Personal Injury Law: Everything You Need To Know In 2023 (2023)

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Christy Bieber, J.D.


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Adam Ramirez, J.D.


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Updated: Mar 31, 2023, 5:02am

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Personal Injury Law: Everything You Need To Know In 2023 (3) Getty

Table of Contents

  • What Is Personal Injury Law?
  • What Types of Legal Claims Arise Under Personal Injury Law?
  • Who Can You Sue Under Personal Injury Law?
  • What Must You Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case?
  • What Damages Can You Receive in a Personal Injury Claim?
  • How Are Personal Injury Claims Resolved?
  • Do You Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim?
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Personal injury law is the body of law that applies when someone harms you. Personal injury law is also called tort law. Tort laws allow you to pursue a legal claim against one or more individuals who have damaged you or caused you to experience some type of loss.

There’s a lot to know about personal injury law. This guide explains what types of cases arise out of personal injury law, what your rights are under the law and when and how you can recover monetary compensation if you are hurt.

What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is the area of law that establishes your rights when you are harmed by someone else.

You can file a claim in state or federal court for personal injury cases. You are the plaintiff in your case, while the people, companies or other entities you make claims against are the defendants.

Personal injury laws govern what kinds of situations create grounds for a claim, who you can make a case against, what you must prove to win your case and what damages you are entitled to if your claim is successful.

What Types of Legal Claims Arise Under Personal Injury Law?

Many different kinds of legal claims arise under personal injury law. This includes the following situations.

  • Accidental injuries: If you are hurt by someone’s mistake as a result of negligence or failure to live up to a professional obligation, personal injury law applies. This includes medical malpractice claims when a doctor or care provider accidentally hurts you, accidents on properties when owners or renters are careless in maintaining their space, car accidents and more.
  • Strict liability claims: In some cases, if you are hurt as a direct result of someone’s actions or inactions, you can make a personal injury claim regardless of negligence or wrongdoing. A good example of this is when a defective product causes you harm. The manufacturer can be held strictly liable, which means they are responsible for your losses even if they did not act intentionally or negligently in developing, manufacturing or marketing the product.
  • Intentional torts: If someone hurts you on purpose, personal injury laws give you the right to pursue a claim for compensation. For example, this includes assault and battery.

There may also be other circumstances where you can use personal injury laws as the basis for a claim against a defendant who wronged you. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of understanding the laws that apply to your situation.

Who Can You Sue Under Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law dictates who exactly you can make a claim against when something goes wrong.

In most cases, your case is against the person, company or other entity (such as a government agency) that was directly responsible for harming you. In some cases, however, there are multiple potential defendants.

For example, in medical malpractice claims, you may be able to make a case not just against the doctor who actually provided substandard care, but also against the clinic employing that physician.

A legal doctrine called vicarious liability applies in this situation, holding the clinic accountable for the actions of their employees on the job even if the clinic itself wasn’t negligent. This is just one of many examples of vicarious liability. In fact, any employer can be held liable for torts committed by their workers during the performance of job duties.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you to review the law to determine all parties who may be legally liable for compensating you.

Regardless of which specific persons or companies you sue, though, you’ll most likely deal with an insurance company during your personal injury claim. Insurers providing coverage such as homeowner’s, auto, business or malpractice insurance pay damages up to policy limits when their policyholders cause harm. An insurer may offer you a lump sum settlement or payment agreement in exchange for waiving any future claims.


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What Must You Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case?

If you are a plaintiff, you must prove a defendant is liable to you in order to prevail in a personal injury case. The specific elements of your claim vary based on whether the tort was an intentional tort, whether the defendant was negligent or whether strict liability rules apply.

In general, however, you need to show the defendant had some kind of obligation (such as to drive safely or produce safe products) and the defendant failed to live up to this obligation (either intentionally or negligently). Or, you need to prove that the law says the defendant should be held accountable regardless of whether they did something wrong or not.

You also need to show the defendant was directly responsible for harming you through their actions or inactions and that you suffered losses you can be compensated for. It is up to you to show the extent of how badly you were harmed.

You usually need to prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that more likely than not, the evidence you are presenting is accurate and shows the defendant should be held liable for your losses under the law.

What Damages Can You Receive in a Personal Injury Claim?

If you successfully make your case under personal injury law, you are entitled to be “made whole.” This means put back into the position you were in before the defendant harmed you.

Some of the different kinds of compensation available include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages and loss of earning power
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, are available in limited circumstances.

Some states, however, have limits on punitive damages and even limits on non-economic damages—at least for certain types of cases. For example, you may be limited to recovering a maximum of $500,000 or $750,000 in non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you to understand if there are limits on damages and assist you in proving the extent of your loss so you can get the maximum possible compensation available under personal injury laws applicable to your situation.

How Are Personal Injury Claims Resolved?

Personal injury laws give plaintiffs the right to file a civil lawsuit to recover monetary compensation if there are grounds for a claim. But you do not have to go to court to get the money you are due from a defendant who harmed you.

Many personal injury claims are resolved outside of court through a settlement agreement. The defendant’s insurer may offer to settle your case by paying you a certain sum of money in exchange for you giving up future claims. If you settle, you can usually get paid faster than if you went to court and avoid the stress of a full trial, but you may not receive as much money as you would be awarded after a courtroom trial.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury lawyer will help you understand the laws that apply to your injury claim and guide you through every step of your case. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are hurt and a person, company or agency is to blame.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is personal injury law?

