When someone is physically or emotionally injured, or their personal property is damaged, it is considered by law to be a “Personal Injury”. The laws covering personal injury allow the injured party to receive compensation for damages caused by someone else’s carelessness, negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions.
Personal injury law is also called “tort” law. Virginia and the Federal government have enacted tort laws for the protection of your rights. Tort actions have three elements: there must be a legal duty between the defendant (the one doing the wrong) and the plaintiff (the person injured); there must be a breach of that duty; and damage must occur because of that breach. When all three elements take place, a personal injury, or tort, has occurred.
The laws of our society places demands on all citizens not to harm others. This means that not only should people be safe from harm, but their possessions should be as well. Whenever someone else harms you or something that belongs to you, they become liable to answer to the tort laws governing the situation. Liability can be caused by intentional acts, torts, or by negligence. An intentional act is one designed to cause harm or injury. The person committing the act wants to harm you.
A negligent act occurs when someone fails to take appropriate action and you are harmed as a result of that failure. For instance, if an angry person throws a brick through your car window, that is an intentional tort (it may also be a criminal action). On the other hand, if a careless driver runs into your car, that is a negligence tort. In the first case, the defendant wanted to cause an injury; in the second case, the defendant did not want to injure you but failed to take the appropriate action to prevent injury. In both cases, the defendant had a duty not to injure you or your property because our laws and society create that duty. When that duty is breached by the intentional or negligent actions of the defendant and damage to your person or property results, you are entitled to recover damages.
Once a personal injury has occurred, the defendant has a liability to compensate you for the damage caused. “Damages” is the term for whatever is owed to you to compensate you for your loss. Damages can be agreed upon by you and the injuring party, through insurance settlements, or by other means, but often the damages offered to you may not fully compensate you for your loss. This is especially true if you have suffered physical injury and have not been able to work. Personal injury law is the mechanism for determining who is in the wrong, or in other words, who is “liable”, and what the liable person should have to pay for the damage caused.
If you are the victim of a personal injury, there are several things you can do to help yourself. First of all, make sure that you seek proper medical attention and that you follow up with the proper authorities and your own insurance company. If you believe your injury was caused by the carelessness or intentional act of another, you need to consult us. It is important that you contact Westlake Legal Group as soon as it is convenient to do so and avoid discussing the matter with strangers and/or insurance representatives who are not from your own insurance company. You should be cooperative with the police, your own treating physicians, and your own insurance company. It is important to remember that personal injury cases are covered by a statute of limitations, which means that you only have a certain period of time in which you can file a lawsuit so quick action on your part in imperative.
A distinct area of tort law is a wrongful death action. Wrongful death is the term used when someone causes the death of another person. The death may be caused by the actions of someone or by their failure to act (neglect). A defendant can only be held responsible for a wrongful death if it can be proven that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death. It must be proved that the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s act or omission. The time between the defendant’s action and the death of the decedent is not a factor as long as it can be proved that the defendant’s action was a proximate cause of the death. Wrongful death is a civil action rather than a criminal action. Since the person killed (decedent) cannot file suit or collect damages, it is the representative of the estate’s responsibility that do so.
The statutory purpose of any wrongful death action is to compensate family members or statutory beneficiaries who have suffered monetarily and emotionally from the death of a loved one. Damages are assessed to compensate family members for their loss. There are many ways in which damages can be calculated. Since damages can be awarded in a number of areas, it is important to examine each one carefully. The most obvious loss in a case of wrongful death is the actual expenses occasioned by medical treatment and funeral arrangements. These are usually easy to determine. Less obvious but equally important are the loss of future earnings and benefits, as well as the loss of companionship. These damages are more difficult to calculate and include anticipating the lifespan and earnings of the decedent, as well as the relationship with remaining family members. Loss of companionship is very difficult to calculate since it is completely subjective and does not lend itself to empirical measurements. It is a measure of the emotional pain and suffering experienced by the survivors. A final area of damages is punitive damages. This is an amount awarded to punish the person who caused the death, rather than to compensate for a specific loss. These damages can typically only be awarded when the actions of the defendant were intentional or grossly negligent.
Westlake Legal Group has significant experience in personal injury, wrongful death, and other tort litigation. Attorneys at Westlake Legal Group have produced three jury verdicts in excess of $1,000,000.00 in the last four years. While these results should not be used to predict any results in your case, they do demonstrate that our attorneys bring significant experience in evaluating cases and prosecuting them in favor of injured parties and are ready to help you.