Establishing Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
April 25, 2019 | Personal Injury
If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington civil court, your personal injury attorney will need to prove that the at-fault party was truly responsible for causing your injuries. In the personal injury claims process, proving negligence can be challenging depending on the circumstances. In order to successfully prove a personal injury lawsuit and receive compensatory damages, you will need to satisfy four elements to establish negligence. Contact a Seattle personal injury lawyer at Washington Injury Law for a free consultation of your case.
Element #1: Duty of Care
The first step in proving liability in a personal injury claim is to prove that the at-fault party owed you a legal duty of care. Proving this duty of care will change depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you suffered injuries due to a doctor’s medical malpractice, you will have to prove that you and the doctor had a doctor-patient relationship. If you suffered injuries in a car accident, your attorney will have to prove that the other driver owed you a duty to operate his or her vehicle safely and with a certain level of care.
Element #2: Breach of Duty of Care
Next, the court will require proof that the at-fault party breached his or her duty of care to you. This requires establishing that this breach is something that a reasonably prudent person would not commit in the same circumstances. A reasonably prudent person is the legal definition by which courts judge how an average person would have acted in the same situation while adhering to a certain level of responsibility.
For example, if you are a victim of medical malpractice, you will need evidence that a similarly trained and educated medical professional would not have committed the same errors that your doctor did. If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you must prove that the driver committed an action that another driver would not commit if he or she drove safely. The at-fault party will likely be negligent if he or she knew that the actions would have injured another person and still continued to act in a negligent manner.
Element #3: Causation
After your legal counsel establishes the duty of care and the breach of care, you and your attorney will need to prove that this breach led directly to your injuries. You will need to prove this element through the presentation of evidence, such as medical reports or surveillance footage. For example, if you suffered broken bones as a result of a car accident, you will have to prove that the negligent action led to your injuries. If the at-fault party caused the accident by running through a red light, documented traffic footage can prove causation.
In terms of medical malpractice, suppose that your doctor misdiagnosed your cancer. A few months later, your cancer progressed and you suffered from worsening symptoms as a result, requiring additional medical treatment and a worsened quality of life. You receive the correct diagnosis from another doctor at this time and start receiving the treatment you need to recover. Your medical records can prove that the misdiagnosis led to your worsening condition.
Element #4: Tangible and Intangible Damages
Finally, the court will need proof that you suffered damages as a result of your injuries. Your damages can be economic and noneconomic. These damages may include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, disability, loss of quality of life, mental anguish, emotional distress, and other forms of pain and suffering.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer In Seattle
At the conclusion of your case, the jury will determine who was at fault for the accident and how much compensation to award you. The jury may reduce your settlement amount if it finds that you were responsible for a percentage of the accident.
For example, if you receive a $100,000 settlement and the jury finds you 10% responsible for the accident, you will only receive $90,000. If the jury finds you responsible for 50% or more of the accident, you may have to pay damages to the other party. Contact Washington Injury Law for a free consultation of your case.