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2020 Personal Injury

Defining Common Personal Injury Terms


The person, group of people, or organization allegedly responsible for causing injuries in a civil lawsuit. There may be one or multiple defendants depending on the complexity of your personal injury claim and the type of case.

Torts and Intentional Torts

A tort is a legal term for any wrongful action that is not considered to be a crime or a violation of a contract, but which has hurt another person. If a tort is considered to be “intentional” – such as in the case of a violent assault – it may make the defendant both criminally and civilly liable. Torts are almost always the cause of action in a civil lawsuit, from negligence to wrongful death.


Negligence is the most commonly-cited tort in personal injury cases. To prove negligence in an injury lawsuit, you must show that the defendant had a “duty of care” to act with care and caution, but that they failed to meet this duty. Negligence can look different depending on the nature of your case: However, there are some shared elements across case types.

Duty or Standard of Care

In many circumstances, we have a “duty of care” to protect other people from harm, as much as it is reasonably possible to do so. When determining the duty of care, courts will ask whether the defendant had ample time, ability, and knowledge to inform you about a hazard to your safety. In some cases involving professional liability, such as medical malpractice, this is called the “standard of care,” as the professional’s actions will be measured against the accepted standard for their industry.

Statute of Limitations

The time limit placed on when you can file a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, but it is typically between 2 and 4 years from the date that the injury happened. Wrongful death torts often have a shorter statute of limitations from personal injury claims.