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Personal Injury

Personal injury law (also known as tort law) allows an injured person sue for a civil wrong and get a legal remedy (damages) for all losses stemming from an accident or other incident. The purpose of the personal injury system is to allow the injured person to be compensated or "made whole" after he or she has suffered harm due to another's negligence or intentional conduct.


There are a wide variety of different situations where personal injury cases, among them are:

Accidents/Negligence. Personal injury laws apply in situations where someone acts in a negligent manner, and that carelessness causes harm to another person. Examples include car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and medical malpractice, are among other types of cases.

Intentional Acts. Personal injury laws apply in situations where a defendant's intentional conduct causes harm to another person. Examples include assault and battery, and other intentional torts.

Defamation. Personal injury laws apply when one person's defamatory statement causes harm to another person's reputation. Examples include publishing untrue and harmful material on the internet.

A Personal Injury Case At Work. No two accidents are the same, so no two personal injury cases will follow the same course of litigation. With that said, there are standard paths that most personal injury cases have in common.

Defendant Does Something to Cause Injury to Plaintiff. This can be almost any bad act by defendant, with the exception of contractual breaches, which are handled under a separate body of law known as "contract law."

Plaintiff Determines that Defendant Breached a Legal Duty. The specific legal duty depends on the situation in which the injury occurred. For example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles with with the level of care that any reasonable person would exhibit while on the road. Doctors have a duty to provide medical care with a level of competence that a reasonably skilled health care professional would use under similar circumstances.

Claim to the Defendant's Insurance Company. In cases where it is clear that defendant breached a legal duty, then the defendant (or the insurance company representing him or her) may wish to resolve the claim prior to filing suit. This typically involves filing a claim with the defendant's insurance company which includes an analysis of liability, damages and demand for compensation. The insurer then typically makes an offer of monetary compensation to the injured person, in exchange for the injured person's binding promise not to file a lawsuit over the injury.

If a plaintiff agrees to a settlement, the case ends. If not, the plaintiff may go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit. Settlement negotiations can continue even after a lawsuit is filed but typically after the defense has conducted "discovery" including reviewing medical records, deposing plaintiff and witnesses. The case may also settle short of trial in some for dispute resolution typically mediation. Thus, settlement can be reached at any time prior to the civil case being given to a jury.


Immediately following an accident is the most important for finding and preserving evidence of what happened -- and for documenting your injuries. Even though you may be in injured and in pain it is important to do your best to document pertinent as much pertinent information concerning the incident as possible.

Physical Evidence

Liability of who is at "fault" for an accident can be shown through variuous forms of evidence including "physical evidence" -- physical evidence is usually something that is taken directly from the scene. It is tangible evidence something that you can see or touch as opposed to a description of what happened. Examples include tire marks on the road, impact marks or dents on a vehicle, broken glass, a weapon and/or a physical obstruction which may have constributed to an accident.

Physical evidence from motor vehicle accidents are key in demontrating the severity of impact and collision, and torn and/or bloody clothing can be instrumental in demsontring the severity of the physical injuries sustained.

Evidence that is not preserved or photographed shortly after the accident often gets lost, destroyed, altered by time, the elements and in some cases can be reparied. Accordingly, it is important to perserve any physical evidence related to your personal injury including your damaged car or bike, clothing in teh same condition it was immediately followling the accident.

Police Reports in Car Accident Cases

After any moderate or serious car accident especially involving injuries, it's essential to report the incident to the police. The police will conduct an accident investigation to to determine liability and the cause of the accident which can be invaluable to pre-litigaiton settlement discussions notwithstanding the fact that the report is usually inadmissible in court.


If there is little or no physical evidence or for any reason cannot preserve it, the next best option is to photograph it. Photographs including through your cell phone can be invaluable to your personal injury claim. Photographs typically provide an accurate depiction of the scene including position of the vehicles, weather, lighting, traffic conditions, obstructions from varous vantage points. These days, it also possible to shoot a video of the inident with most modern cell phones.

You want take a a number of photos from different angles so that you can later pick out the ones that most clearly show whatever it is you want to highlight to support your personal injury. You also want to take them as soon as possible so that they will accurately represent the condition of the evidence immediately after the accident. To establish authencity of the photos, have a someone watch you take the photos and write a short note confirming the date and time they were taken.

Returning to the Scene

If an accident occurred somewhere other than in your home, return to the scene as soon as possible to locate any evidence and photograph any conditions you believe may have caused or contributed to the accident. You may be amazed to find something that you were not aware of when the accident occurred but that may help explain what happened: a worn or torn spot on which you fell, a traffic light that isn't working. While looking around, you may also find witnesses who saw what happened or who know of other accidents that happened in the same spot.

Take photographs of the accident scene from a number of different angles including the your view of things right before the accident. You also want to photograph the scene at the same time of day as your accident. For vehicle accidents, photograph the scene on the same day of the week to show the similar traffic conditions.

Evidence of Your Injuries

Photographs of your injuries help establish the extent of your damages. Detailed photos of significant bruising and lacerations help to tell the story of your pain.

Without question though, medical records are the key to establishing the extent of your injuries and subsequently, the amount of compensation you should demand. In addition, the type of medical treatment you get is important including weather you were taken away from the scene by ambulance or sought medical treatment immediately after the accident. You can also be assured that a defendant in your case is going to request your medical records. For this reason, it's critical to seek immediate treatment for your medical injureis and follow any treatment recommendations - especially referrals to other specialists.

If you have been injured, you should contact a reputable attorney with experience in personal injury law. For outstanding legal representation, please contact RLG for a free consultation: (415) 877-4486. We serve the entire Bay Area.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information, and the submission of any e-mails, do not create an attorney-client relationship.