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The Differences Between Personal and Bodily Injury

Colburn Law

When you are filing a lawsuit for damages you suffered in an accident that someone else caused, there are many pieces of legal jargon you will need to know. During the course of your claim, you may have heard the terms personal injury and bodily injury — and while they may sound similar, they refer to two different legal concepts. For questions about filing a claim in Washington, contact a Seattle personal injury lawyer at Colburn Law.

What Is Personal Injury?

Personal injury refers to any injury you suffer as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Unlike bodily injury, personal injury is also an element of United States civil law.

When you hear the term personal injury, it is usually in reference to the lawsuit you file in order to claim compensation for the damages you suffered in an accident. To prove a personal injury claim, you and your attorney will need to work closely together to establish that the at-fault party was responsible for your injuries.

To establish negligence in a personal injury case, you and your lawyer will need to provide evidence in order to satisfy the following four elements:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident.
  • The at-fault party breached his or her duty of care to you in some way.
  • The at-fault party’s breach of care directly caused your injuries.
  • You suffered damages as a result of this breach of care that you can collect in a lawsuit.

What Is Bodily Injury?

A bodily injury refers to the specific injuries you sustained during your accident, such as a broken leg, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord damage. Personal injury cases do involve bodily injuries, and your medical records will be a significant piece of evidence in your claim or lawsuit.

This term usually appears in the insurance claim process, rather than a case in civil court.  For example, a PEMCO Washington Auto Policy defines “bodily injury” as “physical injury to the human body including sickness, disease or death arising from the injury.”  An Allstate Indemnity Auto Insurance Policy defines “bodily injury” as “bodily injury, sickness, disease or death.”  The term “bodily injury” is defined as “bodily injury to a person, including resulting sickness, disease, or death” in a GEICO Washington Family Automobile Insurance Policy.

Washington requires all drivers to carry the minimum amounts of auto insurance to lawfully operate their vehicles.

  • $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person in an accident you cause
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury liability per accident you cause
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident you cause

The bodily injury liability insurance provides compensation to victims of car accidents that the policyholder causes. If you suffered injuries in a car accident that someone else is responsible for, you can recover compensation from their bodily injury liability insurance up to his or her policy limit for your injuries and damages, including:

  • past and future medical expenses
  • past and future lost earnings
  • past and future lost earnings capacity
  • past and future physical pain and suffering
  • past and future emotional pain and suffering
  • past and future loss of enjoyment of life
  • past and future inconvenience
  • disfigurement (including scarring)
  • other out-of-pocket expenses

Examples of medical damages include medical expenses, treatments such as x-rays or special surgeries, or even transportation to the hospital.

What Are Your Legal Options?

In the state of Washington, you have three main options if you suffer a personal injury.

  • You can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
  • You can file an insurance claim against the at-fault party’s insurance policy, if applicable.
  • If the situation is applicable and the at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured for your injuries, you can file an insurance claim with your own policy.

The route you should take depends on the facts surrounding your case. For example, if you suffered serious bodily injury in a car accident and the treatment costs exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits, you may have a greater chance at compensation if you file a lawsuit. If your injuries are minor and you have the option of filing a claim with an insurance company, filing a lawsuit may not be the most economical option.

Contact Colburn Law

An attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your particular case. If you are pursuing damages in a personal injury case against the person responsible for your losses, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Hiring a personal injury attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case. Your lawyer will have knowledge of the Washington court system, access to resources and expert witnesses, and experience working with the strategies necessary to build a compelling case. Contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.