Legal Nuggets- Accidents

Injuries from so-called accidents are often disasters to the injured person. And the word “accident” is often a misnomer because the injury was caused by someone’s carelessness or negligence. In some cases, such as DUIs the wrongful actor was actually guilty of recklessness (sometimes called gross negligence).

If the injured person is disabled as a result of the injuries, his or her life may be destroyed by pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, bankruptcy, divorce, and other negative consequences.

If you are hurt on the job in an accident then you are covered under workman’s compensation insurance and may not bring a lawsuit for damages against your employer. However, in some cases you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defective product if that defective product caused your injuries. This is called a products liability lawsuit.

Some accidents unfortunately cause the death of the victim. In those cases the close family members of the victim can bring a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action. If the victim lived for a period of time after the injury then a “survival” lawsuit may be appropriate.

People, corporations, other businesses, and organizations can be sued for wrongfully causing personal injury to someone for a variety of causes, such as, wrecks, dangerous or defective products, toxic torts, unsafe premises, intentional torts, assaults and /or batteries, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other wrongs.

The injured party would be entitled to receive compensation for his or her actual damages. Actual damages include such things as medical bills, hospital bills, chiropractic bills, permanent impairment, scars, lost wages, pharmaceutical bills, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, the victim is entitled to damages for pain and suffering (past, present and future), future medical expenses, and emotional distress.

In serious cases where the wrongdoer’s actions amount to recklessness, the victim may be entitled to punitive damages, which are damages designed to punish the bad actor. These are also called exemplary damages because they are intended to set an example by punishing wrongful behavior and thus discouraging future such bad acts.

All these types of lawsuits arising from so-called accidents are part of the civil law system, not the criminal law system. In the civil legal system the accused wrongful actor is not arrested. And if the bad actor loses the lawsuit he or she is found “liable” not “guilty”. The verdict for damages is the only remedy in the civil law. Actual damages are not intended as punishment. Only in a criminal case can the wrongdoer be required to go to jail.

The liable wrongdoer who caused the “accident” can escape paying the judgment if he or she has no assets or declares bankruptcy. Thus, in most cases the victim is only actually compensated if the wrongdoer has insurance coverage or sufficient assets.

In conclusion, be aware that every accident case is different. You would be wise to have an attorney review the specifics of your case with you so that your legal rights will be protected. If you delay you could lose the right to make the claim for your injury because of statutes of limitation. Most attorneys like me who represent injured people will gladly give you an initial consultation at no charge. Take that wise step now and contact a good lawyer.


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