Liability implies that a person or party is financially responsible for paying damages to a person who suffered an injury or loss of a loved one. Proving liability is required to receive compensation in civil lawsuits related to personal injury, premises liability, product liability, and wrongful death claims. The liable party can be the person or entity at fault for an accident or the insurance company responsible for covering the damages they owe to the injured person or their family.
Most civil liability cases require establishing negligence, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. Some claims, however, fall under strict liability laws, which do not require negligence to be proven to secure compensation.
How a Personal Injury Proves Liability
Negligence can be described as a failure to act with the same amount of care that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. If a personal injury or another type of civil claim requires negligence to be proven, an attorney must demonstrate the following elements:
- Duty of Care: Duty of care is an obligation to one party by another to ensure their actions or inactions are safe and reasonable and do not result in harm. For example, drivers owe all others on the road a duty to operate their vehicles safely and not engage in dangerous driving behavior. In medical malpractice cases, this is more commonly known as standard of care.
- Breach of Duty: When a party fails to fulfill their duty of care owed to another, they have breached or violated this obligation. As a result, an accident occurred that caused an injury. For example, a driver could breach their duty by driving carelessly or disobeying traffic laws and causing an accident that results in injuries.
- Causation: The breach of duty must have been the proximate cause of a person’s injuries (and, therefore, losses). In other words, the injuries would not have occurred but for the breach.
- Damages: Your accident and injuries resulted in calculable losses that can be represented as damages in a compensation claim.
In short, your attorney’s approach to establishing negligence may include the following:
- Explaining why the liable party owed you a duty of care
- Using evidence to demonstrate that the responsible party violated their duty, such as by presenting traffic citations or eyewitness testimony
- Showing the liable party’s negligence caused your accident and injuries, and proving that there was not another causal factor involved
- Presenting evidence of your losses, their individual values, and total worth
If your attorney successfully proves negligence, the court will determine what the liable party owes, considering the damages and compensation you sought in the lawsuit. Damages represent physical, emotional, and personal losses assigned a monetary value. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you may have incurred medical bills or endured pain and suffering that warrant compensation.
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Proving Strict Liability
In some personal injury cases, the responsible party or their insurer can be held strictly liable for damages. Strict liability does not require an attorney to prove intention or negligence, only that their actions or omission caused your injuries and losses.
For example, under product liability, a manufacturer might be held financially responsible if their defective product causes harm to you. This is because they are mandated by law to ensure their product is safe for consumers to use as intended.
In vicarious liability cases, certain parties can be liable for the wrongdoings of other individuals or entities that led to injuries and damages. For example, a company could be held financially responsible for the sexual misconduct of an employee. This could occur if upper management representing the business knew about the employee’s criminal behavior yet made no attempts to stop it or contact the police, thereby allowing it to continue.
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Recoverable Damages in a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
When you file a personal injury claim, the party responsible for your injuries is presumed financially liable for physical, emotional, and personal damages. These can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Medical bills, e.g., emergency care, hospitalization, doctor visits, medication, etc.
- Lost income and benefits
- Diminished future earning capacity
- Loss of quality and enjoyment of life
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Property damage
Wrongful death claims are filed when a person is fatally injured and family members wish to pursue compensation for the losses they’ve suffered and those on behalf of the decedent. These losses commonly include funeral and burial expenses, the victim’s pain and suffering, and grief experienced by their loved ones.
Out-of-Court Insurance Settlements
Notably, most personal injury cases are settled out of court through negotiation with the liable party’s insurance company. For example, in a car accident, the liable party’s auto insurance carrier would be responsible to pay for your property damage, injuries, and losses. Your attorney will identify and calculate your damages and submit this to their insurance company, demanding compensation.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Team Today
It is not enough to merely identify the liable parties in a civil case—a personal injury attorney must be able to prove it. If another party was responsible for your injury or a loved one’s passing, contact the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine today for a free case review. We will investigate your claim and work to determine the liable parties and establish negligence in our pursuit of fair compensation for your losses.
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