In everyday life, people suffer harms caused by others. It is an inevitable consequence of living in any society. If specific legal requirements are met, individuals who suffer certain harms can seek compensation for the damages they may have incurred because of the harm.
This is done through the filing of a personal injury claim. Within this claim, the damages and the cause of the damages will be stated (known as the cause of action) and will be the basis of the lawsuit.
Claims against businesses
All brick-and-mortar businesses have to meet and maintain certain standards of care for the benefit of their customers and the public in general. If a business fails to meet these standards and someone is harmed at that business, then the business owner may be held liable.
The easiest example to think of is the classic slip-and-fall scenario. If a patron slips on butter near the kitchen, on the way to the restroom, then the restaurant owner may be held liable in court.
Businesses are also responsible for the safety of the products they produce. Before any company puts a product into the marketplace, they are required by law to be sure that it will not cause any foreseeable harm to those who buy it. Failure to do so can result in serious financial liability for the company.
For example, if a defective cell phone model has exploded and harmed numerous people, then the manufacturer may be on the hook for millions. Another example would be a set of tires that came off the line defective and caused a crash, or even restaurants, which are responsible for the quality of their food. If a restaurant is found to be the source of an illness that sickened its patrons, then that restaurant may soon be the target of one or more lawsuits.
Car accidents account for a large percentage of personal injuries in the United States. This is why insurance is an important requirement. However, in many cases, injured parties will have to bring a personal injury claim separate from their insurance claim, especially if the insurance provisions are inadequate to cover the damages.
How these damages are calculated varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Jeff Preszler, a personal injury lawyer in Ontario, explains that Ontario courts follow the functional approach of calculating non-pecuniary damages; this approach seeks to provide the victim with enough funds to offer “reasonable solace” for their loss. However, other jurisdictions may use other approaches.
When a person is killed because of another’s action or failure to act, the criminal law gets involved. However, it is not the only legal remedy for victims’ loved ones. Civil law allows certain people of relation to the victim, such as a spouse or child, to file a claim for wrongful death and seek damages. This legal action is not subject to the results of a criminal trial for the same act.
For example, a defendant is arrested and charged with murder. He successfully defends himself at trial and is acquitted. Even though he was found not guilty, the defendant may still be held responsible for that death in civil court. This is because the standard of proof is higher in criminal cases than it is in civil actions.
In criminal cases, a defendant must be found guilty of a homicide or any other crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Whereas in civil court, a defendant is found to be responsible for a death based on a preponderance of the evidence, which requires less legal proof than the reasonable doubt standard.
Defamation of character
The law recognizes a person’s reputation and character as an extension of their own self. Therefore, if a person or business damages the character or reputation of another, they may be held liable for defamation. If the defamation occurs in written form, it is called libel. A newspaper that publishes unfounded statements or lies about someone, risks being sued for libel. If the defamation is done verbally, then the cause of action would be slander. A talk show host, spreading lies about a celebrity on their show would be a case of slander.
It is important to note that truth, no matter how damaging, is one of the defenses against a charge of slander or libel. If a newspaper prints an article about how a certain celebrity is a thief, and that celebrity is in fact a thief, then there is no defamation, no matter how badly the celebrity’s character has been damaged by the printing of the article.
The harms caused by animals
Pets are interwoven into the fabric of human society. Because of this, pet owners are legally required to maintain a standard of care with their pets, in order to keep the public safe. One obvious law that helps keep the public safe from pets is the leash law, which obligates the owner to have his dog on a leash when out in public.
Even when not in public, dog and other pet owners still have the responsibility of protecting the public. Adequate fencing is a must. If a dog gets away from its property because of a hole in the fence, and attacks a passerby, the dog’s owner is most likely liable for the damages caused by the bite and quite possibly other damages, such as harm caused by the infliction of emotional stress.
If you are the victim of a harm that has caused you damage, the civil law may likely have a remedy for you. The list of harms above is not comprehensive, and the examples are there to give you just an idea of the breadth of cases that are actionable with a personal injury claim.
It is recommended that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you do indeed believe you have a valid claim. An experienced attorney specializing in personal injury cases will review your case and will help you decide the best course of action for your circumstance.