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What Is the Difference Between Bodily Injury and Personal Injury?

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

Our law firm frequently receives questions about the difference between bodily injury and personal injury. Every personal injury lawyer we have on staff has the depth of legal knowledge to understand the difference between these two. Here is some information that may help to explain the differences.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Personal injury refers to a wide variety of legal wrongs that can be done to a person.
  • Bodily injury refers only to physical injury that occurs due to a wrong.
  • Personal and bodily injury are also types of automotive insurance products.

General Considerations

A person holding a document

It is important to note that the terms bodily and personal injury are used in more than one legal context. The first is in criminal court cases and tort claims law, and the second is in liability insurance proceedings.

What is a Personal Injury?

A personal injury is any legal wrong done to a person. It can cover a wide range of harms such as abuse and neglect, food poisoning, and mesothelioma.

Other personal injuries include:

Note that personal injuries can have a bodily injury claim (like wrongful death) but do not have to. As long as there is harm associated with the wrong, it can result in a personal injury claim.

Successful personal injury cases may result in payment of medical bills, lost wages, fees for legal services, and more. A passionate lawyer from our firm can provide you with a free consultation and evaluate your legal claim. Much of our injury work is done on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only get paid if you get a financial recovery as the injured party.

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See all related personal injury and accidents lawsuits our lawyers have covered.

What is a Bodily Injury?

A bodily injury is an injury to the physical body, as distinguished from an injury to property. These physical injuries can include anything from a minor cut to death.

A person with a neck injuryOther examples include:

  • Bruises, abrasions, and burns.
  • Physical pain
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Impairment of physical or mental function

There is also a category of injury known as serious bodily injury. These bodily injuries are more serious injuries that generally result in a significant risk of death, substantial permanent disfigurement, or a protracted impairment or loss of function of a body part.

Proving Personal Injury

Someone talking to an office person holding a clip boardYou must prove some basic standards in order to succeed in personal injury claims. This includes proving the other party’s negligence.

To win a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the plaintiff suffered damages directly from the breach [1].

In most personal injury lawsuits, it is not difficult to establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. For example, all drivers are legally responsible for exercising reasonable care while operating their vehicles.

The more difficult question in the civil claim is whether the defendant breached that duty. To do so, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to take reasonable care to avoid causing physical harm or property damage.

For example, if a driver fails to stop at a red light and causes a car accident, it would be considered a breach of their duty of care. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide whether the defendant's actions constituted a breach of duty.

If the plaintiff can establish that the defendant breached a duty of care, they must then show that the breach was the cause of the damages sustained in the car accident. In other words, but for the defendant's negligence, the plaintiff would not have sustained physical injuries. This is known as causation in a personal injury lawsuit.

If all of these elements can be proven, then the plaintiff will probably be successful in proving negligence in the personal injury claim.

“In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter future wrongdoing.” - Ankin Law Office LLC, Illinois

Statute of Limitations

Two people looking at a paperThere is a time limit, known as the statute of limitations, in which a plaintiff can file a personal injury claim. This varies from state to state but is generally between two and four years.

It is important to note that if the plaintiff does not file a personal injury case within this time frame, they will most likely be barred from doing so.

This means that if you have been injured, you should not wait to seek legal counsel. An experienced personal injury law firm can help you determine whether you have a case and, if so, ensure that your claim is filed on time.

Bodily Injury and Personal Injury Insurance

It can be confusing, but the terms bodily injury and personal injury are also used in the auto insurance industry. While these terms may seem interchangeable, they actually refer to two different types of insurance coverage.

Bodily injury liability insurance is designed to compensate victims for injuries sustained from an accident where they were not at fault.

Bodily injury coverage includes items that may result from bodily injuries:

  • A man consulting to a lawyerMedical bills
  • Medical expenses such as hospital stays and surgery
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Funeral expenditures
  • Lost wages and income
  • Legal fees

On the other hand, personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage deals with expenses and other damages sustained by the policyholder. PIP coverage acts regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

It is sometimes called "no-fault" insurance because it is paid by the insurance company regardless of who is the responsible party for the accident. In most states, a bodily injury insurance policy is required by law, but PIP is not. PIP insurance is mandatory for all drivers in only 13 states [2].

This type of insurance can help ease the financial burden on accident victims and their families. It can also help to ensure that they receive the necessary medical treatment.

There are legal aspects to any insurance claim, so forming an attorney-client relationship with injury lawyers may protect you from paying for the emotional damage, non-economic damages, and medical costs associated with someone else’s negligence and covered by the other party’s insurance.

Related Article: What is Personal Injury Protection Car Insurance?


Is bodily injury the same as pain and suffering?

Bodily injury is not the same as pain and suffering. This sort of injury is physical damage to the body. Pain and suffering are a type of damages that may be awarded in a personal injury case.

Pain and suffering can be applied to more than just a physical injury. It can also include emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms.

When someone is injured due to another person's negligence, they may be able to recover damages for their pain and suffering. The goal of this type of damage is to compensate the victim for the physical and emotional anguish they have experienced as a result of the accident.

What is residual bodily injury?

Residual bodily injury is the long-term damage that can occur after an accident or injury.

Unlike acute injuries, which are typically healed within a few weeks or months, residual injuries can last for months or even years.

Residual injuries can include both visible and invisible damage that causes pain, disability, and emotional distress. Some common examples of residual injuries include nerve damage, scarring, and chronic pain.

Residual injury can profoundly impact a victim's quality of life, making it difficult or impossible to perform everyday tasks. In some cases, residual injury can also lead to financial hardship, as victims may be unable to work or earn an income.

Bodily Injury vs Personal Injury In Law

In conclusion, bodily injury is actual physical damage to the body. In contrast, personal injury is the basis of a tort that can result in damages for emotional distress, psychological symptoms, and other injuries. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand this better.

If you have been the victim of an accident and want to learn more about how we can help you, call for a free consultation.