Common law, also known as judicial precedent or case law, are laws that are created based on judicial decisions of courts. In other words, common laws exist as a result of the precedents set by previous cases. When cases go to court, there may be disagreement between parties on what the law is. In these cases, a common law court looks to past decisions (precedent) of relevant courts. The results of those previous cases are applied to current facts for resolution. Typically, if a similar case has been previously resolved, the court will follow the reasoning used in that decision.
As a judge listens to and decides upon a case, the decision on that issue of the law becomes a binding precedent. This is significant because it affects all other courts in the state that are deemed lower in the legal hierarchy, so the judgment by the deciding judge’s court can become the law, used in future judgments. The other “lower” courts must apply the binding precedent of that law. Eventually, this binding precedent creates a “common law”.
It is important to know that common law will vary from state to state. While some common laws may be the same or similar, the rules for personal injury law can and likely will, differ in each state. Most states use the Restatement of Torts, where the explanation of what the rules are, exist. A lot of states draw guidance from previous personal injury matters.
Common law is not the only source of personal injury law. Some legislatures have passed formal legislation or statutory law that touches on personal injury issues. For example, when legislators passed worker’s compensation laws, they essentially took all cases of work-related injuries outside of the realm of personal injury and made workers’ compensation the exclusive remedy for injured workers (in most cases precluding injury-related lawsuits against employers).
Another state law that comes into play in injury cases, is the statute of limitations, which sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file an injury-related lawsuit in your state’s civil court system. In other words, the longer you wait to file, the more likely you will not be able to file a lawsuit, so time is of the essence.
When dealing with personal injury cases, it is advisable that you seek legal help through attorneys with a proven depth of understanding of the law. At Maes Law, we have long-standing experience in dealing with these matters. If you believe you have a personal injury case, please reach out to us as soon as possible.
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