A Brief Guide to Different Types of Personal Injury Claims
Summary: Learn about types of personal injury claims, with practice area examples including car accident, medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability and premises liability claims. The article also explains how to prove fault in a personal injury claim.
When people are injured due to someone else’s negligence, they may be entitled to compensation for the damages suffered by filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, compensated costs and losses fall into two categories: economic damages (monetary losses which can be objectively calculated) and non-economic damages (which may include pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment of life, and the loss of a marital relationship, or consortium).
To win a personal injury case, Pennsylvania law requires proving the other party was at fault by showing the following:
- The party who caused the injuries had a responsibility to not injure you and failed to live up to that responsibility.
- There is a connection between the other party’s responsibility and your injury.
- You suffered damages, or a financial loss, as a result of your injury.
Types of Personal Injury Claims
The following is a brief guide to the most common types of personal injury claims:
1) Product Liability
All products are required to be safe when used as intended. If a defective product causes damages, anyone with a role in manufacturing, selling, distributing or marketing a defective product that causes damages could be liable. This includes the manufacturer, the manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, the distributor and the retail store which sold the product.
If you are injured by a faulty product or medical device, you may have a claim under one of three categories:
- Defective design
- Defective marketing
- Defective manufacture.
There is a “strict liability” principle in Pennsylvania product liability law that a plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant was negligent or had intent to injure. It must only be shown that:
- the product was defective because a “reasonable person” would conclude that the probability and seriousness of harm outweighs the burden or costs of taking precautions,
- the defect made the product dangerous beyond the reasonable consumer’s expectations, and
- the defect caused injury.
1. Premises liability
Owners of private, public and business properties in Pennsylvania have a "duty of care" to inspect and maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and to protect people entering their property from dangers or injuries. If they fail to do so and their negligence results in an injury, they may be held liable.
A duty of care exists for the various types of visitors to property that are recognized by law - invitees, licensees and trespassers, but this duty is greatest to invitees. Property owners also have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for children who may be tempted to trespass and explore "attractive nuisances," such as swimming pools.
In addition to property owners, there may be other people or entities that may be held responsible for injuries, including tenants, work crews, landlords, security guards and companies, and people whose intentional, criminal actions caused injuries.
3. Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or practitioner or facility does not conform to the standard of care in Pennsylvania, determined by how similarly trained professionals would have treated the same condition. Medical professionals must have the same knowledge and skill and exercise the same care normally used in that profession and also must keep informed of the developments in the profession and use current skills and knowledge. Medical care that significantly violates an understood norm of diagnosis or treatment and causes injury or death to the patient through negligence may violate the standard of care.
Examples of common medical mistakes that may be malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis, delayed or failure to diagnose
- Wrong medication or dosage
- Surgical errors, unnecessary surgery, leaving a foreign object in the body, or operating on the wrong body part
- Laboratory errors or ignoring laboratory results
- Anesthesia errors
- Errors involving radiology, CT scans, X-rays and other imaging.
In medical malpractice cases, the doctor or other medical professional, hospitals and other medical facilities can be held liable for negligence.
4. Wrongful death
Pennsylvania defines a wrongful death as a death “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.” The actions that caused the death are the same type of actions you would find in a personal injury claim; but since the person is deceased, the claim to seek compensation for losses related to the fatality must be filed by another party, usually the Personal Representative or Executor of the estate. Relatives that qualify as beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased who can show that they sustained financial damages.
5. General personal injury and vehicle claims
You may be entitled to compensation if you were involved in a vehicle crash or other accident due to another party’s negligence or responsibility.
There is a Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations that personal injury claims must generally be filed within two years from the date that the injury occurred or two years from the date the person knew or should have known that the injury was caused by another's negligence. Notice is required within six months of an injury when bringing claims against government bodies in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has a “modified comparative fault” rule, reducing a total damages award by whatever percentage of the fault of the accident the courts determine is yours, and you may not collect if you are more than 50 percent at fault.
Regardless of type, if you believe you have a valid personal injury claim, you should seek the help of an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney at Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher, & Miller to ensure that you get the compensation you are entitled to.
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