Here is some basic information to give you a framework for
understanding personal injury and wrongful death cases.
There are two broad types of law: criminal law and civil law.
Laws relating to personal injury and wrongful death are
forms of civil law. In criminal law, the goal of the system is to
punish a wrongdoer for committing an act that is offensive to
the proper and ordered nature of society. Murder, burglary,
arson, and robbery are just a few types of crimes that are recognized
as criminal offenses. A person who is convicted of
a crime or pleads guilty is punished, whether by a term in
jail or prison, a fine, community service, restitution to the
wronged person, or a combination of all or some of these.
Death by lethal injection is the most severe punishment for a
crime, and it is permissible only in certain murder cases that
have special circumstances.

Civil law encompasses a wide variety of areas such as bankruptcy,
corporate law, wills, trusts and estate planning, family
law, probate, worker’s compensation, education law, business
law, employment law, and that with which we will be concerned:
personal injury and wrongful death law, also referred
to as “tort” law. “Tort” is a French word meaning “wrong,” and
that’s what a tort is: a civil wrong in which another person is
injured or killed or his property is damaged. In civil law, rather
than making a wrongdoer serve a sentence in jail or prison, he is
ordered to pay the party who suffered the injuries an amount of
money designed to make that person “whole” again. Of course,
making the person whole again is not always possible, but a
monetary award is the only way we know how to compensate
the innocent victim.

For example, let’s say that a person has had her left arm
amputated in an automobile accident caused by another
person (the “defendant”). Unfortunately, medical science has
not advanced to the point where the severed limb can be reattached
and function good as new. Therefore, the law requires
that the defendant pay the injured victim a reasonable sum of
money to compensate for her loss.

The most often-used theory of liability in a tort (personal
injury) case is what lawyers refer to as “negligence.” Probably
the best plain English definition of “negligence” is carelessness.
For instance, a driver may not be paying attention and therefore
fail to see the taillights of the car in front of him as it comes
to an abrupt stop, resulting in a rear-end collision; the inattentive
driver would be guilty of the tort of negligence.

Perhaps an introductory lesson in law is appropriate here.
Negligence is comprised of four parts: (1) the person was
required to exercise a minimum amount of due care (safety)
to avoid hurting others or causing an accident; (2) the person
breached that standard of care by not acting safely (with the
“requisite due care”); (3) the person’s breach of the standard
of care was a “proximate cause” of the incident; and (4) someone
else was injured because of the person’s negligence (or

We are required to exercise sufficient due care at all times so
that we do not subject others to an unreasonable risk of harm
that may result in their injury or death. When we deviate from
the standard of due care and that deviation results in injury to
another person or damage to his property, then we are liable
for all of the monetary damages to that person that arise out of
our careless conduct.