It is a principle of a just society that people who cause harm to others should be held responsible for their actions. If you’ve been hurt by someone’s actions – intentionally or negligently – you may have a claim against them in the field of law known as personal injury. Right Legal can help you find the right lawyer to bring a personal injury claim, or, if someone has filed a claim against you, the right lawyer can help you fight that claim and ensure that justice prevails.
What is personal injury law?
Personal injury law (see Edmonton personal injury lawyers) is the area of law concerning injuries caused by one person (or corporation) to another person. It is a subset of the broad area of private law claims known as tort law, and includes injuries caused deliberately (such as assault and battery) as well as the broad area of tort law known as negligence. Negligence is an area of law founded on the presumption that individuals owe a “duty of care” to those who might reasonably be injured by their actions. If their actions towards others fall below a prescribed “standard of care”, then the individual is said to be negligent. One of the most common examples of negligence cases is reckless or distracted driving. Professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and doctors, can also be found negligent – sometimes, professional negligence will result only in economic losses, but those losses are still compensable by tort law. In short, any time someone else causes losses to you through their deliberate or reckless (negligent) actions, you may have a viable personal injury claim.
Personal injury law extends to an area of law known as “wrongful death” – if one of your family members has died as a result of someone’s intentional or negligent actions, the law generally allows you to bring a claim on their behalf.
Another area of personal injury law is defamation, which refers to the publishing of false or misleading statements causing damage to someone’s reputation. Defamation is also known as slander and libel – slander used to be used to refer to defamatory statements that were spoken, whereas libel referred to printed statements. The law now considers both types of statements to fall under the broad heading of defamation.
What laws govern personal injury law in Canada?
Personal injury is an area of law that has largely developed over time without input from legislatures, through the “common law” – the process of judges rendering decisions. The legal tests for many of the torts we understand in society today – assault, battery, defamation, negligence – have been developed by the courts (almost always at the level of the Supreme Court of Canada) and have been refined over time through numerous cases.
However, there are still a number of pieces of legislation relevant to personal injury. In Alberta, Ontario, and most other provinces the Fatal Accidents Act and the Survival of Actions Act establish the claims the family of a deceased person may bring in cases of wrongful death. Each province will have a Limitations Act that sets out the maximum allowable length of time after an accident in which a claim can be brought. Additionally, statues including the Criminal Code of Canada exist at the provincial and federal levels to establish crimes and regulatory offences. While it is not guaranteed that you will succeed in a personal injury claim if the person you are suing has been convicted of a crime, their criminal conviction does offer compelling evidence of a tort action.
What sort of work would a personal injury lawyer do?
Personal injury is an entirely litigious area of law: lawyers will always act for either the plaintiff (the injured party, who files the lawsuit) or the defendant (the party who has been served with the lawsuit). The work of personal injury lawyers will include all work involved in bringing a claim to trial, including filing statements of claim or defence, conducting examinations for discovery, engaging witnesses, and building a case. Unlike criminal cases, where the Crown must prove the guilt of the accused “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the burden of proof in civil cases is only the “balance of probabilities”. In other words, when a judge weighs the evidence submitted by both the plaintiff and the defendant, he or she will find the defendant liable to pay if it is more likely than not that they caused the injury.
Points of Interest
The case of Dixon v Bell, which concerned a failure to properly secure a gun, which went off and caused an injury, was one of the first cases in which the courts began to explore the concept of negligence – heard in England in 1816!