Determining who is legally responsible for an accident, known as a liability, is a complicated process. Typically, it falls on the party that was negligent or irresponsible and caused the accident. While it is easy enough to say that the person who caused your injuries is responsible and should pay for your damages, the process of establishing fault is not quite so easy.
To win an injury claim, you must successfully prove fault. Simply stating that one party is responsible is not enough. Instead, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the person you claim is “at-fault” is legally responsible.
Legal Liability: Not as Easy as It Seems
An accident happens because someone was reckless, careless, or negligent.
In injury law, the rules are simple:
- When one person is more reckless, careless, or negligent than another in an accident, he or she is considered responsible.
To determine legal liability, the law breaks it down into four basic elements. These elements you may have heard of before and will hear many times during a personal injury case. They include duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Duty: What Did the Defendant Owe?
To establish negligence and fault, you must first prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care. The duty of care does not have to apply to you specifically, and it can include the public. For example, all motorists have a legal obligation to drive safely and observe traffic laws.
Regardless, the defendant must owe you a duty of care in some way or form to be responsible for your injuries.
Breach of Duty: How Did the Defendant Breach It?
Now that you know the duty owed to you or the public, next you establish how the defendant breached that duty. Using the example of motor vehicles, if the motorist had a duty to follow traffic laws, but choose to speed in a school zone and cause an accident, they have breached their duty of care.
Note, that not all breaches involve breaking the law. Sometimes, it is a matter of common sense. What would a reasonable person expect in terms of a duty of care? For example, a store owner may not be arrested for failing to clean up spilled water, which leads to an accident. However, a reasonable person would assume that a store owner would not want their patrons to slip and fall and would clean it up.
Causation: Did the Breach Cause the Accident?
Most importantly, you must show the court that the defendant’s breach of duty caused your accident. Just because a store owner fails to clean up a spill and you have an accident in their parking lot does not mean there is causation. The defendant’s negligent acts must be the direct cause of your incident.
Damages: What Did the Injury Cost You?
Damages are what the court’s award to victims in a personal injury case. The damages, also known as compensation, are meant to restore you to the status you were before the accident. These damages may include:
- Medical costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Pain and suffering
Establishing Fault Requires Professional Assistance
While you may know who is at-fault, establishing it by a preponderance of evidence so that the court agrees with your accusation is not as easy as you might think.
You have serious injuries that you need to recover from, which means you do not have time to worry about collecting evidence and establishing your case.
Instead of worrying about fault, breach of duty, and the preponderance of the evidence contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC. Attorney Seth Gladstein can help you establish fault and receive compensation for your injuries. Call him today or contact him online.