Personal injury law, also referred to as “tort” law, is the body of law that allows individuals who are injured by the negligent or intentional conduct of another to bring a lawsuit and recover damages for those injuries. The damages are intended as a remedy; a way to compensate for injuries, or a way to make the injured person “whole.”
Personal injury laws are civil law claims. Personal injury laws have evolved from common law, or law that is made by judges, and statutes passed by state legislatures. Therefore, personal injury claims and damages can, and do, vary from state-to-state.
There is not just one type of personal injury claim. “Personal injury” is a term used to describe a number of different claims which all have injuries caused by negligence at the core of the claim.
The Most Common Personal Injury Claims
1. Car or Motor Vehicle Accidents
It is estimated that in 2020 there were 286.9 registered vehicles in the United States alone. Considering the number of motor vehicles (cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, etc.) on the road, it is perhaps not surprising that motor vehicle accidents comprise the most common type of personal injury claims. Each year, victims of motor vehicle accidents suffer injuries that range from minor to serious, and sometimes deadly. In order to prevail in a motor vehicle personal injury case, like a car accident case, the injured party (plaintiff) will need to show that he/she was injured by negligence of the party causing the injury (defendant).
Examples of motor vehicle accidents include:
- hit and runs
- rear-end collisions
- speeding crashes
- head-on collisions
- workzone accidents
- side-impact accidents
- accidents cause by those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fatigue, or distracted drivers
To succeed in a Charlotte North Carolina car accident case, a plaintiff must show that:
- the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- the defendant breached that duty;
- the breach caused the plaintiff injuries; and
- there are compensable damages
2. Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice happens when a patient is injured by the negligence of a medical provider or healthcare facility. In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must show that 1) the medical provider and/or facility owed the plaintiff a duty of care, 2) that they breached that duty of care by either acting negligently or failing to act, 3) that the breach is what caused the plaintiff’s injury, and that 4) there were damages as a result of that breach.
Medical malpractice cases in North Carolina, unlike other personal injury cases, require that the plaintiff have a medical expert. The expert is necessary to review the medical records, and then testify that in the expert’s opinion, the medical provider or medical facility breached the duty of care.
3. Workers’ Compensation
Employers have a duty to keep the workplace safe for their employees. Employers with 3 or more employees in North Carolina are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover injuries sustained by its employees as a result of a workplace accident or an occupational disease. Employees who are injured at work may have a workers’ compensation claim against their employer if they can show that their injuries:
- were the result of an accident;
- arose out of employment (someone injured in an office who is not an employee would not have a workers’ compensation claim. They might have a premises liability claim, discussed below); and
- arose during the course and scope of their job.
In North Carolina, unlike a typical personal injury case that can be filed directly in court, a workers’ compensation claim must first be filed with the N.C. Industrial Commission. It is the Commission that makes a determination of liability and assess damages. Following a decision by the full Commission, either party can appeal the decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
4. Premises Liability
Property owners have a duty to maintain their property and keep it safe and free of hazards. Typically, the duty applies only to those who are legally on the premises but there are some exceptions. Premises liability claims arise when the plaintiff is injured on another’s property due to the property owner’s failure to abide by that duty. One of the more common premises liability cases is slip and falls. A plaintiff who slips and falls on another’s property because that person or entity failed to maintain the property, or because there was a hazardous condition present, could have a claim for damages under premises liability.
Like in other personal injury cases, the plaintiff will have to show that:
- a duty of care was owed;
- there was a breach of that duty. In a premises liability case, that could involved showing that 1) there was an unsafe or dangerous condition either on the property or the property itself was unsafe or dangerous; 2) that the property owner was aware of the unsafe or dangerous condition and should have known that an injury could occur; or 3) that the property owner did not try to fix the unsafe or condition or warn visitors about it.
- the plaintiff was injured because of the unsafe or dangerous condition; and
- damages resulted.
5. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims often arise out of a motor vehicle accident or medical malpractice. The estate of the deceased victim (decedent) can file a wrongful death claim against a defendant responsible for the decedent’s death. Theestate will need to prove that the 1) defendant owed the decedent a duty of care, 2) that he/she was negligent, and 3) that it was that negligence that caused the death of the decedent.
In North Carolina, the only people who can recover damages in a wrongful death claim are beneficiaries. Beneficiaries must have been named in the decedent’s will or, if there was no will, following North Carolina’s laws of intestate succession.
Why Do I Need a Charlotte Law Firm?
Personal injury claims arise daily. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal injury attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.