Legal Liability Actions 101: What You Need to Know

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Legal liability is imposed by a court for the actions—or, in some cases, inactions—of a party. Legal liability is incurred when a legal wrong takes place—either a violation of a person’s rights, or a failure to perform a legal duty. There are three basic types of legal liability, arising from three general classes of legal wrongs:

 ·         A crime occurs when a person intentionally inflects an injury, or takes something from another person.

·         A tort is a civil wrong which causes a loss—an intentional tort is a willful act or willful failure to act which resulted in injury to another. There are other types of intentional torts such as patent infringement, slander, false imprisonment and libel.

·         A breach of contract occurs when one party fails to perform an agreed-upon contract.


Legal liability actions are generally torts which occur due to negligence—the failure of one person to exercise the required level of care to prevent injury to another person. As an example, car accidents—the number one cause of civil liability lawsuits—are generally the result of one person’s negligence, which caused injury to another. These torts are more commonly known as personal injury claims.


Other Types of Legal Liability Claims

Other types of personal injury cases include:

·         Premises liability cases including slip and falls and dog bites.   

·         Product liability cases which occur when a product is used as intended, and an injury results from a defective or dangerous design.  

·         Medical malpractice lawsuits which result when a doctor fails to act in a manner in which another reasonable, similarly-trained doctor would have done. 

·         Construction accidents, which are more common than you might think, and can cause serious, even fatal injuries.  

·         Bicycle and pedestrian accidents, which are often the result of a negligent driver, and can result in serious injury.


The Legal Liability Following a Car Accident

More than 37,000 people are killed in auto accidents each and every year while another 2.35 million suffer injuries or disability.  These injuries could be relatively minor, meaning the victim will recover in a matter of weeks, or could be quite severe, meaning it could take months or years to fully recover—or that a full recovery may never happen. Families who are touched by a car accident understand the pain involved in this type of personal injury. They may lose loved ones or have their lives irrevocably altered because another driver was distracted or negligent.


Does Insurance Really Protect You?

Most adults will take reasonable precautions to defend their home and family against the unexpected. We insure our home and our vehicles, provide medical insurance for ourselves and our family members and even purchase life insurance so our loved ones will be taken care of in our absence. Each month when we write out the check for all this insurance, it generally gives us a feeling of security, knowing we are protected should disaster strike. The television ads assure us constantly that when an accident occurs, all it takes is one simple phone call to your insurance company and you will be taken care of.


The Reality

Unfortunately, those who have experienced serious car crashes may have found out the unpleasant reality—that dealing with your insurance company following a catastrophe may prove to be entirely different from what you had imagined. Your insurance company (or the other person’s insurance company, depending on the circumstances of your accident) may offer you such a ridiculously low settlement that it leaves you in despair. Your medical expenses could be piling up at an alarming rate, and even with health insurance you know you will be responsible for a percentage of those expenses.

Your vehicle may not have been repaired, leaving you completely without a vehicle if your insurance didn’t happen to cover a rental, and you may be unable to work meaning there is no regular source of income coming into your home. If you suffered severe injuries such as brain trauma, spinal cord injury, serious burns or fractures or facial disfigurement you may be looking at months or years of surgical procedures, rehabilitation and therapy, and if life-long treatment is needed, the limits of your medical insurance policy could soon be exceeded.


Frivolous Lawsuits are the Exception Rather than the Rule

Many people view personal injury claims very negatively, believing that people who file such lawsuits are nothing more than frivolous money-grubbers. The belief that people will claim compensation regardless of the ethical or moral implications of the case is one of the primary myths surrounding personal injury cases. In fact, most personal injury cases are filed by those who have suffered legitimate accidents and injuries and frivolous lawsuits are actually few and far between.

 The cases which are frivolous tend to get so much attention from the media that it can seem like most personal injury cases are without merit. The insurance lobby has perpetrated the idea that personal injury attorneys are getting rich on the average citizen’s dime, making people think that personal injury lawsuits are costing the public thousands each year. Personal injury cases which are without merit will simply be dismissed by the judge and personal injury attorneys who file frivolous claims can be severely sanctioned by the court system.

If you have been injured in an accident through the negligence or recklessness of another person, it is important that you have a personal injury attorney by your side who will act with integrity and will have the necessary experience to fight for what you deserve. That being said, not every personal injury victim will receive compensation for their claim. Some cases are simply too weak or inconclusive to merit a settlement.


Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney for a Legal Liability Action

An experienced personal injury attorney is often the only thing standing between you and an unscrupulous insurance company. Your personal injury attorney is your advocate—perhaps the only person who truly has your best interests at heart and believes you deserve to be fully compensated for your accident. The goal of your attorney is to force the insurance company to pay you every penny that you deserve. The experienced personal injury attorney wants to ensure that your injuries are taken care of, that your car gets fixed, that your mental trauma is compensated and that you don’t have to worry constantly about the paycheck you are no longer receiving.


About the Author

John Newby is one of the shareholders of Tronfeld West & Durrett. Mr. Newby focuses his practice exclusively on personal injury law. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Richmond Bar Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. He currently serves on the Virginia Trial Lawyer’s Association Tort Law Legislative Subcommittee. Mr. Newby chairs the firm’s products liability section.

Mr. Newby lives in Powhatan with his wife and daughter. When not working, he enjoys spending time outdoors, travelling with his family, and watching football.