My law firm limits its law practice to personal injury cases on behalf of victims. We started our firm in 2002, on a shoestring, a wing, and a prayer, we had potentially lucrative opportunities to jump out to handle other types of case.
Was I tempted? I was tempted. But personal injury is our true wheelhouse and we stayed there. But over the last 18 years, we have handled many different types of personal injury cases.
What is personal injury? The term “personal injury case” is sort of an umbrella phrase that refers to any type of tort lawsuit in which a plaintiff has been physically injured and is suing someone for compensation. There are many different types or categories of personal injury claims under this umbrella. They range from very simple slip and fall cases to extremely complex medical malpractice cases.
In total, there are probably around 20 different recognized “types” of personal injury cases. In this post, we will look at the 5 most common types of personal injury cases in terms of volume which constitute 99% of the case we have handled.
#1 – Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
It should be no surprise to anyone that auto accident cases are the most common type of personal injury cases in Maryland. The obvious reason for this is simply the raw number of auto accidents that occur. In 2019, there were over 120,000 auto accidents and 48,000 accident-related injuries reported to the police in Maryland.
This means that 130 people are injured in car accidents every day on Maryland’s roadways. Each one of these 48,000 auto accident injuries is a potential personal case. Even if we assume that just 25% of these accident injuries turn into personal injury claims, that works out to 12,000 a year. 12,000 equates to about 30 new auto accident lawsuits getting filed in Maryland every day. COVID will push those numbers back in 2020, for sure. But even with seemingly no one on the road, there are still a lot of car and truck accidents in this state.
No other type of personal injury case even comes close to the volume of auto accident cases. This is why most auto accident lawyers in Maryland file hundreds of car accident cases a year, and devote a significant portion of their practice to processing and trying these cases.
#2 – Dangerous Drug Cases
The 2nd most common type of personal injury cases (in terms of volume of cases filed) are dangerous drug cases. These are cases in which people have been injured by prescription or over-the-counter medications that had hidden dangers or side-effects. A recent example would be the Zantac cancer lawsuits.
Zantac was an extremely popular over-the-counter medication for the treatment of heartburn. Millions of people used Zantac regularly and it was thought to be completely safe. A few years ago, however, testing confirmed that Zantac contained a toxic chemical called NDMA, which is known to cause cancer. Now hundreds of thousands of Zantac cancer lawsuits have been filed across the country.
Hidden dangers and defects in medications (like NDMA in Zantac) are discovered on a regular basis. When these dangers are announced it usually results in thousands of individual personal injury lawsuits being filed against the companies who made the medication. These are often referred to as “mass tort” cases.
Only a small handful of new mass tort cases come up each year. However, the pool of individual plaintiffs in these mass tort cases (especially those involving popular medications) is so large that they easily rank as one of the most frequently filed types of personal injury cases.
#3 – Defective Device or Product Cases
Number 3 on our list of the most common types of personal injury cases are claims involving defective devices or products. Defective device cases are basically the same as dangerous drug cases, they just involve a device or product rather than a drug. Defective device cases involve claims by individuals who were seriously injured by some type of hidden problem or design defect in a product or medical device.
A recent example of a defective device case is the 3M earplug lawsuits. These cases involve 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs, which were standard issue equipment for military service members between 2003 and 2015. Thousands of military servicemen and women relied on the Combat Arms earplugs to protect their ears from the harmful effects of loud sounds. Recently, however, 3M admitted that the earplugs had a design defective and they actually did nothing to protect soldiers from hearing loss.
Now over a hundred thousand veterans and active military service members have filed product liability lawsuits against 3M alleging that the defective earplugs caused them to suffer hearing loss. The 3M earplugs litigation might be one of the largest mass tort cases in history.
Defective device cases (like the 3M earplug lawsuits) are number 3 on this list for basically the same reason that dangerous drug cases ranked number 2. Although there are only a small handful of these product liability cases every few years, they tend to be massive with thousands of individual plaintiffs filing cases. The product liability lawyers at our firm handle hundreds of these cases on a yearly basis.
#4 – Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice cases rank #4 on our list of the most common types of personal injury claims. Many people may not think of medical malpractice as a personal injury case, but that is exactly what they are. Medical malpractice is simply another term for negligence claims against doctors, hospitals, and other licensed healthcare professionals.
Medical negligence is something that happens a lot more than most people think. In fact, medical mistakes occur almost as frequently as car accidents. The only reason medical malpractice cases don’t get filed as often as auto tort cases is because med mal cases are expensive and more complex. Just to file a medical malpractice lawsuit requires a signed supporting opinion from a medical expert (usually a doctor). To win the case you need to hire more expert witnesses.
This cost of bringing a case is not dependent on the potential settlement value of the medical malpractice claims. A medical malpractice case with a potential value of only $100,000 will probably require the same investment as a case with a potential value of $5 million. The result of this cost/reward dynamic is that lower value medical malpractice cases simply never get filed. Medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland and around the U.S. are only able to take on the higher value cases. This means that a large percentage of valid medical malpractice claims never get filed because their potential value is too low.
#5 – Slip and Fall Cases
Number 5 on our list of the most frequently filed types of personal injury claims in Maryland are so-called “slip and fall cases.” Slip and fall cases are premises liability claims that occur when someone slips, trips, or falls because of a dangerous condition on the property (e.g., a slippery floor, icy sidewalk, etc.).
The classic example of a slip and fall case occurs where a customer in a retail store (like Target or Walmart) slips on a wet floor and gets injured. The customer then sues the store for failing to keep their property safe. Slip and fall accidents happen all the time so they generate a lot of potential cases. Many lawyers are dismissive of slip and fall cases because they tend to have a lower value, but our Maryland slip and fall lawyers have an excellent track record of success with these cases.