These phrases have something in common. There is something wrong with all of them.

Many years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, there was a big sign you would see when you drove by LAX. Tall, red neon letters on a windowless building declared “Live Nude Girls” were inside. The first time I saw it, being much younger and more innocent, I was taken aback and thought, “As opposed to dead nude girls?” Years later, I heard a comedian use this phrase as fodder for part of his stand up routine. “Nude Girls” would have done the trick and not put the thought of the horrid alternative in anyone’s head. The word, “Live”, was just unnecessary. As an aside…parents…if this job description ends up on your daughter’s resume’, somewhere along the line you messed up.

I handle a fair amount of “personal injury” cases, and am just finishing my second “wrongful death” case in the last year. I was giving some thought to the titles of those area of law and the “Live Nude Girls” phrase popped in my head. Like that garish sign, these phrases have unnecessary words. So I thought I’d write about it…..and I really wanted to get your attention by finding a reason to use “Live Nude Girls” in a blog.

If you are injured through the fault of another, the law gives you the right to pursue monetary compensation.  It is a legal fiction that money can make you whole, ameliorate the effects for an injury, but the law has adopted this fiction as the best way to compensate the injured party. If you are injured, and the fault for the injury is wholly or partially someone else’s, you can seek damages.

What kind of injury is there other than “personal”? Impersonal? What would that be? Injury isn’t damage to property because damage is just that…damage. A car isn’t injured; it is damaged. Only a person is injured. Is “personal” meant to signify the other person meant to injure you specifically? As in you should take it personally because it was directed at you? The vast majority of injury cases do not involve the intentional infliction of an injury. Most injuries are caused by negligent or reckless conduct not directed at anyone in particular.

Take Case One in which my client was driving down South Broadway in Saratoga Springs when a drunk driver swerved his vehicle into her lane, struck her car and fractured her neck. He didn’t target her personally. He didn’t even mean to target anyone. His actions were neglect and reckless. It wasn’t his car. It was his employer’s. The driver plead guilty and then skipped town. I sued the driver and the owner of the car. The insurance company settled the case immediately.

Most injury cases involve negligent or reckless acts. A few involved intentional acts such as assault. But even those can be viewed as “impersonal” and reckless.

In Case Two, my client was at an upscale bar in a Lake George. There was a band playing, summer was in full swing, and a troupe of off duty cops from a different county were there having too much fun. My client turned around just in time to see a fist coming out of the dimness. It belonged to an off duty cop my client did not know. That fist knocked out a few teeth, left a nasty laceration requiring stitches, and caused some nerve damage. It isn’t like the movies. Real violence does real damage.

The owner of that fist just swung wildly with no regard for where it was going. He then fled the scene after realizing he struck someone. His cop buddies tried to cover for him. They were less than honest with the local sheriff deputies who responded to the scene, claiming they didn’t know the puncher. The punch happy guy was found and charged with Assault 3rd under the subdivision covering reckless (as opposed to intentional) conduct. Fine by me. Insurance doesn’t cover harm caused by intentional actions. I sued the officer for negligent and reckless conduct. He hadn’t meant to hit my client in particular. Maybe he hadn’t meant to hit anyone. He just threw an alcohol fueled punch in a crowd. His negligence was that he didn’t take into account the possibility of injuring someone with such a wild swing.

The case settled after depositions (most do) and my client was as satisfied as he could be, although he would have preferred not to have been disfigured and injured to begin with. I encouraged him not to take it personally as he hadn’t been targeted specifically. So…”personal” injury, as in he meant to hit my client? No…just “injury”.

Unless, of course, you are a Buddhist and believe that individual identity is an illusion and there is no personal existence and ultimate reality is the void or nothingness. Now that would be a novel defense….”Your honor…. Yes, my client drove his car into the Plaintiff, but Plaintiff wasn’t personally injured because he really wasn’t a person as that concept is an illusion.” Yeah…it doesn’t make either metaphysical or legal sense to me, either.

“Wrongful” death as opposed to “rightful” death? To recover in a case involving death, the plaintiff(s) must prove the death was wrongful. A “rightful” death, such as killing a criminal attacker who is using deadly force, is allowed by law and called “justifiable homicide”. Only when death caused by the intentional use of force is deemed to have been unjustified, or when it is caused by negligence or recklessness, can a plaintiff (surviving family members of the deceased) recover in a civil suit. Suing for “death” alone clearly implies the allegation the death was “wrongful”. The extra word “wrongful” isn’t really needed.

In Case Three, I represented the widow and two children of a fellow who had been a passenger in the backseat of a car traveling thru a blizzard on I-90. The driver of the car was his sister from a southern state. She wasn’t used to driving in the snow. The dash camera of the tractor-trailer she veered in front of showed her car passing on the left and then going into a clockwise spin which brought it directly into the path of the truck. The truck was traveling 53 mph in a 65 mph zone. The dash recording showed the driver took almost 4 seconds to apply the brakes in any significant way. Four seconds is a long time. Just count them out and see. Vehicles traveling at that speed can cover a good deal of ground in 4 seconds.

The car was struck on the passenger side exactly where my client was seated. He didn’t survive for too long after the impact. His sister was hospitalized for several weeks. Her insurance carrier tendered the policy to the decedent’s estate after I provided them with the accident report, the video from the dash camera, and medical records. The trucking company was a tougher nut to crack. They initially refused to acknowledge any fault and refused to settle.

I argued there was a reason the truck driver didn’t brake sooner. He knew if he applied his brakes harder and faster he might jack-knifed his rig on the snowy road. If the road was too snowy to brake hard, it was too snowy to drive at 53 mph. The expert I hired to reconstruct the accident agreed with my analysis and wrote a report backing up that view.

The trucking company settled at a reasonable amount without suit having to be filed.

The death was arguably caused mostly by poor driving on the part of the car’s driver, and to a lesser extent, on the part of the truck driver. Death causes by others without justification is “wrongful”. But that word really isn’t needed in a case where death is caused by negligence. It can just be called a death case. Wrongful is inferred.

Injury and death cases should be called just that. Live Nude Girls just shouldn’t be a thing at all. Or at least update it to “Nude Women”. Show a modicum of respect, at least.

If you are injured due to the fault of another person, or if you are the surviving relative or spouse of a person who was killed due to the negligence or reckless conduct of another, my office is ready to give you and your case personal (as opposed to impersonal) attention.