Many of these incidents happen despite everyone’s best efforts. But in many cases, someone else’s intentional or negligent actions caused the injury or fatality.
In these situations, California law may entitle the injured person or the deceased person’s family to seek compensation for the losses caused by the at-fault party.
A personal injury lawyer can help these victims navigate the injury claim process.
Table of Contents
Basis of Personal Injury Law
The legal term for personal injury law is “tort law.” Tort law defines the rights of people and entities. Torts allow you to sue the at-fault party for monetary damages. Criminal law allows the government to potentially punish a guilty party with imprisonment.
These fields of law can overlap when an action is both criminal and tortious. Thus, if someone deliberately shoves you during an argument and causes you to fall, they may have committed both a crime and a tort.
But, many tortious actions do not qualify as a crime. For example, suppose that a customer accidentally spilled a drink at a restaurant. A server saw it but did not call anyone to clean it up. No crime has occurred if someone slips on the spilled drink. However, the restaurant may bear tort liability for any resulting slip and fall injuries.
Cases Handled By Personal Injury Lawyers
All lawyers study tort law in law school. Lawyers must know tort law to pass California’s bar examination. Some lawyers choose to practice tort law. These are personal injury lawyers that help people who have suffered physical, mental, or reputational injuries.
Not all personal injury lawyers handle all types of cases. Some limit their practices to certain types of cases due to their experience and training. As a result, they develop knowledge and contacts that help them in their area of focus. For instance, a lawyer who focuses exclusively on medical malpractice cases might develop a network of medical experts who can testify at trial.
Cases handled by injury lawyers fall into three areas of tort law, including:
As the name suggests, intentional torts happen when someone performs an action intended to cause harmful contact with you. The exact nature of the other party’s intent is key. For example, a driver may intentionally run a red light but without the intent to hit any cars. This would not qualify as an intentional tort, although it may constitute negligence.
For an intentional tort, the driver must intend to make contact with other cars. Some examples might include a road rage incident in which a driver deliberately bumps your car or a police escape where a driver uses their car to push your car out of the way.
When the at-fault party intentionally makes harmful contact, they have committed “battery.” If they only place you in imminent fear of a battery but fail to make contact, they commit the tort of “assault.” Someone who throws a chair at you during a bar brawl but misses, commits assault. If the chair hits you, they commit both an assault and a battery.
Some examples of cases that can fall under intentional torts include:
A jury can presume the damages suffered by the victim of an intentional tort. However, you might face difficulties trying to prove intent. Getting into someone’s head to determine their intent can pose problems.
Most injury cases involve negligence.
To prove negligence, you must establish:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
A party acts negligently when they fail to fulfill a legal duty to exercise reasonable care.
People and businesses owe you a duty of care in many situations, including:
- Doctors owe a duty to patients
- Businesses and landlords owe a duty to guests on their premises
- Drivers owe a duty of care to other road users
They can breach this duty by doing something objectively unreasonable. Even if the other party thought their actions were reasonable, the actions may still constitute negligence when considering what a reasonable person would do.
Examples of cases that fall under negligence include:
- Construction accidents
- Car accidents and other traffic accidents
- Premises liability, including slip and fall accidents
Since you do not need to prove intent, you can use negligence to expand claims. In a nursing home abuse case, for instance, you can pursue a battery claim against the abusive worker. You may also pursue a negligence claim against the nursing home for failing to screen and supervise workers.
You must prove that you suffered losses to win a negligence claim. You cannot sue for negligence if you suffered no injuries or property damage.
California law imposes strict liability in a few situations that involve inherently hazardous activities. Strict liability means you do not need to prove intent or negligence. Instead, you only need to prove that you suffered an injury and the other party controlled the instrument that injured you.
The three most common strict liability claims include:
In a product liability case, for example, you must prove the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s hands and that the defect caused your injury. Defects can appear in the product’s design, manufacture, or warnings.
Dog bite cases fall under a California statute. This law imposes liability on dog owners for dog attack injuries regardless of the dog’s prior history of viciousness or the owner’s attempts to restrain the dog. Thus, you could recover compensation for a dog bite even if the dog had never bitten anyone before and the owner kept the dog on a chain in a fenced yard.
Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Type of Case
You want a lawyer with the willingness and ability to handle your case. To find out whether a prospective lawyer handles your type of case, reach out to their office and request a free consultation. During your free consultation, you should discuss the lawyer’s experience to make sure they understand the issues you may face.
At Mission Personal Injury Lawyers, our award-winning trial lawyers have over 43 years of combined experience advocating on behalf of injury victims. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your case.