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Personal injury law (also known as tort law) allows an injured person to go to civil court and get a legal remedy (damages) for all losses stemming from an accident or other incident. The purpose of the personal injury system is to allow the injured person to be compensated financially or “made whole” after he or she has suffered harm due to someone else’s carelessness.

Accidents. Personal injury laws apply in situations where someone acts in a negligent manner, and that carelessness causes harm to another person. Examples include car accidents, trip/slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice, among other types of cases.

Defective Products. There are also situations where a defendant can be found liable for injuries caused by dangerous and/or defective products.


No two accidents are exactly the same, so no two personal injury cases will follow the same path. But there are some general principles that apply in most cases:

Defendant Does Something to Injure Plaintiff.

Plaintiff Determines that Defendant Breached a Legal Duty.

For example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles with the level of care that any reasonable person would exhibit while on the road. Doctors have a duty to provide medical care with a level of competence that a reasonably skilled health care professional would use under similar circumstances. Manufacturers and distributors have a duty not to put defective or unreasonably dangerous products on the market.

Settlement Talks Occur.

If it is clear to all involved that the defendant breached a legal duty, then the defendant (or the insurance company representing him or her) may wish to negotiate a settlement.  This would involve making an offer of monetary compensation to the injured person, in exchange for the injured person’s binding promise not to file a lawsuit over the injury.

If a plaintiff agrees to a settlement, the case ends. If not, the plaintiff may go to court and file a lawsuit.  Settlement negotiations can also continue once the lawsuit is filed and often do continue.

If a settlement is not reached, the case is brought to a jury trial.  Lawyers from both sides (plaintiff and defendant) present their respective cases to a jury and ask a jury to resolve the issues.

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