Personal injury law is the body of law that governs your rights if someone harms you. It’s also called tort law and it gives you the right to make a claim in civil court to recover monetary damages if you are harmed due to negligence, intentional wrongdoing or in a situation where strict liability rules apply.

What is compensation for personal injuries?

Compensation for personal injuries can include payment of injury-related medical bills and any wages you lost due to your injuries. If your ability to work is affected on an ongoing basis, you can receive benefits for future lost earning power too. You can also be compensated for pain and suffering and emotional distress. And, in some circumstances, additional compensation is available in the form of punitive damages which are designed to punish a defendant.

What is liability for personal injuries?

Any person, company or government agency can be held liable for causing personal injuries to victims. When a defendant is held liable, the defendant is found to be legally at fault for the harm they caused to a plaintiff. A defendant liable for losses is required to make the injured plaintiff whole by providing compensation for economic and non-financial losses.

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What is the most money awarded in a lawsuit? ›

This lawsuit resulted in a record-breaking settlement of $206 billion, paid by major tobacco companies to 46 US states to cover public health-care costs related to tobacco-induced illnesses. It remains the most substantial legal settlement to date as of 2023.

How do you increase settlement value? ›

6 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Personal Injury Settlement
  1. Get Medical Attention Immediately. ...
  2. Don't Accept a Low-Ball Offer. ...
  3. Keep Copies of Your Employment Records. ...
  4. Don't Trust the Insurance Company. ...
  5. Don't Forget Future Damages. ...
  6. Stay Off Social Media. ...
  7. Contact a Lawyer for Help.

What are the stages of a personal injury claim? ›

The personal injury claims process
  • Work out who was responsible.
  • Gather evidence.
  • Assess your injuries.
  • Arrange medical care or rehabilitation.
  • Review recovery.
  • Work out your compensation amount.
  • Reach a settlement.
  • Compensation payment.

What is the limitation in personal injury cases? ›

You normally have to make a personal injury claim within three years of the date of accident or the date of diagnosis for your illness. Some people refer to this time limit as the “limitation period” and it's very important that you don't wait too long before starting your claim.

What is a good settlement offer? ›

Definition of a “Good” Offer

A good settlement offer works in your favor and puts you back in a position of favor after the settlement is made final. Settlement offers need to consider all of the factors that have touched you in relation to your losses, damages, and personal injuries.

At what stage do most lawsuits settle? ›

Of course, settling a case out of court may protect the reputation and dignity of a defendant. In this regard, it can be said that both plaintiffs and defendants benefit from pre-trial settlements. According to the most recently-available statistics, about 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement.

What is the formula for settlement amount? ›

The general formula most insurers use to measure settlement worth is the following: (Special damages x multiplier reflecting general damages) + lost wages = settlement amount.

How do you negotiate a better settlement? ›

15 quick tips for negotiating settlement agreements
  1. Keep a written record of everything said verbally / in meetings.
  2. Try to keep everything to emails.
  3. Raise it informally.
  4. Raise it as a formal Grievance.
  5. Take time off sick if you feel stressed.
  6. Hope that they offer you a settlement agreement.

How do you negotiate a large settlement? ›

Use positive, respectful and generous negotiating behavior to engender it in return and make it easier to influence the other side into accepting settlement proposals. Express a desire to meet the needs of the opposition so that they can repay the favor by meeting your needs.

How long do most personal injury claims take? ›

However the typical personal injury case can take from a few months to a couple of years. Indeed, the timeline of your claim will depend on many different factors, some of which are within the control of you and your lawyer, and others that are largely within the control of the insurance company.

How long after an injury can you claim compensation? ›

Time Limits to File a Personal Injury Claim

Generally, you have three years from the date of accident to make a claim.

How long after an injury do you have to claim? ›

The statute of limitations is usually two or three years for most states, but others are five or six years. This means, for example, if you live in a state that has a statute of limitations of two years, you have two years to file a claim for injuries sustained from a car accident.

What are claim limitations? ›

A functional claim limitation is a type of limitation found in patent claims that define the claimed invention in terms of its functional characteristics or features, rather than its physical structure or components. It describes what invention does, rather than what the invention is.

What is compensation for personal injury claims? ›

Compensation is money awarded to somebody who has been involved in an accident that wasn't their fault. It's a financial settlement that covers the costs and impact your injury has had on your life, now and into your future. Personal injury compensation isn't just awarded to anybody who's been involved in an accident.

What are limitations on compensation? ›

Compensation Limitation means the maximum amount of annual compensation under Section 401(a)(17) of the Code that may be taken into account in any Plan Year for benefit accrual purposes under the Pension Plan or the Cash Balance Plan.

What is the biggest injury settlement? ›

Technically, the case against big tobacco was the biggest personal injury settlement in U.S. history although it wasn't a single person or family suing the companies. Forty-six states worked together to sue tobacco manufacturers, and they came away with a $246 billion settlement.

What personal injuries pay the most? ›

Spine and Neck Injuries

These injuries can happen in car accidents and different types of accidents. The average settlement amount for spinal cord injuries is $1 million. However, we've also seen them go up to $7 million. These injuries are often caused by car accidents, truck accidents, or slip-and-fall injuries.

What is the dumbest lawsuit award? ›

The Stella Awards are given for the most frivolous lawsuits in the United States.

What is the biggest type of lawsuit? ›

Big Tobacco Settlement

Big tobacco had been involved in lawsuits for more than 25 years. As a result of this enormous class action suit, the four tobacco manufacturers were required to pay over $206 billion to claimants. They also pay $9 billion annually in perpetuity.


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