What is Personal Injury Law?

Working in the area of personal injury, we are often asked the question – what exactly is personal injury law? It is a term that can often be bundled with words such as compensation, suing for damages, claiming benefits or an insurance claim. In this blog, we aim to break down some of the key concepts and provide a simple overview of what personal injury law is.

What is personal injury law?

Personal injury law focuses on an individual’s entitlement to compensation and/or benefits as a result of having sustained an injury, illness or death. It is a broad term that covers off on a range of circumstances in which someone could sustain an injury – be it at work, in a motor vehicle accident or an injury in a public place.

Within the general area of personal injury there are many different types of claims and benefits. The different entitlements arise due to varied pieces of legislation and from established schemes within New South Wales.

In some areas, an injured person has an entitlement to statutory compensation without needing to prove that there was any fault in the circumstances of the injury (i.e. a ‘no fault’s scheme). These scheme are generally focused on assisting the injured person recover. For other areas, before an injured person is entitled to compensation they must establish that their injury was caused by the negligence of another party or parties.

What are some of the similarities across the different areas of personal injury law?

Generally speaking, an entitlement is met by an insurance policy which responds to the claim. An insurance company does not always accept a claim therefore a large part of practicing personal injury law relates to dealing with disputes between an injured person and the relevant insurance company.

Another similarity is that there are thresholds in place across the different areas particularly around determining the degree of any injury sustained. In other words, a person may not be able to claim unless they have sustained a serious injury. 

What are some of the common areas of practice within personal injury?

·       Work Injuries and Workers Compensation

·       Common Law Claims/Damages Claims  

·       Motor Vehicle Accidents

·       Dust Diseases

·       Public and Product Liability

·       Occupiers Liability

·       Medical Negligence

·       Total and Permanent Disablement and Superannuation Benefit Claims

What are some examples of personal injury in the workplace?

Personal injury in the workplace is an injury to the body, either physical or psychological, which arises during the course of a person’s employment.

Work injuries can arise in many different ways and can include:

-       A fatality that occurs on a worksite;

-       A frank physical injury, for example a knee twist injury causing an ACL tear;

-       A physical injury that arises to the nature and conditions of their employment, for example repetitive use causing carpel tunnel syndrome;

-       A psychological injury, for example arising sue to workplace bullying and harassment;

-       A gradual disease process, for example sun cancers or industrial deafness.

You often see lawyers who are specialists in the area of personal injury. Why is this so?

Within the area of personal injury, there are many sub-areas which can have their own complexities. There has been significant legislative change over recent years which has resulted in different structures and regulations. For example, if you are an injured worker in NSW your entitlements will depend upon what your occupation was as there are different schemes for different workers and also the date upon which you sustained your injury.

The law is also continuing to change with some major legislative reforms proposed, particularly in the area of motor vehicle accidents and workers compensation claim. It is important for a legal practitioner in this area to stay abreast of any legislative reform. 

There are strict time frames that apply in which an injured person must give notice of a claim. It is critical that a solicitor understands these limitation periods in order to protect their client’s rights. 

Lastly – personal injury law tends to attract a certain type of legal practitioner in that a lawyer working in this area brings to the role a level of empathy and understanding. Personal injury clients are often severely impacted by having sustained an injury. It is important for a personal injury lawyer to know the law but to also offer a level of understanding and compassion to the situations faced by their clients.

If you wish to discuss a personal injury matter further, please feel free to contact our office on (02) 4046 1805 for a free, no obligation consultation. NO WIN - NO FEE available.