What Is a Personal Injury Case?

You have a personal injury claim when you suffer a physical injury (or, occasionally, severe emotional distress) due to someone else’s misconduct.

Your claim turns into an actual case when you demand compensation from the responsible party by filing a lawsuit. “Claim” also often refers to an insurance claim, which is an alternative to filing a lawsuit in many circumstances.

Common Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims arise constantly. Following is a list of some of the most common.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents almost certainly generate more personal injury claims than any other type of accident. Truck accidents and motorcycle accidents are less common but not the least bit unusual. 

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accident claims typically arise when one person suffers an injury due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property. A common example might be someone slipping down icy steps outside of a grocery store.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional harms a patient with substandard treatment. These claims tend to be complex and, therefore, difficult to resolve without the help of a lawyer.

Product Liability Claims

Product liability claims arise when a product malfunction injures someone. A prescription drug might poison someone, for example, or a defective traffic light might cause a car accident. You don’t need to prove negligence to win a strict product liability lawsuit. Instead, you must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous.

Premises Liability

The owner of premises (land or buildings) must repair or warn of any dangerous conditions on the property so that guests will not suffer injury. If guests are on the property for the owner’s benefit (customers in a shop, for example), the owner must conduct reasonable periodic inspections of the property.

Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death claim arises when someone dies from injuries that would otherwise have justified a personal injury lawsuit. Strictly speaking, wrongful death is not a personal injury claim. Nevertheless, personal injury lawyers typically handle wrongful death claims, particularly if the victim dies while the case is pending.

Theories of Liability

Why does the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit bear liability? That depends on the theory of liability that you are using.  


To say someone was negligent is to say that they failed to meet the demands of a duty of care to someone. That might mean, for example, driving at night with the lights off. For a doctor, it might mean failing to order lab tests when their patient’s symptoms warranted them. “You carelessly injured me” is the classic negligence claim. 

Intentional Tort

In an intentional tort, you are not negligent. Instead, you commit your wrongful act on purpose. Punching someone in a bar fight, putting a gun to someone’s head, or locking someone in their bedroom during an argument are all examples. You don’t necessarily have to intend to harm someone, but your actions must be of a nature that harm is a normal and natural consequence of committing the act.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is liability without fault. Certain abnormally dangerous activities, such as dynamite blasting, carry strict liability. That means no matter how careful you are, you are liable for any injuries that may arise from your activity.  

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability arises when the law holds you liable for someone else’s misconduct. You might bear strict liability, for example, if your employee harmed someone through misconduct in the course of performing their employment duties. Another example would be loaning the family car to your teenager insofar as you are vicariously liable for any accident they cause.

Other Theories of Liability

Missouri personal injury law also recognizes other theories of liability, such as:

  • Res ipsa loquitur
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED)
  • Breach of warrant in product liability actions

The theory of liability you use determines what facts you need to prove to win your case.


“Damages” refers to the losses that you suffered or the money that you received for your personal injury claim. Missouri recognizes three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

Economic Damages

Losses that you can easily count and reduce to a dollar amount are probably economic damages. Examples include medical expenses, lost earnings, child care while you were in the hospital, and more.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are typically intangible. They include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. They are harder to calculate than economic damages, but typically add up to a lot more money than economic damages.

Punitive Damages

Even though the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, not compensate you, the money still goes to you. A court will order punitive damages only if the defendant’s conduct was outrageous. The court might refuse to award you punitive damages even when you qualify for economic and non-economic damages.

Comparative Negligence

If more than one party was at fault for a negligence accident, the court will assign a percentage of fault to each party. Your compensation can then be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault under state law. For instance, 20% of the blame would reduce your damages by 20%.

The Statute of Limitations

In Missouri, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is usually five years from the date of the injury. This means you have five years from the date of the injury to either finalize a settlement or file a lawsuit; otherwise, your claim will die. However, there are various exceptions that can adjust this time limit.

Contact a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Case Review

If you believe that you might have a personal injury claim of significant value, now is the time to contact a St. Louis personal injury lawyer from Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (314) 444-4444. The sooner you involve a lawyer, the better your chances of receiving fair compensation will be.