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Elements of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Elements of a Personal Injury LawsuitAccidents happen, right? People rarely try to hurt you intentionally, and many mishaps don’t involve a callous indifference to others or reflect that a person simply didn’t care about the consequences of their actions. So how does the law treat those other everyday accidents? To recover damages, do you have to prove that the at-fault party was not only careless but also exhibited a clear disregard for the safety of others? In the American civil justice system, the answer is no.

What, then, must you prove in order to recover for personal injury or property damages stemming from an accident caused by another person? Most personal injury claims are based on a legal theory of negligence. To successfully recover compensation for negligence, you must prove the following elements:

  • Another person’s behavior fell short of the conduct reasonably expected of someone engaged in the same activity under the same circumstances. This element is commonly referred to as a “breach of the duty (or standard) of care;”
  • The breach caused an accident; and
  • As a result of the accident, you suffered actual losses (either physical injury, loss of property, or damage to property).

How does a person know what the expected duty of care should be? There are no specific laws setting forth what constitutes reasonable behavior in a given situation. Traditionally, “reasonable” is construed to be that type of conduct that would be engaged in by an “average person of ordinary prudence” under the same circumstances. As a practical matter, whether or not the defendant’s acts were reasonable is determined by the trier of fact—usually the jury—on a case-by-case basis. To ensure consistency of rulings, juries are required to follow the concept of stare decisis, which gives weight to prior rulings involving similar factual situations.

To establish the element of causation, you must show that the accident would not have happened had the defendant not breached the duty of care. You also must demonstrate that the accident and losses were reasonably foreseeable consequences of the defendant’s conduct.

Finally, you may recover only for uncompensated injuries you actually sustain. If your losses are covered by insurance, you cannot recover for them a second time. Furthermore, if property damage had no meaningful value, you have no right of recovery.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

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