The experienced team of personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC fight to obtain justice and compensation for injured individuals. Based in Charlotte, with another office in Mooresville, our lawyers aggressively advocate our clients' best interests across the state of North Carolina. Every case is different, so we work closely with our clients to ensure that they are fully-informed and comfortable with the entire litigation process. Arnold & Smith, PLLC also provides contingency-based representation, meaning our lawyers do not get paid until you get the compensation you deserve. Our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys are prepared to represent victims that were injured in a wide range of accidents, including:
- Slip and Fall Injuries: Premises Liability
- Police Misconduct
- Workers' Compensation
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Motor Vehicle Injuries and Car Wrecks
- Tractor Trailer Accidents
- Wrongful Death Claims
- Dog Bite Injuries
- Nursing Home Neglect
- Boating Accidents
- Rail and Train Accidents
- Premises Liability
In general, the state courts in North Carolina are divided into the civil and criminal courts. Criminal offenders who violate the law are prosecuted by attorneys employed by the State. In civil courts, people who allege they are owed money or who seek some other relief can sue other people or businesses, and the courts will decide their disputes.
The civil courts can only decide disputes over which they have jurisdiction. Courts have to have two types of jurisdiction:
- Subject matter jurisdiction and
- Personal jurisdiction.
The easiest way to think about personal jurisdiction is to ask: How does a court obtain the authority to command a person to do something? In our country, all persons are entitled to due process of law. If you sue a person and seek to have the person pay you money for damage the person caused to you, the person you sue is entitled to due process of law. In a lawsuit in North Carolina, the person you sue is entitled to receive a copy of the Complaint (the document that starts a lawsuit) and the Summons (the Summons is also called “process” and tells the person that a lawsuit has been filed against the person, where the courthouse is, and when the person must respond to the lawsuit). These must be served on the person you are suing. Serving these papers on the person you are suing is called “service of process.” A court cannot order the person you have sued to do anything unless you have first served the person with a copy of the Complaint and Summons. Another way of saying that is a court does not acquire jurisdiction over the person you are suing unless you have first served the person with a copy of the Complaint and Summons.
The Rules of Civil Procedure specify when, where, and how to file and serve these documents. The Rules of Civil Procedure are found in Chapter 1A of the North Carolina General Statutes. Various Rules of Civil Procedure detail the process of filing and serving the Complaint and Summons. Rule 3 details the commencement of a civil action with the filing of the Complaint. Rule 4—perhaps one of the most important of the Rules of Civil Procedure—provides guidance regarding the proper drafting and service of the Summons upon various types of Defendants, including companies and governmental agencies.
Subject matter jurisdiction means the court has jurisdiction over the subject of a lawsuit. For example, courts do not have jurisdiction to decide a dispute about a Monopoly game you had with a family member, but the court does have jurisdiction to consider whether a trucker who ran a red light and struck your vehicle engaged in negligence and owes you compensation for your damages. The reasons why courts have subject matter jurisdiction over some things and not over others are complex, but it would suffice to say that the reasons have a lot to do with our legal system’s “common law” roots and the need to plead recognized causes of action. The easiest way to think of subject matter jurisdiction is, as long as you stick with an already-recognized cause of action, your case will not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Many long-recognized causes of action date all the way back to the Romans. These recognized causes of action are called, collectively, Torts. Torts are cases that deal with injuries to people. One common tort is assault. If a person threatens to punch you in the face and swings at you, the person has placed you in “reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm.” That is the definition of assault. An assault is an intentional tort. Many torts are unintentional. The most common unintentional tort cases involve motor vehicle crashes. Those claims involve the most commonly used and long-recognized civil cause of action: negligence.
The theory underlying personal injury cases will nearly always be the same. The allegation will nearly always be that the Defendant, the party opposed to you (the Plaintiff), engaged in negligence, which was the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s injury. In committing the negligence, the Defendant breached a duty to act with reasonable care under the circumstances.
The elements to prove negligence are:
- Duty: You must prove that the Defendant owed the Plaintiff a duty;
- Breach: You must prove that the Defendant breached the duty owed to Plaintiff;
- Causation: You must prove that any damage or injury suffered by the Plaintiff was caused by the Defendant;
- Damages: You must prove that the Plaintiff was injured, and the nature and extent of the Plaintiff’s injury.
No statute sets out what negligence is. Negligence is a legal theory that is a part of North Carolina’s “Common Law” heritage. There is no Federal “Common Law.” Instead, each state in the United States borrows from the Common Law tradition, and most of the laws that affect the day-to-day lives of persons in the United States arise under state common law. Under the concept of “Federalism,” the role of Federal Government is limited to the powers explicitly set out in the Constitution. All other governmental power is left to the states. Most of our contact with the law, then, is with state law.
In the Tar Heel State, many of the causes of action, the elements of those causes of action, and the legal rules and doctrines that govern cases come from North Carolina’s “Common Law” tradition. Under that tradition, litigants rely on legal precedent established in other cases to seek justice in the courts. For that reason, in our cases, we rely on “case law,” or decisions courts have made in other, similar cases, to support and argue for our own case. You need not become an expert in legal history nor in the Common Law, but it is important to understand that in litigating Personal Injury claims, much of the law supporting such claims cannot be found in any statute, code, or book of laws. The answers to legal questions are often found, instead, in opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.