You have probably heard of both personal injury and bodily injury when describing what happens when someone gets hurt, and they probably seem like the same thing. In fact, most people use them interchangeably. However, there are some important differences when it comes to the legal meaning of these terms.
Personal Injury v Bodily Injury
Personal injury is a legal term used for any kind of injury to a person, including that person’s body, mind, or emotions. This differentiates the term from property damage, which just means damage to property, such as an automobile or another inanimate object. A bodily injury is a legal concept that usually comes up in context with auto accidents, where insurance covers up to a certain amount of bodily injury.
During any car accident, bodily injury liability coverage usually has a per-person limit and a per-accident limit that caps the amount the company will pay, depending on the insurance policy. Liability coverage is supposed to pay out if you are at fault in an accident to cover any damages you may have caused.
When it comes to a civil lawsuit, the person making a claim that there is personal injury will say that he or she suffered a physical injury or another kind of injury because of the deliberate action or negligence of someone else.
The person making a claim is the plaintiff, and the person on the other end is usually called the Respondent or Defendant to the claim. If the defendant then lays the blame for the accident on a third party, that person is the Cross-Defendant.
The injury can be any kind of physical injury or even damage to someone’s reputation. If the person who suffered the injury has died, either because of the accident or not, the representative of the deceased person’s estate will take the place of the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Legal Aspects of Personal Injury
Civil lawsuits all have a statute of limitations, after which the plaintiff is no longer allowed to file the claim. There are some exceptions, but they are rare and can be difficult to prove. The law encourages anyone who wants to file a civil lawsuit to file the lawsuit early for many reasons. Otherwise, no one would know if someone was going to sue them for an injury from many years before.
In Arizona, the normal statute of limitations is two years. When does that two-year clock start ticking? Most of the time, you will need to file within two years of having your accident. That means that if you wait to file, you may lose your right to sue entirely.
Sometimes the clock starts ticking later, such as when you discovered the injury or when you could have reasonably discovered the injury. However, it may be difficult to prove that the injuries are related if they are further apart in time, so it is vital after being in an accident to seek treatment immediately.
Another important element in a personal injury claim is liability. Someone has to be at fault, either because of a deliberate action or inaction. That person must also have had a duty to the other person. In cases like auto accidents, drivers are required to be cautious and follow the traffic rules, so they don’t cause crashes.
Arizona is a fault state, meaning that the person who is injured must prove that the other person caused the accident resulting in their injuries. In a no-fault state, insurance companies handle the claims up to a certain value.
Arizona also uses the concept of comparative negligence, meaning that every person involved in an accident may get assigned a certain share of the blame. For instance, there may be an accident because someone ran a stop sign. The person who ran the stop sign may bring in another driver who committed an infraction that caused them to take evasive action, or even bring in the city as a defendant for having poor signage.
The burden of proof in a civil case is lower than that in a criminal case. Instead of having to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high bar, civil plaintiffs only need to prove the case to a preponderance of the evidence, which means greater than not. 51% out of 100 is enough to tip the scales on your side that the defendant acted negligently and caused your injuries.
Legal Aspects of Bodily Injury
After being in an auto accident, anyone involved who got injured can make liability claims on various types of injuries, including the driver, another motorist, pedestrians, and even passengers.
Compensation for bodily injury under the law includes many kinds of expenses, though, not just the actual medical bills. Medical expenses may include anything from crutches to long-term therapy if they are deemed medically necessary. Other expenses may include but are not limited to:
- Any lost wages you incurred because of the accident
- Lost earning capacity, if you suffered from a long-term injury
- Transportation to the hospital
- Pain and suffering
You can even claim compensation for scars and for future expenses if they are foreseeable. The fault driver is responsible for any damages caused to any injured person. Sometimes the car insurance company doesn’t want to cooperate, especially in cases where there may be a question as to who is at fault.
The policyholder carries a certain amount of bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability in case an accident happens, and sometimes expenses may be paid up to your coverage limits and then subrogated under your claim so that your providers get their money.
Elements of a Negligence Case
Because of the burden of proof, you will need to make sure your evidence is preserved from the accident. You are required to prove every element of the case, including that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care, whether it was another driver or a store owner.
- The defendant failed to meet the duty of care.
- That duty of care caused your injuries.
- Your injuries resulted in a specific amount of damages.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you will have to follow the rules as you prepare the lawsuit whether or not you have a personal injury lawyer, including the discovery rules. Your attorney can help you start getting the evidence together, which will all be needed if you have to go to trial. You will need any information you can gather about the accident itself, your injuries, and any parties and witnesses involved.
Mesa Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have any questions, you should ask an experienced personal injury attorney. Your first consultation is free, and it is better to ask questions as soon as possible before you lose your rights. We can help you sort out the legal issues while you get on the road to recovery
With over 50 years of experience, there is little our attorneys haven’t seen before.
Our law firm has handled many different kinds of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, slip, and fall accidents, and medical malpractice. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to schedule your free consultation.