Suffering an injury doesn’t always qualify a person to recover damages from another party. As a personal injury lawyer can explain, three basic requirements must be satisfied for a person to have a valid personal injury claim.
The party responsible for your injury must have caused that injury through their own negligence. Standards for negligence vary based on the laws of the state where the injury happened and whether the party you are suing was entirely at fault for your injury.
For example, If you are injured in an automobile accident because the other driver ran a red light, that driver’s negligent action may be determined to be the primary cause of your injury. However, if you were talking on your cell phone and might have been able to avoid the accident if you had been paying attention, you may also be partially at fault.
Additionally, there are some circumstances where an action is deemed so dangerous that another party can be liable for your injury whether that party was negligent or not. This standard is often applied to the ownership of dangerous animals, use of explosives and defective products. An example might be a person who owns a vicious dog who has the dog appropriately leashed and muzzled, but the dog escapes and bites someone anyway. That owner may be liable for the damages caused regardless of negligence.
2. Negligence Caused the Injury
In addition to proving the other party was negligent, you must prove that that party’s negligence caused your injury. For example, if you had a pre-existing back injury and you were injured because of a negligent driver, that driver would not be liable for your pre-existing injury. However, if the accident caused your back injury to get worse, you may be able to recover damages to the extent that your injury was worsened by the accident.
3. Injury Resulted in Harm
In most cases, you are only entitled to recover actual damages suffered due to an injury caused by the negligence of the other party. These damages usually include medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. If your injury is severe, you may also receive compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement. In some specific instances where an at-fault party has been determined to be grossly negligent, the court may award punitive damages. These are damages intended to punish the at-fault party for their behavior.
Some cases of personal injury are fairly straightforward. Others are more complex. If you need assistance determining whether you have a valid personal injury claim, contact a personal injury attorney in your area.