Common Elements of a Personal Injury Case
For every personal injury claim, there are four elements that need to be met. If all four elements are met, and the jury is convinced that they are met, then the plaintiff is likely awarded just compensation for the damages they suffered. The elements are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. We will be applying them to car accident claims.Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care
Everyone driving on the road owes a duty of care, the existence of that duty is the first step in your negligence claim. In the case of a car accident, it needs to be established that the person at fault owed a duty to the victim. Normally, this is quite simple to satisfy as long as the victim was in the vicinity of the actor. A duty is owed by pedestrians, motorists, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.
The reasonable care that is owed depends on the situation. For example, if a windstorm blows someone's trampoline into a roadway and it results in a car accident, the court will look to whether the owner of the trampoline reasonable should have secured the trampoline before the windstorm.Failure to Exercise Reasonable Care
The second element that must be satisfied is that the actor did not meet their duty of reasonable care.It might have been the individual did something careless, such as texting and driving, failing to stop at a stop sign, or not maintaining his or her vehicle. Even if the actor did not mean to harm someone, the actor will still be liable for not acting reasonably.
Sometimes, the breach is more severe and amounts to recklessness. This can be flagrant speeding, racing, or drinking and driving.
Another point to consider is whether the victim was also negligent and contributed to the accident. For example, if a car is driving on a dark country road at night without their lights on, causing another car to not see them while coming around a curve to fast and crashes into them. the victim contributed to the accident with its own negligence and the court will weigh who is at fault for what, possibly barring recovery entirely.Causation
The third element that must be met is causation. This means that the actor's failure to exercise reasonable care was the actual cause of the injury. The negligence by the actor must have contributed to the accident in question.
Again, the if the victim's own actions contributed to the accident, it may reduce the amount able to be recovered. But as long as the actor contributed to the accident and is a close cause of the action, the victim can recover.
For example, a driver comes speeding down the highway and scares a second driver. This second driver starting speeding as a result, feeling anxious and wanting to get off the roadway as soon as possible. The second driver then can't stop in time and crashes into the back of another vehicle. The first driver, although were it not for his speeding the other would not have crashed, would be difficult to be held liable as there was a greater cause to the crash of the second driver's speeding. The second driver's negligence actually caused the crash and will most likely be the one responsible for the injuries.Suffered Actual Damages
The final element of an injury claim is damages. In order to recovery, there must be actual damages suffered as a result of another's negligence. The purpose of such claims is to compensate the injured, this can be an injury to self or property, but if no injury exists, there is nothing to compensate. For example, let's imagine that the second driver in the previous example was speeding but this time was able to slam on the brakes to stop in time. The would-be victim would not be able to bring any injury claim as there were no damages suffered.
Some common types of damages that come from injury claims are the following:
- Lost income
- Medical costs
- Vehicle Damages
- Pain and Suffering
I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento personal injury lawyer. An attorney's job is to help determine if all the elements have been met in their client's personal injury claim. The attorney also works to convince the jury if it is questionable whether a certain element has been met. I have been working on personal injury claims for the past 35 years and know what it takes to get my clients the just compensation they deserve. Call me today for free and friendly advice at 916.921.6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400.