Personal Injury Law and Its Scope

Personal injury law, sometimes referred to as tort law, pertains to cases where an individual sustains harm or injury due to the negligence of another party. This branch of law falls within the realm of civil law, where private parties engage in legal actions against each other, as opposed to criminal law, which involves government prosecution. In personal injury cases, the injury need not be a result of a criminal act but can stem from mere carelessness.


Lawsuits in this domain serve as a means for the injured party to seek compensation, which can help alleviate medical expenses and lost wages incurred due to the injury. In the landscape of personal injury law, cases often find resolution before reaching the trial phase of the legal process. Instead of proceeding to trial, the involved parties and their legal representatives engage in discussions to arrive at a settlement. If the case does proceed to trial, it may be adjudicated by either a judge and a jury or solely by a judge. In such instances, the task involves determining the extent of liability for each party and calculating a fair amount of damages for the incident.

Diversity of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury law encompasses the broadest category of civil lawsuits, largely due to its wide-ranging applicability; from workplace accidents to medical malpractice. Car accidents, making up over half of the annual personal injury cases, constitute the most common cause of injury-related lawsuits. Among these, car accident cases offer plaintiffs (injured individuals) the highest likelihood of success, yielding a median award of $16,000. These accidents can encompass collisions between vehicles, or instances where a vehicle strikes a pedestrian or cyclist.

Key Elements of Negligence

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff’s victory generally hinges on establishing the defendant’s negligence as the cause of the accident. Given the civil nature of these cases, the defendant need not necessarily have committed an illegal act to be deemed negligent. Negligence, in essence, implies a failure to exercise the caution that a reasonable person would in a comparable situation. In the context of car accidents, this negligence can manifest in various forms, including texting while driving, disregarding traffic regulations, or driving under the influence. Four primary elements contribute to proving negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Elements of Negligence Explained

Duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a specific duty. For instance, all drivers are duty-bound to ensure the safety of fellow drivers and pedestrians on the road.
Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated or breached the previously established duty. For instance, if a driver exceeds the speed limit through a crosswalk and strikes a pedestrian, they have breached their duty to drive safely.
Proving Causation: This involves two aspects. First, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the injury would not have occurred without the defendant’s negligence (actual cause). Second, the plaintiff must show that the harm resulting from the defendant’s actions was foreseeable (proximate cause).
Damages: To constitute a personal injury case, the plaintiff must seek compensation for the harm inflicted. This requires that the injury has caused tangible harm to the plaintiff. For instance, if a minor car accident results in neither personal injury nor property damage, there is no substantial harm and therefore no grounds for a case.

Specifics of Filing Car Accident Injury Cases in Minnesota

In Minnesota, distinct prerequisites apply when filing car accident injury cases. The individual must have accumulated medical expenses exceeding $4,000 due to the accident. Furthermore, the accident should have led to a disability, injury, or disfigurement lasting over sixty days. Importantly, the injured party is required to seek compensation from their insurance provider first, regardless of their responsibility for the accident. This means that if a person has personal injury protection in their insurance policy, any lawsuit they file must seek damages surpassing the coverage offered by their insurance. The minimum personal injury protection mandated for Minnesota drivers entails $20,000 for medical expenses and an equal amount for non-medical expenses such as lost wages. These regulations are designed to discourage frivolous claims.


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