Personal injury cases can be some of the most confusing civil cases to resolve. The process of determining whether you receive compensation or not is complicated in a personal injury case, simply because it’s often difficult to prove one way or another. That being said, the legal system uses the term “negligence” to decide whether the defendant was at fault or not. So if you’ve filed a personal injury claim, your lawyer will be looking to show the judge that the person you filed against, whether that be a property owner or your employer, acted negligently.
What exactly constitutes negligence?
Well, in order to prove negligence, a personal injury attorney has to identify four specific aspects of the incident:
- Duty of Care
- Breach of Duty
We’ll explain each of these as they relate to a personal injury claim so that you know exactly what’s going on with your case:
Duty of Care
First and foremost, the plaintiff, or the person making the claim, has to prove that the defendant had a legal duty of care towards the plaintiff. In the case of a grocery store, for example, the owner has a loose legal duty of care to their shoppers, in that they are required to take “reasonable” steps to ensure their grocery store is safe for customers.
In most cases, this means they should take precautions to avoid injuries by regularly checking for spills and wet floors, and they should not place heavy objects precariously on high shelves. Regardless of where the injury happened, your attorney will have to prove that you and the plaintiff had some sort of relationship that constituted a reasonable duty of care.
Breach of Duty
After showing that your relationship to the defendant dictated some duty of care, your attorney will have to show that the defendant did not live up to that duty of care. Using the same example, we’ll say that the grocery store owner did not check for spills for an entire week, and you slipped in a puddle of laundry detergent. In that case, your attorney can say that the grocery owner breached their duty of taking “reasonable” steps to ensure their grocery store was safe because they didn’t clean up the spill for a week, something any other grocery store owner would have done in a few hours. The grocery store owner who did not clean up the spill allowed a dangerous situation to persist for an inordinate amount of time, which the court identifies as a breach of duty.
Once it’s clear that the defendant did breach their duty of care and created a dangerous situation, your attorney has to prove that the dangerous situation directly caused your injury. In most cases, once the attorney has shown that there was a breach of duty, it’s clear that the defendant was negligent. But this does not justify your claim unless their negligence was the only cause of your injury.
Say, for example, that you were running backward through the aisle, and slipped in the puddle of laundry detergent. In this case, the court might find that it was not only the store owner’s fault that you slipped and fell, but also partially your own fault, for acting carelessly. So to collect on a personal injury claim, it’s important that your attorney prove causation: that your injury was directly caused by the defendant’s breach of care.
Finally, once your attorney has established duty of care, breach of care, and causation, they will state your damages. Obviously, to claim a personal injury settlement, some sort of provable injury has to have been sustained. Whether you fell and hit your head, or broke an arm, you have to be able to show that this is the injury that was caused by the negligence of the defendant. In most cases, your medical records will serve as significant proof of your injuries sustained.
Your attorney will then state the amount of compensation you are requesting for your injuries. Referred to as damages, this includes any medical bills that resulted from the injury, as well as any emotional damages suffered. When it comes time to negotiate your actual settlement, the amount of compensation you receive will be the biggest dispute. No matter how the negotiations go, if your attorney has successfully proven negligence, it’s likely that you will receive some sort of monetary compensation.
Personal injury and negligence claims are confusing and can be difficult to prove. If you have questions about your personal injury, or if you’re not sure you can file a claim, call the Epstein Law Firm today! We’ve been in the business for decades, and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have. As always, an initial consultation with us is free. Give our office a call at 773-522-7000, or submit a request for your free consultation online today!