Most people never imagine themselves becoming the target of a lawsuit. When it does happen, you might feel confused and uncertain of how to act. A personal injury attorney can help you fight the accusations against you, but you might want to understand a few basic facts about civil law and what the other side needs to do to prove their claim against you. Read on to learn more.
The Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
The law defines three critical elements that must be met before a case can be proven against you:
1. A duty of care – You owe others a responsibility to avoid harming them.
2. Breach of duty of care – You failed to avoid harming someone.
3. An injury was caused by the breach – A person suffered harm as a result of that breach of duty of care. The harm can be:
- Physical, as in a car accident.
- Emotional, as the trauma associated with an action or event.
- Reputation, as with a defamation suit.
- Financial, such as with property damage, lost wages, and more.
Here is an example using the three elements:
A tree limb fell from a tree near your home and injured a neighbor. You must be able to prove that you did not owe the neighbor a duty of care. Perhaps the tree was not actually on your property but instead was close to the road and part of the city easement. There was no breach on your part because the city is responsible for trimming trees near the street. The injury that resulted from the limb was not caused by a breach on your part.
Pointing the Finger of Blame Elsewhere
As you can see from the example above, liability plays a major role in the personal injury process. Liability can be thought of fault and if you can show that a third party was responsible for an injury instead of you, it places the liability on another person or entity. For example, you might defend yourself against a car accident claim by pointing the finger of blame at the brake manufacturers or the car maker.
If you cannot shed yourself of all liability for harm done, you might be able to reduce it. In the above tree limb scenario, imagine that the plaintiff was able to prove that the tree was on your property. You might still be able to reduce your liability by showing that you were unable to access the tree for trimming due to a fence and a refusal of the neighbor to cooperate with the trimming. Shared liability always reduces the compensation you might end up owing.
To learn more, speak to a personal injury attorney.