You often hear the terms “bodily injury” and “personal injury” used interchangeably. There is a difference between personal injury and bodily injury, however. Bodily injury refers to a physical fact, while personal injury refers to a legal conclusion. If you suffered an injury accident, especially a car accident, it is important to understand personal injury protection versus bodily injury and the difference between them.
What Is Personal Injury?
The difference between bodily injury and personal injury is not very confusing. Bodily injury simply refers to an injury to the body. Personal injury refers to a legal claim of harm to one person that was caused by someone else’s negligence or other misconduct. A bodily injury can support a personal injury claim, but so can the reputational damage caused by defamation, for example.
Legal Aspects of Personal Injury
The easiest way to distinguish between a bodily injury claim versus personal injury is the fact that personal injury is a legal principle with many different aspects.
The Statute of Limitations
Absent complicating circumstances, you must generally assert a personal injury claim within two years of the accident or incident that generated it.
A personal injury victim will seek to impose financial liability on the defendant. If the parties share fault, they will share liability as well.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a personal injury case lies with the victim. The standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence”, which is a much easier standard to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal trials.
What Are the Elements of Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury case examples can arise from many different sources — car accidents, for example, or medical malpractice. To win most types of personal injury claims, you must prove the following four facts (“elements”):
- Duty: The defendant owed you a duty of care. This might mean the duty to drive safely, for example, or it might mean a doctor’s duty to exercise professional skills.
- Breach: The defendant failed to meet their duty of care.
- Damages: You must prove that the defendant’s negligence harmed you in a manner that money damages can compensate.
- Causation: The defendant’s negligence must have caused the harm you suffered.
Some types of personal injury claims, such as consumer product liability claims and workplace accident claims, carry their own set of legal elements.
Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
Compensation for bodily injury is only part of the compensation available for a successful personal injury claim. A comprehensive personal injury claim might include the following components:
- Medical bills;
- Estimated future medical expenses if you suffered a long-term injury. These can be difficult to calculate;
- Lost earnings while you were off work because of your injury;
- Occupational disability if your injuries prevent you from returning to your previous job;
- Pain and suffering that arises directly from physical injury;
- Mental anguish is a form of psychological suffering;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Property damage (damage to your car, for example).
Punitive damages are occasionally available as well. If a court awards punitive damages, it will award them in addition to the damages listed above.
Situations that Can Lead to a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Many situations can lead to a personal injury lawsuit, including:
- Truck accidents;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Bus accidents;
- Automobile accidents,
- Uber/Lyft accidents;
- Workplace accidents;
- Dram shop accidents (when an alcohol vendor sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated guest who later causes an accident);
- Dangerous consumer products;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Premises liability accidents;
- Medical malpractice;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Criminal assaults;
- Mass torts, such as a recalled drug or a chemical leak at a factory.
- Dog bites; and
- Negligent security.
Ultimately, the various accidents and incidents that can lead to a personal injury claim are too numerous to conveniently list. Remember that if someone dies in an accident, the personal representative of the victim’s estate (for an adult victim) or the parents (for a child victim) can file a wrongful death claim instead of a personal injury claim.
What Is Bodily Injury?
Is bodily injury the same as a personal injury? As previously discussed, the answer is no. The bodily injury definition is much more narrow than the personal injury definition. Bodily injury refers to a specific injury to a specific part of the body, such as a broken arm. In the legal profession, the bodily injury appears most prominently in two contexts: criminal law and automobile liability insurance policies.
A defendant charged with criminal assault, for example, might face more severe criminal penalties if they caused bodily injury. An auto accident liability insurance policy might specify that it covers up to $50,000 coverage for bodily injury.
Legal Aspects of Bodily Injury
What does “bodily injury” cover in an auto accident liability insurance policy? It covers physical injuries to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians involved in a traffic accident. It only applies if the insured is at least partly to blame for the accident.
Keep in mind that although almost all injury traffic accidents also involve property damage, bodily injury insurance does not cover property damage. A comprehensive auto accident liability insurance policy, however, covers both property damage and bodily injury liability, although coverage limits are typically different.
Compensation for Bodily Injury
You might win a bodily injury settlement, but not a full personal injury settlement, in a workers’ compensation claim, for example. A bodily injury settlement can include the following components of damages:
- Ambulance bills;
- Hospital bills;
- Surgery bills;
- Doctor’s bills;
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy expenses;
- Future medical expenses;
- Lost earnings; and
- Future lost earnings if you suffered an occupationally disabling injury.
A bodily injury settlement will exclude non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Non-economic damages often add up to more than 50% of the total value of a personal injury settlement.
What Is the Difference Between Personal Injury and Bodily Injury?
In a nutshell, bodily injury is a physical injury, while a personal injury is a legal claim arising out of an injury that is usually (but not always) physical. Bodily injury and personal injury are two important terms that you shouldn’t confuse, especially when reading legal documents such as your insurance policy.
Why Choose Stracci Law?
At Stracci Law, we can help you navigate the civil claims maze to maximize the amount of compensation you receive. We offer the following benefits:
- Decades of combined trial and settlement experience;
- 80 years of combined experience; and
- Thousands of victories for our clients.
Our lawyers have practiced in Indiana for decades. We know the local players and we know how the Northwest Indiana civil compensation system works.