Most personal injury cases fall under tort law. Specifically, most personal injury claims are based on negligence. These cases arise after one person injures another person due to negligence (or carelessness).
Below, you will learn about some of California’s most common personal injury cases.
Personal Injury Statistics
No one has studied the types of personal injury cases filed in California. But the Judicial Council of California releases an annual Court Statistics Report as required by the California Constitution.
This report lists the total number of cases filed and a rough breakdown of the types of cases.
The most recent report for 2021 includes a warning that the courts were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic between March and June of 2020. So the statistics used here come from the Court Statistic Report that includes 2019 data instead of 2020 data.
In 2019, trial courts in California received about 220,000 new lawsuit filings where the amount of damages was not specified. According to the Court Statistics Report, about 40,000 of those 220,000 cases arose out of a motor vehicle accident. Another 22,500 arose out of another type of accident that caused bodily injury. The remaining 157,500 civil cases involved an area of law other than torts, such as contracts or real property.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In most of these cases, the accident victim will rely on negligence law to claim damages for their injuries. To prove negligence, the injured party must provide evidence that a vehicle driver failed to exercise reasonable care in driving. They must also prove the other party caused the accident and injured them.
If the accident involves aggressive driving or other intentional actions, the accident victim could rely on the intentional torts of assault and/or battery to claim damages. These are civil causes of action for assault and battery.
Assault happens when the at-fault driver intentionally performs an action that places the accident victim in imminent fear of harmful contact. Thus, an aggressive driver who swerved toward the victim’s car in a fit of road rage might have committed the tort of assault.
A battery happens when the at-fault driver intentionally causes harmful contact with the accident victim. An aggressive driver who deliberately rear-ends another car might bear liability for the tort of battery.
Remaining Personal Injury Cases
The Court Statistics Report does not break down the non-vehicle personal injury cases. But a study by the U.S. Department of Justice can shed light on the relative proportions of the remaining cases.
This study found that 60% of personal injury cases involve motor vehicle accidents. In the most recent Court Statistics Report, 64% of personal injury cases filed in California involved a motor vehicle accident.
Using the remaining statistics, the most common injury cases after motor vehicle accidents include:
- Premises liability at 17%
- Medical malpractice at 5%
- Product liability at 3%
- Toxic substances at 2%
No other causes made up more than 1% of the cases studied.
Premises liability cases arise out of the duty of owners or occupiers of land to keep guests safe on their property. Some accidents that fall under the umbrella of premises liability include:
- Slip and fall
- Trip and fall
- Negligent security
- Toxic substances
- Falling objects
- Defective elevator and escalator
- Swimming pools
- Amusement park rides
When any hazardous condition exists on the premises, the owner or tenant must:
- Find the hazard
- Warn guests of the hazard until they can fix it
- Fix the hazard
If the owner or tenant responsible for the premises fails to take these actions in a reasonable time, they may bear liability for any injuries that occur.
Healthcare providers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and hospitals, must meet the professional standard of care when treating patients. They have committed medical malpractice when they fail to provide reasonably professional care.
Medical malpractice is not the same as a medical error. A harmless medical error or a medical error that was reasonable under the circumstances will probably not constitute medical malpractice. Similarly, a bad outcome does not constitute medical malpractice unless the bad outcome occurred due to professional negligence.
Medical malpractice generally falls into three categories:
- Diagnosis error
- Treatment error
- Communication error
If a medical professional injures you as the result of any of these errors, you may have a malpractice case.
Product liability differs from other torts because you do not need to prove negligence in a product liability case. Businesses that put a defective product into the stream of commerce have strict liability for any injuries that result.
This means accident victims do not need to prove the business negligently or intentionally allowed a defective product to reach the public. Instead, the accident victim only needs to prove the existence of the defect.
Toxic substance cases usually involve aspects of premises liability or product liability.
Suppose an apartment complex’s pool system develops a chlorine leak that allows the gas to leak into your apartment. The pool chemicals were not defective. But they still injured you, so you would assert a claim against the landlord or pool maintenance company for your injuries.
Similarly, suppose that you developed tumors after working at an auto body repair shop. You might bring a product liability case against the paint manufacturer for not providing adequate warnings about the toxicity of the paint.
You Can Recover Damages in a Personal Injury Claim
If you can prove your that another party caused your accident in California, you can seek economic and non-economic damages. Your economic damages will cover your financial losses due to medical bills and lost income. Your non-economic damages will cover the diminishment in your quality of life due to pain, suffering, and inability to perform tasks.
Contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. They can help you identify your legal options and pursue the compensation you need to move forward after your accident.