When people are injured in a car accident or slip-and-fall, their initial questions are how the accident happened and who is at fault. As it turns out, both of these questions are important in determining liability, or fault, for the accident.
Most people have heard of the term “liability,” but they might not fully understand what it means. Essentially, liability is a legal term used for responsibility. So, if someone is liable for an accident, they are legally and financially responsible. When evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a personal injury case and the possibility of recovering monetary damages for injuries, it is essential to understand liability and how it is determined.
How Is Liability Proven in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
As discussed above, liability refers to a party’s responsibility for causing an accident or injury. In a personal injury lawsuit, liability usually depends on the circumstances in which the injury happened. Tort laws allow injured parties to establish liability and seek damages for injuries caused by another.
Below are the most common types of tort categories related to personal injury lawsuits:
Negligence is the most common type of personal injury tort.
To be successful in a negligence case, the injured person (plaintiff) must prove that:
- The at-fault party (defendant) had a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty or did not act reasonably;
- The defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages (monetary or emotional).
For example, restaurant owners notice that there is food on the floor in the walkway to the bathroom. However, the owners do nothing about it and leave the food on the floor. One of their guests gets up to go to the bathroom, slips on the spilled food, falls down, and injures themselves.
The restaurant owners had a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for their guests, including keeping the floor clear of hazards that could cause a guest to slip and fall. The owner’s actions – failing to clean up – breached their duty to their guests. Further, the owner’s breach was the direct cause of the guest’s injury.
An intentional tort is when someone purposefully injures another person or another person’s property. Sometimes the actions making up an intentional tort can be similar to a criminal act, such as assault, battery, trespass, and false imprisonment.
Other intentional torts that are based on personal injury law are defamation (slander or libel) and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In a strict liability case, the injured person only needs to prove that they were injured and that the other party caused the injury. There is no need to prove fault or intent because liability exists in a strict liability tort without the need to prove those things.
Strict liability law applies in situations that are inherently dangerous or very likely to cause harm. The intent behind making strict liability laws so harsh is to encourage people or entities to take appropriate precautions to avoid accidents arising from inherently dangerous situations or conditions.
A common example of when strict liability applies is a product liability case. Product liability applies to situations when a product manufacturer puts defective or dangerous products in the stream of commerce and consumers or customers are injured by those defective products. Because that situation is so dangerous, product manufacturers face strict liability if they do not take reasonable and appropriate precautions to avoid injury.
What Are Common Types of Injuries in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
In personal injury cases, there are two types of injuries defendants are commonly held liable for:
Bodily injuries are damage or harm to the injured person’s body. These are the types of injuries suffered in car accident cases and slip-and-fall cases. The damages typically awarded for bodily injuries include medical expenses necessary to treat the injury or stop the injury from getting worse. It is also possible for injured people to recover damages for lost wages from missing work and ongoing care, like physical therapy.
Pain And Suffering
An injured party may experience pain and suffering after an accident or due to their injuries. Pain and suffering injuries may be physical or mental.
For example, if someone is injured as a result of medical malpractice, they may recover damages for the ongoing pain that prevents them from living their regular life.
Emotional distress is mental suffering resulting from another person’s actions. Usually, a plaintiff suffers emotional distress when the defendant’s actions or the accident is so severe that the memory of it mentally affects the plaintiff to the extent that they cannot function as they regularly would.
These non-economic damages are difficult to value since they’re personal to the accident victim, and all people experience accidents and injuries in unique ways.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving Liability
No matter what type of accident you’ve been in or the type of injury you’ve suffered, having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side is crucial to proving liability. If you cannot prove that the at-fault party caused your injury, you won’t recover any compensation. It’s best to discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer to ensure that you build a strong case to recover damages.