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What is a Personal Injury Claim? (basic)
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What is a personal injury claim?
injury claims are claims for damages arising out of the
wrongful conduct of others.
For individuals harmed through the fault or negligence of another party,
Hawaii state law generally provides that the victim is entitled to assert a
personal injury claim. Such a claim is an
opportunity to receive compensation for
the costs associated with the injuries and the resulting damages and loss.
Personal injury claims require that the claimant
show that they suffered damages and that another party
is responsible for those damages, due to their lack of reasonable care, recklessness,
intentional conduct or otherwise. Most personal injury
claims are filed in response to
negligence or failure to exercise the appropriate care situations; strict
liability, recklessness, intentional conduct and other bases for
liability make up only a small portion of personal injury claims. Intentional
conduct, for example, is often not covered by insurance. There are many different reasons
why personal injury claims arise. These include car accidents, other motor
vehicle accidents, product defect accidents, construction accidents,
dangerous dogs and other animals, boating, ocean and maritime accidents,
wrongful death, drunk drivers, injuries from falls, electrical accidents,
burn accidents, elevator accidents, medical malpractice, other
professional negligence, dangerous conditions on property, safety violations and
Negligence and the "reasonable man" standard
Negligence is the most common type of wrongful conduct which
gives rise to liability. In brief- neligence is
generally defined as the doing of something which a reasonably prudent
person would not have done or the failure to do something
which a reasonably prudent person would have done.
Hawaii's leading case on this "reasonable man" standard- and
hence on the meaning of negligence- is the case of Knodle v.
Waikiki Gateway Hotel, Inc., 69 Haw. 376 (1987). Some excerpts
from that case help to demostrate the meaning of the "reasonable man"
standard which must be met in order to avoid being negligent:
(beginning on page 387 of the Knodle decision)
"Whether the defendant had a duty to take reasonable action to protect the
plaintiff from unreasonable risk of harm is, of course, a question for the
judge. But what is reasonable and unreasonable and whether the defendant's
conduct was reasonable in the circumstances are for the jury to decide. Put
simply, perhaps simplistically, what is reasonable care on the part of the
defendant is "what a reasonable and prudent person would . . . have done
under [the] circumstances." Wong v. City & County, 66 Haw. 389, 394-95, 665
P.2d 157, 161 (1983) (quoting Martin v. Wilson, 23 Haw. 74, 88 (1915))-[footnote 6- see
below] "The conduct of [this mythical] person will vary with the situation with
which he is confronted." W.P. Keeton, supra, Section 32, at 175. For what is
reasonable and prudent in the particular circumstances is marked out by the
foreseeable range of danger. Bidar v. Amfac, Inc., 66 Haw. at 552, 669 P.2d
[Footnote 6 on page 387:
["The courts have gone to unusual pains to emphasize the abstract and
hypothetical character of this mythical person. He is not to be identified
with any ordinary individual, who might occasionally do unreasonable things;
he is a prudent and careful person, who is always up to standard. Nor is it
proper to identify him with any member of the very jury which is to apply
the standard; he is rather a personification of a community ideal of
reasonable behavior, determined by the jury's social judgment. W.P. Keeton,
supra, Section 32, at 175 (footnotes omitted).]
"Danger in this context "necessarily involves a recognizable danger, based
upon some knowledge of the existing facts, and [p. 388]
some reasonable belief that harm may possibly fellow." W.P. Keeton, supra,
31, at 170 (footnote omitted). The test of what is reasonably foreseeable is
not one of a balance of probabilities. "That the danger will more probably
than otherwise not be encountered on a particular occasion does not dispense
with the excise of care." Tullgren v. Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., 82 N.H.
268, 276, 133 A. 4, 8 (1926). The test is whether "there is some probability
of harm sufficiently serious that [a reasonable and prudent person] would
take precautions to avoid it." Id.; see also Griggs v. Firestone Tire &
Rubber Co., 513 F.2d 851, 859 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 865 (1975);
Moran v. Faberge, Inc., 273 Md. 538, 552-54, 332 A.2d 11, 20 (1975); Bean v.
Ross Manufacturing Co., 344 S.W. 2d 18, 25 (Mo. 1961). "As the gravity of
the possible harm increases, the apparent likelihood of its occurrence need
be correspondingly less to generate a duty of precaution." W.P. Keeton,
supra, Section 31, at 171 (footnote omitted). [footnote 7- see below]
And "[a]gainst this
probability, and gravity, of the risk, must be balanced in every case the
utility of the type of conduct in question." Id. Thus, the judge's task of
imparting what may be reasonable care or the converse to enable the jury to
decide if a breach of duty occurred is, to say the least, difficult."
[Footnote 7 on page 388:
["For example, [t]he odds may be a thousand to one that no
train will arrive at the very moment that an automobile is crossing a
railway track, but the risk of death is nevertheless sufficiently serious to
require the driver to look for the train and the train to signal its
approach. If may be highly improbable that lightning will strike at any
given place or time; but the possibility is there, and it may require
precautions for the protection of inflammables. W.P. Keeton, supra, Section
31, at 171 (footnotes omitted)."]
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