Obviously, a personal injury case means that someone has been injured. If you are in an automobile accident and the only thing injured is your car, you may have a property claim, but not a personal injury claim. Our firm does not handle cases with only property damages, but there are other attorneys that do handle these types of claims. We focus on accidents where there are serious physical injuries involved. If you are in an automobile accident and both you and your car are damaged, you may have both a property damage claim and a personal injury claim. If that is the case, usually your insurance company or the other party's insurance company will handle the property damage portion of your claim.
Even if you were injured, not everyone who has been injured has a case against someone else. In order to have a legal claim regarding an injury, it needs to be the result of either someone else's intentional act, or someone else's negligence.
If someone harmed you intentionally, you usually have a claim against them for any injuries you receive. You may also be able to have them charged with a crime. On the other hand, if you are injured by someone else who did not intend to harm you, the question is a little more complicated. You have to determine whether or not the other person's action was careless. "Negligence" is the legal term used to describe this carelessness. In general, negligence means that the other person failed to act the way a reasonably careful person would have acted in the same situation.
You also have to show that the other person had a duty not to act in the particular way that harmed you. You then must show that the other person breached that duty. You also must show that the action (or failure to act) of the other person actually caused your injury. Finally, you must prove what those injuries are, including past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.
If a person is killed by the intentional act or the negligence of another, then that person, or their surviving family members, may have a "wrongful death" claim against the other party. Even in a wrongful death claim, the case needs to be evaluated to determine if anyone was legally at fault, or "negligent", for what happened.
When discussing negligence, it is important to remember that it is usually a jury that decides whether or not someone was negligent when they injured you. Believe it or not, a jury could look at your auto accident where someone ran into the rear end of your car while you were sitting at a red light, and, for whatever reason, decide that person was not negligent under the circumstances, which means you would lose your case.
Particularly in this age of "tort reform", where the insurance industry has many spent many years and vast sums of money on a public relations campaign to convince the public that most personal injury claims are bogus, juries are often very reluctant to give much, if any, compensation to injured persons. Therefore, it is important that your case be presented as strongly and persuasively as possible.
You can never assume that your case is so clear cut that you will automatically win. Even an experienced personal injury lawyer cannot promise you what the outcome of your case will be if you go to trial (if any lawyer promises you a certain outcome at trial, you should get up and leave his office immediately). The point of this is that there are no "easy" personal injury cases. This is an important point to remember when evaluating, with the help of your attorney, the strengths and weaknesses of your case, the possible value of your case, and whether or not you should settle your case or take it trial.