What is “Personal Injury” Law?
Many people – particularly those who have never had a personal injury case – hear the term “personal injury” as it relates to the law but may not understand what the term means. I will attempt to explain the term and how this area of the law is different from other areas.
The term “personal injury” refers to the area of law dealing with injuries to a person’s body. In fact, in liability insurance, this area is referred to as “bodily injury,” meaning injury to one’s body. The two terms generally mean the same thing.
Attorneys that practice in this area must be competent in understanding injuries to the human body and the problems that relate to those injuries. The most common way that personal injury cases arise in modern metropolitan areas is auto collisions or wrecks. However, personal injury cases can also arise from slips and falls on someone property, trips and falls, cycling, and any other situation where a person is injured because of someone else’s fault. Most new calls that our office receives are related to auto collisions because we practice in metro Atlanta where most people commute (often great distances) to and from work. Consequently, the residents of metro Atlanta spend many more hours on the roads than those who reside in more rural areas. More hours on the roads creates more risk of injury in an automobile, which is likely the reason there are so many auto-related injuries in metro Atlanta.
Fault, or “liability,” is the other important area in which a personal injury lawyer must be competent. “Liability” means that a person or company has acted in a way that makes them legally responsible for injuring someone. This is a key to any successful personal injury case because no matter how severely someone might be injured, if that person cannot prove that another party was liable, then the injured party is not permitted to recover any compensation under the law. I once had a potential client many years ago call my office because she had been injured by a commercial truck (or tractor-trailer) and she had heard from several lawyers that I had a good reputation for helping people injured in this type of accident (Note: Though I represent injured people now, I spent the first half of my career representing trucking companies and their drivers when they were involved in collisions that resulted in personal injury and wrongful death cases). This pleasant young lady had suffered a horrific injury to her face and skull when she was riding in a car that was following a tractor trailer that was hauling scrap metal. The tractor trailer’s load of scrap metal must not have been secured because a heavy piece of sold metal (about the size of a basketball) fell off the trailer and flew through the windshield of this young lady’s car striking her squarely in the face. I will not go into detail, but she clearly sustained life-threatening injuries that kept her in the hospital for months, requiring multiple surgeries during this time. As discussed above, we could certainly probe that this young lady was injured and would continue to suffer from those injuries for the rest of her life.
However, proving liability was another matter entirely. Even if we could prove that the operator of the tractor-trailer had not properly secured the load, leading to her injury, we had no way to identify the operator and/or his company. We tried every method we could think of – we even obtained copies of the traffic camera footage from the time and location of the injury but were unable to identify the operator, company, or vehicle. Unfortunately, the law provided to options for compensation for this young lady because there was no way to prove liability.
A good personal injury lawyer will investigate the liability aspect of any potential case and may even change their opinion on the matter if new facts or circumstances arise during the case.
The Marietta personal injury attorneys at The Strickland Firm can help you understand your options going forward, and protect your rights if trial becomes necessary. Contact the offices today for a free consultation.