When somebody is hurt because of another party’s wrongful actions, they could be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury law provides a mechanism for victims to hold the responsible party financially liable for the harm they caused. Money is meant to serve as compensation for medical expenses, physical pain, and emotional suffering.
Personal injury claims arise from various incidents, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical errors, and defective products.
If you are injured, you might be more focused on your physical condition and how you will pay for your medical care if you are unable to work. By allowing our attorneys to advocate for your rights, you could be awarded the compensation you deserve. Call (732) 838-9769 to schedule a free consultation.
What Needs to be Proven in a Personal Injury Case?
The laws that govern personal injury cases come from common and civil law. Holding another party liable for the harm they caused is based on a long-standing tradition of fairness. Some personal injury law stems from court decisions, while others have been codified in state statutes.
While a personal injury claim could overlap with a criminal proceeding, it is never a criminal case. A defendant who caused harm could face criminal prosecution and civil liability for the same act. For example, if a drunk driver injures you, you could file a personal injury claim to seek damages while the state brings criminal charges to punish the behavior.
The burden of proof is a critical difference between a personal injury claim and a criminal case. When the prosecution charges a driver with driving under the influence, they must establish “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the alleged crime. In a personal injury case, a plaintiff’s lawyer only has to prove negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Because of this dramatic difference, a defendant could escape conviction but still be held civilly and financially liable for the harm they caused.
Negligence, Recklessness, or Intentional Conduct
To file a personal injury lawsuit, an injured plaintiff requires adequate legal grounds. A personal injury claim could be based on negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct. In some situations, a party could be held accountable through strict liability. However, most personal injury claims are based on the negligent actions of the defendant.
A synonym for negligence is carelessness. Legally, negligence is failing to adhere to the standard of a reasonable person under the same circumstances. When a person does not act the way they should have, their actions could constitute negligence. For example, if a reasonable person were driving through a bad thunderstorm with poor visibility, they would slow down and proceed cautiously. Driving at the posted speed limit could be considered negligent given the current road conditions.
Recklessness is similar to negligence. However, the defendant knows that their behavior is likely to cause harm. Returning to the above example, a driver operating their car at the posted speed limit could be acting negligently. They are not necessarily breaking the law but they are not taking the precautions a prudent driver would take. However, if they were driving over the speed limit, their conduct would be reckless.
When someone hurts another on purpose, their conduct is said to be intentional. You have the right to sue another person if they purposefully harm you. Typically, this is the type of personal injury claim that is likely to cross over with a criminal case.
There are cases when a defendant could be held liable for an injury without any type of negligence or carelessness. The injury alone could be enough evidence to hold the offending person or business financially responsible for any damages. A common example of when strict liability occurs is when a manufacturer exposes the public to a dangerous or defective product.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
To prevail in a lawsuit based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove four things: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. First, the injured victim must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care. In the case of a car crash, a driver owes everyone else on the road a duty to safely operate their vehicle, including obeying all traffic rules and regulations. Next, the defendant’s conduct must have violated that duty. Speeding, texting, or driving under the influence would be a breach of duty.
Poor behavior is not enough to be held liable for an injury. The plaintiff needs to link their injuries to the defendant’s conduct. Whiplash is typically a direct result of a rear-end collision. However, a plaintiff would still have to provide medical evidence to tie their injury to the accident. Finally, the plaintiff must have suffered quantifiable damages.
Comparative Negligence and Contributory Negligence
Some injuries are solely the fault of one person. However, there are situations where the injured victim contributed to their harm. For example, a person could be injured in a slip and fall accident while shopping in a grocery store. However, they were looking at their phone when they stepped on the slippery spill.
In personal injury claims, there are two competing legal theories: comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Under the comparative negligence theory, a plaintiff’s compensation could be reduced based on their percentage of fault. Some states prohibit an accident victim from receiving any compensation if they are found to be more than fifty percent at fault. Under the contributory negligence theory, a plaintiff could be barred from recovering any damages if they are found to have contributed at all, even one percent, to the accident. These laws vary from state to state, with some form of comparative negligence being the most common.
Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys to Evaluate Your Case
If you were injured because of another’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct, you could have grounds for a personal injury claim. To review your case with our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys, (732) 838-9769.