If you are injured by another person’s negligence – and it can happen to anybody – you’ll need to know how fault is proven in a personal injury case.
In legal claims that arise from accidents and injuries, the legal basis for assigning liability to one or more persons is the concept of negligence.
In general, when a person is negligent, and when that negligence results in someone else’s injury, the negligent person is considered liable under the law for the personal injury or injuries.
Negligence is debated and argued about in most accident and injury claim disputes, in out-of-court settlement negotiations, and when those negotiations fail, in personal injury trials.
WHAT ARE THE FOUR PARTS OF A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
If you have been injured in Florida by a negligent driver or by the negligence of a property owner, a product manufacturer, or a healthcare professional, you have a personal injury claim.
From the very beginning of a personal injury case, a victim of negligence should be advised and represented by an experienced Stuart personal injury attorney.
To win a personal injury case and prove that a “defendant” (the party accused of negligence) was, in fact, negligent, the injury victim, called the “plaintiff,” must prove that four conditions existed:
1. The Duty: The defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care to avoid negligence.
2. The Breach: The defendant acted in a way that breached the duty owed to the plaintiff.
3. The Cause: The defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s personal injury or injuries.
4. The Damages: The plaintiff’s damages are quantifiable, and the defendant should pay.
What follows will be a brief explanation of each of the four parts of a personal injury claim.
HOW IS A “DUTY OF CARE” DEFINED AND DETERMINED?
The first step in any personal injury case is to determine if a duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff.
The level or amount of care owed by a defendant will differ slightly in different situations. Doctors, for example, owe their patients a duty to provide competent and adequate medical care.
A motor vehicle driver owes other motorists, their passengers, and pedestrians a legal duty to operate the vehicle safely, soberly, and with a responsible level of caution and awareness.
Manufacturers of consumer items owe the public protection from defective products that may injure their users. Property owners owe it to others to keep their properties reasonably safe.
HOW IS A “BREACH OF THE DUTY OF CARE” DEFINED AND DETERMINED?
The next step in a personal injury case is determining if a defendant breached the duty of care by acting or failing to act as a “reasonably prudent” person would have acted in a similar situation.
A defendant may be found liable for a plaintiff’s injuries if the average person, in the same or a similar situation, would have acted differently and would not have breached the duty of care.
HOW IS “CAUSATION” DEFINED AND DETERMINED?
The third step in a personal injury case is proving that a defendant’s breach of the duty of care was an actual and direct cause of the plaintiff’s personal injury or injuries.
For example, if you slip and fall on spilled juice at the supermarket, the management may have been negligent, but if you get up and walk away unharmed, you have no personal injury claim.
“Reasonable” is a word used frequently in personal injury law. Property owners, for example, cannot reasonably be expected to repair instantly every hazardous property condition that arises.
HOW ARE “DAMAGES” DEFINED AND DETERMINED?
The final step in a personal injury case is quantifying the damages. Personal injury victims are entitled by law to full compensation for monetary damages like medical bills and lost wages.
Personal injury victims are also entitled by Florida law, in most cases, to compensation for their personal pain and suffering arising from the accident and injury.
Although it’s tougher to place a dollar figure on these non-monetary damages, injury attorneys and courts have formulas they routinely use to arrive at dollar amounts that are fair and just.
DO YOU NEED A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
In Florida, if you believe that you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, how can you know if you have grounds for a personal injury claim and need a personal injury lawyer?
The best way to find out is by scheduling a meeting with an experienced Stuart personal injury attorney. Most personal injury lawyers will provide you with a free first legal consultation.
At a first consultation, the attorney will review the facts in your case and explain how Florida’s personal injury laws apply. You’ll get candid legal advice, and you’ll know where you stand.
It is imperative to see an injury lawyer as soon as possible after you’ve been injured. If you file a personal injury claim, your attorney will begin compiling evidence and gathering testimony.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF YOU DELAY TAKING ACTION?
If you wait, that evidence could deteriorate or disappear, and the witnesses’ memories will fade.
Your attorney will attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement of your personal injury claim. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases are settled in this manner.
But if the defendant in your case fails to make a reasonable settlement offer in a reasonable period of time, your personal injury attorney can take your case to trial.
At a trial, a good personal injury lawyer will fight aggressively for every cent of compensation that an injury victim needs and for the justice that victim deserves.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN AFTER YOU’VE BEEN INJURED?
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you could end up out of work for weeks as you recover from your injuries. At the same time, alarmingly, your medical bills may be piling up.
That’s another reason why it is imperative for you to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as you know or believe that you have been injured by another person’s negligence.
After you’ve been injured, you should be allowed to concentrate on recovering your health. Let a good personal injury lawyer handle the legal side of your case while you focus on recuperating.
After all, if you’re injured, you can’t place your health and future at any further risk. Instead, give your case to a good personal injury lawyer who will advocate aggressively on your behalf.