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Personal injury encompasses physical, mental, and emotional damage incurred due to both accidental circumstances and intentional violence. In order to avoid personal injury, it is important to understand the common causes and ways in which injuries can be avoided or mitigated. Depending on the cause of the injury, it may be necessary to seek medical and/or legal aid.
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Last modified on: May 9th, 2020
Personal injury is defined as an injury to a person which results in damage to that person’s physical, mental, or emotional well being. Injuries can be classified as anything from a broken bone to mental anguish, and can be caused by a variety of intentional and unintentional circumstances. According to the CDC, millions of individuals are injured each year, and 214,000 of those people die from their injuries. This makes injuries the most common cause of death for individuals under 45. In 2015 alone, 27.6 million injuries were treated in emergency rooms, and 2.8 million of those people were hospitalized.
Not only do injuries take a physical toll on the bearers, the cost of emergency room visits, treatments, and recovery is very high. In 2013, Americans spent $671 billion for injury treatments. $214 billion of those costs were incurred due to fatal injuries, while more than $457 billion were attributed to nonfatal injuries. Therefore, injured individuals must cope with the injury itself as well as the mental and emotional burden of financial repercussions.
The vast majority of personal injuries are due to accidents, such as slips and falls, bicycle and motor vehicle accidents, and workplace injuries. However, a significant subset of personal injury is also due to violence, including physical attacks, abuse, and neglect. Whether a personal injury has been caused by accident or violence, it can be a life-changing event. It is therefore critical that individuals remain aware of potential causes of injury, understand injury treatment and prevention, and have a plan in place to seek medical and legal assistance when necessary.
Unfortunately, personal injuries are a common part of daily life, but the incidence and severity of injury can be significantly reduced through awareness and avoidance. The more aware you are of potential causes of personal injury, the easier it is to prevent them.
Violence from other individuals is a significant cause of injury in both adults and children. According to the CDC, an average of 10 million people each year are the victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, and 683,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported to Child Protective Services in 2015. According to the FBI, there were a total of 16,214 deaths due to homicide in 2018, slightly less than the CDC reported 19,000 homicides in 2017. In the same year, more than 1.7 million individuals were treated for violence-induced injuries in emergency rooms.
Motor vehicle crashes are one of the primary causes of personal injury and death by accident each year. In fact, in 2015 they were the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the NHTSA, more than 36,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2018, and nearly 1.9 million people were injured. Injuries due to motor vehicles can occur inside and outside the vehicle. In fact, 5,977 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, with approximately 137,000 sent to the emergency room.
Falls are the second most common cause of unintentional personal injury, especially in people aged 65 and older. Approximately 2.8 million older individuals receive emergency treatment for falls each year, and at least 300,000 of those people are hospitalized due to their injuries. Fall injuries can be very serious, including broken bones and head injuries. People who fall, even if they are not injured physically, can also exhibit mental and emotional struggles due to an increased fear of falling. This can result in reduced activity and isolation, which in turn causes further mental and emotional anguish.
With the amount of time the average American spends in the workplace, it is no surprise that injuries and deaths often occur at work. Nonfatal workplace injuries totaled 8,982,730 in 2017, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Fully 26% of those injuries related to slips, trips, and falls. Occupational injuries also included work-related motor vehicle accidents. In fact, 2017 saw a striking total of 1,252 deaths in the workplace related to motor vehicles, a full 24% of all reported deaths that year. Homicides in the workplace are also surprisingly common, resulting in 9% of all workplace related deaths in 2017.
Personal injuries are a common part of day to day life, but the frequency and severity of personal injuries can be significantly reduced through situational awareness. The most common causes of personal injury include motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, sports activities, and prescription drug overdoses.
Treatment and prevention of personal injury is largely dependent upon the cause, nature, and severity of the injury.
The CDC takes violence prevention seriously, and have a specific department, the Division of Violence Prevention (DVP), that focuses solely on research and resources for individuals and families affected by violence. Additionally, there are a wide range of resources available in local communities for individuals who encounter violence. Some tips for avoiding violent situations include maintaining awareness of your surroundings, getting to know your neighbors, practice non-violent conflict resolution, and establish safe places to go in the event that a violent situation occurs.
According to the NHTSA, nearly all motor vehicle crashes are preventable. They are most frequently caused by distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. In order to prevent and avoid motor vehicle accidents, pay attention to the road conditions and the drivers around you, and avoid distractions. Be sure that everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt, and that you are obeying the speed limit and traffic indicators.
A person can suffer falling injury from tripping over objects or falling from an elevation. Poor eyesight, physical weakness, and reduced coordination can heighten the risk of falls. Individuals with these risk factors should take particular care to watch for obstacles, steps, wet or icy areas, and other circumstances that could cause an unexpected fall.
Due to the prevalence of workplace injuries, the U.S. Department of Labor established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide guidance and oversight to minimize workplace hazards. Unfortunately, not all workplaces adhere to OSHA guidelines, so it is important to understand the laws and regulations that apply to your industry in particular. To this end, specialized regulations for particular industries are easily accessed through online resources, and hotlines to OSHA are available for individuals to report violations. To minimize your personal risk, be aware of safety guidelines and maintain vigilance while working, especially in high risk areas.
If you or someone you know is injured, the first step is to seek medical treatment. Although some injuries may seem minor, it is always wise to consult with a medical professional to ensure that the injured person is receiving adequate medical care. Fortunately, in addition to emergency numbers, most hospitals and police departments offer non-emergency helplines. If the injury is severe, or if advised to do so by a medical practitioner, do not hesitate to go to the emergency room. Some injuries, such as concussions, can seem mild when they are actually serious and possibly life threatening.
If the injured party is a victim of violence, negligence, or other circumstances, it is important to seek legal assistance. An attorney who specializes in personal injury lawsuits should have the knowledge you need to determine whether you should seek compensation for injuries caused by another party. Malpractice, negligence, and intentional violence are a few of the many reasons that an injured individual may seek legal support.