Personal injury cases fall into a legal area known as tort law. Tort law allows private citizens to hold another party responsible for a wrongful act that caused harm.
Tort law is argued in the civil court system rather than the criminal court system and is used to determine the accused party’s liability for his actions. Criminal law is used to determine the accused party’s guilt of breaking the law. Torts cases — particularly personal injury lawsuits — are won when the defendant (the party accused of fault) is ordered by the court to pay financial damages to the plaintiff (the injured party). Criminal cases are won when the defendant is ordered a punishment, like jail time or community service hours.
So why is all this confusing information about “tort” vs. “criminal” law important to you today?
If you’re here exploring a potential personal injury claim, it’s very important! Whereas criminal law can be rather black and white, tort law can be very grey. That means your accusation of a breach of tort law may be very difficult to prove.
It’s one thing for you to accuse a robber of breaking into your shoe store here in Chattanooga and stealing your entire stock of cowboy boots. It seems pretty cut and dried that the robber is at fault for breaking the law against taking your property, right? It’s another thing for you to accuse a Chattanooga store owner of causing your broken arm after you tripped on broken floor tiles in the middle of her shoe store. Are broken tiles illegal? What law did the store owner break?
If this sounds like the personal injury lawsuit you’re envisioning, the first order of business is figuring out what legal responsibility, if any, the store owner had to you while you were in her store. (And after you accuse her, she is quite likely going to figure out what legal responsibility you had for yourself while you were in her store.)
Premises liability law says that if you are given access to a property, you have a reasonable expectation to assume you’ll be safe while you’re there.
Ah! Okay, so it turns out that you weren’t safe while you were there. According to you, the property contained broken floor tiles which led to your personal injury of a broken arm. But aren’t things broken in all kinds of stores on a regular basis?
Sure, things like floor tiles are broken all the time. So, now the second order of business is figuring out if the store owner knew about the hazard of the broken tiles. Did anyone know when the tiles were first broken? Is there proof of when they were first broken? Is there any record of complaints about the broken tiles or instructions to repair them? If the store owner knew about the tiles but didn’t have time to do the repair, did she provide an obvious warning of the hazard so that you wouldn’t be hurt because of it?
All these questions have to be answered before there can be any talk of compensation for your injury. If the store owner knew about the hazard and didn’t bother to do a repair, then you may have a valid personal injury lawsuit.
But what if the store owner saw you running through her store earlier in the day? What if you weren’t running through her store, but she says that you were? Can you prove that you weren’t? Are there witnesses who can prove that you weren’t?
This is the grey area of tort law! As the injured party, the burden of proof about who (or what) caused your broken arm is all on you. And anything can happen, from the appearance of a security video that proves you were horsing around, to an email from three months ago instructing the store owner to fix the hazard. You can’t dig up all that information, can you?
Your personal injury lawyers can! If you were injured in Chattanooga, then it would be wise to find local lawyers experienced with premises liability laws to investigate your case. Often times, only locals know how best to get things done. Our inside connections and knowledge of the court
s system here in Chattanooga can make a big difference for our clients.
Don’t take on a personal injury lawsuit all on your own. And don’t take it sitting down if you know somebody was at fault but they won’t pay up. The Insiders are personal injury lawyers, and we think arguing torts is fun!