What Is Personal Injury Law?

Justice spelled in game pieces for personal injury cases

If you’re asking “What is personal injury law?”, you’re not alone. Television commercials, billboards, and social media feeds are ubiquitous with ads for personal injury lawyers, but a lot of these advertisements are vague about what personal injury law actually entails. The answer is nuanced but fairly simple to understand.

Have you been injured and suffered financial hardship as a result? Perhaps that injury came as a result of someone else’s negligence, or worse, their intent. Why should you have to bear the full weight of lost income and exorbitant medical bills for an avoidable injury caused by someone else?

What Personal Injury Law Means for You

Personal injury law, also known as tort law, involves civil proceedings related to various types of injuries. These injuries include:

  • Accidents: A majority of personal injury cases involve accidents. Common examples include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and medical malpractice.
  • Intentional Acts: If an injury is caused by an intentional act, such as an assault, the victim may seek a personal injury trial separate from any criminal trials. While a criminal trial may seek justice for the perpetrator, the separate personal injury trial can ensure financial restitution for the victim.
  • General Negligence: In some cases, the defendant doesn’t even have to be present when the injury occurs. Dog bite cases are one example. If the owner is responsible for the dog that caused the injury, they may be legally responsible for any damages.
  • Defective Products: In some cases, a defendant may be deemed liable even if they weren’t specifically negligent. For example, if a product proves defective despite extensive testing, the manufacturer may still be held liable.

How Do Personal Injury Cases Work?

The laws pertaining to personal injury cases vary from one state to the next, so it’s important to refer to the laws in the state where the injury occurred. In California, for example, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury suit against an individual or private entity. If the injury was caused by the negligence of a government entity, you have only six months from the date of the injury. (Note both of these differ from the statute of limitations on domestic violence reporting, which was updated in 2020 to five years instead of one.)

The first step is to connect with a personal injury lawyer right away. They’ll want to gather all evidence as quickly as possible and speak with any witnesses. Then they can start to build your case. Often, the case will reach a settlement, and you’ll never have to testify in court. If the two sides can’t agree on a settlement and the case does go to trial, your attorneys will guide you through the proceedings and ensure that you’re prepared to testify. Even if the case goes to trial, settlement negotiations may continue.

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t pay anything up front. If you win your case, the legal team claims a percentage as its fee. If you lose your case, you don’t pay anything.

The amount of money for which you’re eligible can vary based on numerous factors. For instance, you typically can’t sue for punitive damages in a car accident case or any other case lacking malicious intent. However, you may be able to sue for punitive damages in a DUI case or purposeful injury case. In a typical scenario, your potential payout is determined based on actual losses, including the cost of your medical care and any lost wages.

Close-up of front bumper damage following car accident

Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?

In most cases, personal injury settlements are not taxable. The Internal Revenue Service confirms that the full amount is non-taxable as long as you didn’t deduct any portion of the related medical expenses in a previous year.

There are exceptions to the rule, however. If the full settlement is related to your injury, the full settlement is non-taxable. However, if a portion is due to pain and suffering (in other words, anything not directly related to bills or lost wages), that portion is taxable.

What Personal Injury Law Can Do for You

It’s one thing to understand what is personal injury law. It’s another thing to know what to do if you’ve been injured due to the negligence or intentional actions of someone else. If you need legal assistance following an injury, Gammill Law is here to help.

We specialize in all types of personal injury claims and fight aggressively for our clients, backed by an impeccable record of successful trial resolutions. Contact us today for your consultation.