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Elements of a Personal Injury Claim

Home » Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
November 21, 2018
Edward Smith

Legal Responsibility

When you’ve been hurt, and you need to be compensated for your injuries, you will more than likely hear the words negligence and legal responsibility or duty of care. Both describe concepts that are central to any personal injury case. It is important for you to understand what is happening as your personal injury case evolves. In order to facilitate that, let’s look at the meaning of negligence and duty of care and how these factors influence the outcome of any claim.

What Is Legal Responsibility?

The concept of negligence and having a legal responsibility to others is central to tort law. Tort law governs the process in which civil wrongs that cause harm to an innocent individual are compensated by establishing liability of the at-fault party. Basically, everyone has a duty of care to others who share their presence on the road, in their homes or who engage with them in other ways. This includes people who buy goods in a commercial establishment, swim in a pool at a hotel, walk along a sidewalk on another’s property and use the parking lot owned by a shopping center. It is this duty to act responsibly when engaged with others that, if broken, forms the beginning of a quest for compensation.

Ways in Which Legal Responsibility Is Broken

Some common situations where the duty people have to one another exists are:

  • On the road: In all cases, someone who ignores the rules of the road, such as driving through a stop sign without halting, is not acting reasonably or with a sense of responsibility to others. Although the driver may not intend to hurt another person, their lack of reasonableness has the potential to do just that.
  • Property: Anyone who owns or rents their home or has a business has a duty of care to others who enter the premises. While there are variations in the type of care that is owed, not performing duties that keep the premises safe is breaking the owners/renters duty of care to others.
  • Manufacturers: A company that manufactures a product has a legal responsibility to make their product safe for consumers. If this is not done, the consumer has the right to collect damages from the company.

The Duty of Care and Negligence

If someone is hurt due to another’s breach of care, they can file a claim against that person or party for the financial damages they incurred. In order to accomplish this, the injured party, now known as the plaintiff, must prove specific parameters. These include:

  • The at-fault party (now referred to as the defendant) had a duty of care.
  • The defendant broke or breached the agreement (spoken or unspoken) to abide by their legal responsibility.
  • The breach of the defendant’s duty of care resulted in damages to the plaintiff.
  • The damages were the result of the defendant’s action or inaction.

Negligence and Duty of Care: The Basics

All of us are judged in tort law by the behavior of a reasonable person. This person, who is a fictitious creation, always acts in a responsible way and weighs the outcome of his or her actions. In cases where a defendant fails to behave reasonably, they may be considered to be acting negligently and ordered to pay the financial damages the injured person amassed.

Example of a Breach of Care

In this example, the driver of a motor coach for disabled citizens is driving drunk. Since the vehicle is considered a commercial or common carrier, the driver’s duty of care to others is higher than that demanded of other motorists. Because being impaired distorts the driver’s cognitive judgment, he or she drives through a red light, and an accident occurs. Two of the riders are seriously injured and are hospitalized. Because of this, they amass medical debt they would not have had if the driver had acted reasonably. The driver would be considered negligent in addition to breaking the law, and both he and the company he works for could be sued by the injured passengers.

Cases Where Negligence Need Not Be Proven

In cases of product liability in California, it is not necessary to prove negligence under the umbrella of strict liability. In this case, the injured party (the consumer) must merely show that the product was used in the manner for which it was designed and caused their injury.

The Outcome of a Civil Liability Claim

Whether a case is settled between the plaintiff and the defendant or it goes to court, it relies on an injury lawyer proving that the defendant did not perform in a reasonable manner, and another person was injured because of it. In order to do that, the plaintiff or his or her attorney must provide evidence that the defendant breached their duty of care. This may involve investigating the case, obtaining testimony from witnesses or experts in the field, using computer renderings of an accident and showing how the plaintiff suffered monetary loss.

Personal Injury Lawyer in Natomas

I’m Ed Smith, a Natomas personal injury lawyer. If you’ve been hurt by a negligent party, you have the right to collect the compensation you deserve. Just call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach me online at, the website I own and created.

I’ve helped many residents of Natomas and others in Northern California in all types of car accidents, pedestrian injuries, and brain trauma obtain the compensation they need and deserve.

I’ve consistently held membership in the Million Dollar Advocates, a forum of trial attorneys who have won over $1 million for a client.

When you need to consult an attorney, you need to know about their practice. Take a look at what some clients and peers have said about mine and how I resolved previous cases on the following pages:

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