A personal injury is literally harm to your person– that is, to your body, mind, or even emotional state. Injuries are often caused by accidents, and accidents can happen anywhere, whether we’re driving, doing work, going to the doctor, or simply living our lives. Thankfully, most accidents are just the minor scrapes and bumps of everyday existence.

Sometimes, though, an accident might cause more damage than just a scrape or bump. In a car accident, for instance, your vehicle might have a broken windshield while you could end up with a broken leg. Walking to work, you might trip because of a poorly-maintained sidewalk or pothole. More seriously, you might discover that the reason for a grave medical condition was a corporation’s disregard for the safety of its product or the environment. There are countless accidents in life, so personal injury is a wide-ranging group of events.

What is Negligence?
A personal injury lawsuit is often based on negligence. To prove that someone was negligent in a legal case, you need to demonstrate that they had a duty to act reasonably given a set of circumstances, but when they did not do this, their actions caused you harm. For example, if you are injured in a car accident because the other driver was texting, intoxicated, or distracted, that driver had a duty to focus on the road and surrounding conditions while they were driving, and their choice not to do this resulted in your being hurt.

What Are Monetary Damages?
Monetary damages are awarded to make up for any income an injured person lost as a result of someone else’s negligent actions. If you were in a car accident in Brooklyn, for instance, an personal injury lawyer would try to find if your accident cost you work income and would help determine if you had to pay for hospitalization, medical treatment, or rehabilitation, among other costs. That same personal injury attorney would also want to assess the extent of the harm done to you. Severe medical trauma that results in substantial loss of work time — to say nothing of physical pain and mental distress — would receive a higher settlement because it would take more to compensate you and make you whole.

What Are Punitive Damages?
When an act of negligence is so outrageous that it’s offensive, compensatory damages sometimes aren’t enough to balance the scales. For instance, if a corporation has been found guilty of concealing the fact that it has been contaminating the environment with carcinogens, a court very well might assign not only compensatory damages but also punitive damages. Although punitive damages aren’t intended to benefit the plaintiffs in a case of negligence, they are often awarded to them in order to send a clear message to the defendant and others that this negligence was excessive and unacceptable.

When Should I Hire an Attorney?
Hiring an attorney is a complex decision, but if you have been in an accident that injured you or cost work time or medical bills, doing so is a good idea. The rules of litigation can be complex, and that’s where an attorney can help guide you. For example, if you’re walking down the street in Brooklyn and you stumble on a poorly-marked pothole in the street or a section of degraded concrete in a sidewalk, who is legally responsible? Is it the borough? Is it the city? Is it the owner of the property near the sidewalk or street? personal injury attorneys can explain the process, help you collect and document important information, alert you to recent changes in the law, and in short, use their considerable expertise in the field of personal injury to determine the next steps for you.