Personal Injury FAQ
I am hurt – do I have a case?
That is the obvious question; I wish it had an obvious answer. If you were injured because someone breached a duty they owed you and caused your injury by that breach, you probably have a case. Of course, that answer creates more questions than it probably answers. Like, “who owes me a duty?” and “what do you mean by a breach?”
If you were injured by someone’s negligence, most likely you have a case. Whether it should be pursued is another question and one which you will need the advice of an experienced accident lawyer to answer.
What is “duty” and who owes me one?
Duty is a complicated concept and changes based on the relationship between you and the person who did you wrong. A stranger on the street owes you a duty to act reasonably, but oddly enough, does not owe you the duty to try to help you if you are hurt or in trouble. So a stranger, even if he could save your life, does not have to and is not liable if he chooses not to. But if he undertakes to help you, he must do a reasonable job. Strange but true.
Other drivers owe you the duty to obey traffic laws and drive as a reasonably prudent driver would drive. Most people are held to the “reasonable person” standard, so that is usually the fallback duty. The drivers of some vehicles, specifically commercial carriers like buses, trains, and planes are considered “common carriers” and have a heightened duty of care.
Duty almost always depends on your relationship with the other person and that is most obvious when you are on someone else’s property. For example, if you are a trespasser on someone’s property, the property owner only owes you the duty of not hurting you on purpose (unless they are protecting their property). If you are on a person’s premises for your own benefit and are not trespassing (like you make a sales call), then you are a licensee and the landowner has a duty to warn you of any known dangers on the premises. If you are a guest of the premises owner, like when you go to a restaurant, you are an invitee and the premises owner has a duty to make the premises safe for you.
Duties change based on relationships. It is a complicated issue and it is why most injured people need an attorney to evaluate their case.
Why do you practice personal injury law?
There are several reasons, both personal and social, why I chose to practice personal injury law. First and foremost, I do this because of how I am made. I hate bullies. I hate big people picking on smaller people and I hate people with power taking advantage of people without power. It’s the way I have always been. In fact, I got my teeth kicked in, literally, trying to protect a smaller kid from a bully in the first grade. Personal injury law allows me to stand up for individuals against big companies they normally would have no chance against. It makes me feel incredibly proud when I can hold a big corporation accountable for hurting a person.
I also believe that personal injury law is the best way to make people and companies behave better. The United States is a capitalist society and, in my opinion, the best in the world (I am probably a little biased). We enforce the criminal law with criminal penalties, but we enforce business rules with lawsuits. When a CEO makes a decision to omit a safety feature in a product because it is cheaper and increases the bottom line, we do not put that person in jail when his decision hurts someone. Some countries do and I am sure it serves as a powerful deterrent to bad behavior. But in the United States, we instead use lawsuits to make mistakes and poor decisions expensive. What capitalists respond to, and companies especially is the bottom line. If the decision to omit a safety feature ends up costing the company millions of dollars instead of saving money, then the next time that decision comes up, there will be a different analysis. If we make mistakes expensive, capitalists will make fewer mistakes. There must be consequences, either jail or financial, to deter bad behavior. I like the way we do it and I like to think I am making the world a better place, or at least playing a part in making it better, with every lawsuit.
Not everyone agrees with my analysis or the benefits of personal injury law. But I feel good about what I do and I like helping people who would otherwise be helpless. And I think the injured deserve an advocate. That is why I practice.