One word you will hear multiple times throughout a personal injury case is “liability”. What does liability mean, and what does it have to do with your personal injury case? Liability is a vital part of every personal injury case. In fact, without liability, you may not have a personal injury case to possibly obtain financial compensation for any injuries and other damages after an incident.
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Liability in Personal Injury
In order to be granted the compensation for a personal injury case, you must prove the legal elements of liability of another party. Liability means a party can have legal responsibility for the injuries and damages caused. If someone is injured due to the reckless and negligent actions of another party, then they may be held liable for the resulting damages.
There are different types of liability that could be determined in a civil suit. The forms of liability include:
The most common form of liability, negligence is also the usual basis for many personal injury claims. In order to successfully carry out a negligence claim, you must prove the following legal elements:
- The defendant (alleged at-fault party) had a duty of care to the plaintiff (you)
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- This breach of duty was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury
- The plaintiff sustained damages due to the defendant’s conduct
One example of negligence would be if a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian. The driver had a duty of care to the pedestrian and breached it, resulting in injuries to the pedestrian. In this case, the driver would be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
Negligence Per Se
Another type of liability is negligence per se. In this case, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant, and they must provide evidence they were not at fault. If a defendant went against a safety law and injured someone, the injured party may have a case of negligence per se.
This case of negligence per se creates an assumption of liability. The defendant could then provide evidence to counter this assumption, and a jury would decide if the defendant has successfully proven their case.
Strict liability involves a defendant being held strictly liable for damages caused by their conduct. In the case of strict liability, a plaintiff does not need to prove negligence or recklessness on behalf of the defendant. The plaintiff only needs to prove their injuries were a result of the defendant’s conduct.
Product liability and dog bite cases are two prime examples of strict liability cases.
Vicarious liability most often references places such as hospitals, stores, and trucking companies. In the case of vicarious liability, it is required the parties have a supervisory relationship. This means that at the time of the injury, the party being held responsible was supervising the injured party.
It is important to note that employers are not held liable for the that employees commit outside of their scope of work. This means companies are not held responsible if their independent contractors cause an accident or injury while performing contract work for the company.
How to Prove Liability in a Personal Injury Case?
Now comes the most important question, how can liability be proven in a personal injury case? Liability in personal injury cases is often proven through the process of gathering sufficient evidence and presenting it to a judge or jury. The plaintiff has the burden of proving the defendant was negligent and/or reckless, and that this conduct directly caused injuries and other damages.
In order to successfully establish liability, the injured party must provide evidence such as:
- Eyewitness testimony: This would include witnesses who saw an accident or incident unfold and can provide an accurate account of what happened.
- Police Reports: Calling the police after any incident is vital. Later on, they can provide important information about the accident or incident, including who was reportedly at fault.
- Expert testimony: Skilled experts in medicine, accident reconstruction, and other relevant fields can provide more context and information pertaining to the extent of the incident and the resulting injuries.
- Medical records: This is why it is always advised injured parties seek medical attention, whether they are in pain or not. Some injuries can be discovered later on during a medical checkup. In a personal injury case, medical records can provide more information about any sustained injuries and the treatment required.
- Photographs and videos: Photographs and/or videos of accident scenes can provide helpful visuals to get an idea of how the event unfolded, as well as show any vehicle or property damages depending on the type of incident being examined.
In order to build a successful personal injury case, you must have evidence. Working alongside an expert personal injury attorney will ensure you are able to gather the right evidence to further prove your claim.
What Can Be Recovered After Proving Liability?
What is the main goal when proving liability? If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to the reckless or negligent actions of another party, you may be entitled to financial compensation. If you can successfully prove the legal elements of liability, then you may be able to obtain economic and non-economic compensation.
The types of damages you can recover include:
- Loss of income, including future wages and reductions in earning potential
- Cost of medical care, personal care, and nursing care
- Physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering
- Severe disfigurement and/or disability
- Reduced quality of life and/or loss of enjoyment of life
It’s important to remember that many people not only obtain horrific injuries from other negligent parties, but the consequences of any incident can completely alter their life. This is why a personal injury case should be built, in order to hold at-fault parties liable.
The amount of money a person receives from a personal injury claim can vary depending on a number of factors. For example, a jury may consider the severity of their injuries, and how much their quality of life is impacted. Other factors considered may include whether the plaintiff somehow contributed to the cause of their injury, as well as how big of a financial loss they obtained after injury.
It is also very important to note that many personal injury cases often do not make it to court. In fact, during the discovery process there may be enough evidence to prove liability. When there is enough evidence to prove fault, the liable party (whether the person, business, or their insurance) will want to settle to avoid a trial.
Settlement negotiations are common during a personal injury claim. In fact, they can often save time and resources if both parties are happy to negotiate. Other times, a personal injury case may still proceed to a trial.
Working with an expert personal injury attorney can help you learn more about liability and how to prove it. If you have been injured due to the recklessness or negligence of another party, it is vital you connect with a personal injury lawyer and you discuss your options, including the possibility of obtaining compensation for injuries and other damages.