Personal Injury Laws and You – What Constitutes a Personal Injury?

If you have suffered an injury due to the actions of another, you will need a personal injury lawyer. Maryland state law provides for several remedies in these situations. However, you might be surprised to learn that personal injury law, or torts, has a very broad definition of what constitutes an “injury” that goes far beyond the physical/medical realm.

The “Twist”

Although the idea of monetary compensation for injuries goes back some 4,000 years, the current definition of tort is a fairly recent one, dating from 11th century England. The word tort ultimately derives from the Latin term torquere, meaning to “twist” or “wring.” Related to the word “torture,” it came into use by lawyers around the year 1250 as tortum, meaning “injury” or “injustice.”

By Shakespeare’s time (the late 1500s), tort had come to refer to a “breach of duty,” in which an aggrieved party was entitled to seek a legal remedy for an injury that did not involve criminal wrongdoing or a breach of a written contract.

This is an important distinction. An injury that arises out of a breach of contractual obligation is considered a different issue from a legal standpoint, as is an injury due to a criminal action. Both contract and criminal law are different areas of specialty in the legal profession, although there can be some overlap. For example, if someone in your family is assaulted with a deadly weapon and/or murdered and the accused is found “not guilty” because of a technicality, they are constitutionally protected from further criminal prosecution under the doctrine of double jeopardy; however, as long as the statute of limitations has not expired, you are free to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against him.

What Constitutes “Personal Injury”?

Some of the areas that are covered by torts include:

o Intentional torts: this is where there is some overlap with the criminal justice system; “intentional torts” include assault and battery as well as false imprisonment, both of which are offenses against the state. However, it could also include infliction of emotional and psychological harm, such as bullying.

o Property torts: an example here would be someone trespassing on your property and causing damage to landscaping, plants, etc. or removing something from the property without your permission.

o Negligence: the most common personal injury cases involve negligence, when said injury is caused by another’s failure to exercise a “duty of care” (action or steps that would have prevented the accident).

o Liability: generally, this covers injuries and illnesses that are caused by defective products and/or services. Much of the time, liability lawsuits involve large corporations and thousands of people; in these cases, the suit often takes the form of a class action.

o Dignitary: usually, the injury here involves defamation, as when someone publishes malicious and/or misleading statements about you in print or online that damages your standing or reputation.

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