If you have been injured in an accident you believe was caused by someone else's negligence, you need to have a basic understanding of your legal right. In this regard, you also need to have an essential familiarity with the four primary elements of a personal injury case. The reality is that you must be able to demonstrate the existence of all four elements in order to prevail in a personal injury case.
1. Duty of Care
In order to prevail in a personal injury case, you must demonstrate the existence of what legally is known as a duty of care. A person driving a motor vehicle on a public roadway has a duty of care to operate the automobile in a reasonably safe manner. The owner of a grocery store has a duty of care to keep floors free from liquids to protect against slip and fall incidents.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
Proving liability in a personal injury case requires a demonstration that a duty of care was breached. A motorist who drives through a red light violates a duty of care to operate an automobile in a reasonable safe manner. A grocer who knows milk has spilled on the floor and fails to clean it up in a reasonably timely manner also breaches a duty of care.
3. Demonstration of Proximate Cause
Proximate cause is a legal term that essentially means that the breach of a duty of case must be the legal and actual cause of the accident and injuries you sustained. In order for the breach of duty to be the proximate cause of an accident and associated injuries, these injuries must have been reasonably foreseeable.
When a motorist runs a red light and collides with a pedestrian lawfully in the crosswalk, the injuries sustained by the walker are reasonably foreseeable. Running the red light would be the proximate cause of the accident and injuries sustained by the pedestrian.
On the other hand, a situation could exist when injuries connected with a motorist running a red light would not be foreseeable. For example, a person looking out a window of building near the intersection could observe the accident occur. The observer could be so alarmed by the event that he or she experiences a heart attack.
The conduct of the motorist in driving through a red light likely would not be considered the proximate cause of the heart attack sustained by a person in a nearby building who observed the accident. The person at a distance suffering a heart attack is not what legally is considered a reasonably foreseeable result of running a red light.
4. Actual Injuries, Damages, or Losses
In order to prevail in an accident case, you must demonstrate that you have suffered actual injuries, damages, or losses. Losses of any type cannot be merely speculative.
In a personal injury case, compensation is contingent upon proving the nature and extent of injuries sustained. For example, you cannot simply allege that you were in an accident and, as a result, you are more likely to experience future health issues that would be the case had the incident not occurred.
Proving the existence of all four elements needed to provide liability in a personal injury case is not necessarily an easy task. The need to demonstrate the existence of all four elements underscores the necessity of retaining capable, experienced legal counsel in a case involving injuries, damages, and losses arising from an accident.