If you’ve spent anytime surfing the channels during commercial breaks you’ve likely encountered TV ads for “Personal Injury Attorneys.” While this phrase has practically become a buzzword in the past few decades, many people in America still don’t know exactly what it means or what cases are specifically covered under this type of lawsuit.
So when should you think about hiring an attorney for a personal injury lawsuit?
There are several different scenarios that might prompt you to consult an attorney to pursue this option. Personal Injury cases can be described as “a legal path to establishing civil liability for physical, emotional, or financial injuries or fatalities on those individuals who are found to cause injury to others around them through intentional, inattentive, or careless actions”.
The first step in proving personal injury is to establish negligence on the part of the Defendant. Negligence is composed of four elements:
- Defendant’s legal duty to the Plaintiff
- Failure to fulfill this legal duty
- Harm to the Plaintiff
Legal Duty to Plaintiff
A Defendant is only considered liable if they have a legal duty of care toward the victim who received the injuries. This may take the form of an adult caring for a child, a driver’s responsibility toward other drivers to drive safely, or a property owner’s obligation to maintain his property to avoid injury to others. Certain business or family relationships may increase this obligation for care, as well as previous actions the defendant may have taken that put the victim in danger originally.
One caution that should be considered is that legal duty does not necessarily equal moral obligation. For instance, a random bystander is not legally bound to save someone from drowning or from a burning building. However, if this same person accidentally knocked the victim into the water or accidentally set the building on fire, this would constitute a legal duty.
Failure to Fulfill Duty of Care
In order to prove personal injury claims, the Plaintiff must also prove that the Defendant has failed to fulfill his duty of care toward others. This raises the objective standard of “how would a reasonable person act in such a circumstance?” If the conclusion is that the Defendant did not meet the “reasonable person” measure, he has failed to fulfill his legal duty of care toward the victim.
There are two facets to the element of causation. In order to prove this element, the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant is responsible for both the actual and proximate causes of the injury to the victim. The actual cause, for example, is fairly straightforward. If scaffolding falls, the actual cause may be that it was constructed incorrectly. The proximate cause refers to the fact that the Defendant must have been reasonably capable of foreseeing the results of his actions.
Harm to the Plaintiff
The final element of proving negligence requires the Plaintiff to provide sufficient proof that physical injury, property damage, or financial loss was caused by the actions of the Defendant.
These are just the basic elements to a legitimate personal injury claim, but there are many other factors to consider when pursuing a claim and a dedicated personal injury lawyer is the best person to advise you.
If you are in Central Valley, California, and feel you may have a claim, we invite you to call us at Triebsch & Frampton today at (209) 667-2300 to schedule a free consultation.