willingly caused the harm, but causation doesn’t always have to come from directly taking action.
In fact, it seems that a fair proportion of injuries aren’t caused by people who go out of their way to cause injuries at all. Instead, they are caused by those who either know of the consequences of their actions and fail to adequately modify them or by those who owe a duty of care to others and simply choose to ignore those duties. Both recklessness and negligence can lead to injuries other people, and those who fail to act in the manner required by law can find themselves held responsible for the injuries of others. The court seems to have as much interest in holding individuals accountable for failing to act in the right way as it does in holding them accountable for knowingly acting against the law.
An injury suit will usually involve proving that an injury occurred, that the injury was caused by another person’s action or inaction, and that the other party had some kind of responsibility to act in a way counter to how he or she performed. Once all of this is proven, it’s important that some kind of consequences occur. As you might imagine, though, the consequences for a case involving injuries can greatly vary.
One should note that injury cases are not criminal cases; while individuals can go to jail for crimes that involve injuries, injury law isn’t concerned with criminal punishments. Instead, injury law is largely concerned with trying to undo the harm of an injury. In some cases, this is done by the perpetrator paying restitution to the victim – literally paying a sum that can be used to restore the victim to the place he or she was before the injury. In other cases, the court can step in to ensure that actions that caused the injury do not continue. In still other cases, the court might assess extra fines or punishments to send a message that the actions of the entity that caused harm are not acceptable in our society.
It’s important that you understand the basics of injury law if you are involved in any kind of injury suit. A skilled lawyer will provide you with advice and representation, but you need to know what to expect as you move forward. If you can understand the basics, you’ll stand a better chance of knowing when the law is on your side and when it is worth both your time and your money to seek out the help of a good attorney.