Grounds for Personal Injury Claims
What You Need to Know About Personal Injury Claims
At Warner, Sechrest & Butts, we want our clients to be confident in our representation and understand the basics of a personal injury claim. If you have been injured and have questions about filing a personal injury lawsuit, contact our law office today.
What is personal injury law, and what are the requirements for a personal injury case?
Personal injury describes a broad area of law involving civil claims against defendants to cause injuries by their acts or omissions. Personal injury claims can result from many different scenarios. Some common types of personal injury cases include:
- automobile accidents or automobile negligence,
- wrongful death,
- medical malpractice,
- slip-and-fall cases,
- trip-and-fall cases,
- premises liability,
- product liability cases,
- dangerous or defective construction practices,
- workers' compensation claims, and
- assault and battery (which is an intentional tort).
How do I know if I have a good personal injury case?
Almost every case involving personal injury claims has a similar set of requirements or elements in order for a plaintiff or injured party to recover. The four basic elements of a personal injury claim are duty, breach, causation and damages. There are rare circumstances in which one of these elements may be presumed by law. For instance, in certain cases of strict liability, the element of duty is presumed to exist simply because a manufacturer placed a product into the stream of commerce. This would fall under the category of strict product liability and is covered in other areas of our informational website. Some personal injury cases require an additional element of intent. They are know as "intentional torts" and include assault and battery.
What is the element of duty?
The element of duty is a legal concept whereby a certain individual or class of individuals is required to take measures to protect or to avoid harming other classes or individuals. An example of a specific duty would be a duty of a landowner to warn invitees of possible dangers on their property. There are also certain duties which all people share concerning the use of "reasonable care" under similar circumstances. This is the general duty under negligence theories of law. Evidence of these duties sometimes includes industry standards, such as OSHA safety rules.
Finally, some duties are specifically created by legal doctrine and require certain parties to act specifically in order to protect other parties, not just avoid harm. An example of this would be a common carrier duty to protect those who travel on its vehicles. The common carrier has a heightened duty to protect those individuals who are being transported in exchange for some form of payment. This is a duty which has been created through common-law and extends beyond the concepts of general negligence and duties of ordinary reasonable care.
What is the element of breach?
A breach of duty is simply whether the defendant or individual failed to conform to its duty, whether it be a duty of reasonable care under general negligence concepts or for a specific duty created for certain classes of individuals and/or groups. Did the defendant fail to meet or exceed his or her duty? If not, a breach is present.
What is causation?
In general terms, the element of "causation" means that the complaining party must prove that the breach of an established duty is related to the damages for which the individual seeks recovery. The plaintiff must link the breach to the damages through establishing cause.
Often times a plaintiff or party will have pre-existing injuries or conditions which are not related to specific actions of the defendant. In these circumstances, the plaintiff is not allowed to recover for those pre-existing injuries because they are not caused by the breach. For instance if a plaintiff has pre-existing back injuries and is involved in an car accident, the plaintiff must establish what injuries were caused by the car accident and is not allowed to lump all of its medical claims and pain and suffering together against the defendant.
Occasionally, injuries may be inextricably intertwined and a court may allow the plaintiff to seek recovery for the combined injury or aggravation of pre-existing injuries. In these circumstances, it is a defendant's obligation to try and segregate the plaintiff's new injuries.
What are damages?
In a personal injury case, there are two basic forms of damages. Economic damages are those damages which can be quantified with specificity as to the amount the plaintiff will suffer as a result of the defendant's conduct. Noneconomic damages are those types of damages which do not include quantifiable losses. These types of damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of the enjoyment of life, and spousal consortium claims, among others.
What should I do if I believe I have a personal injury case?
If you have a personal injury question, you should talk to an attorney who is board-certified as an expert by the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar has recognized certain individual attorneys as experts in the area of civil trial law which concerns personal injury cases, but only 2 percent of all lawyers fall into this category.
If you would like to speak to a board-certified civil trial attorney, please contact our personal injury law firm in Gainesville, FL, 24-hours a day or speak to our chat room representatives at any time. Our injury consultations are always free and we are happy to answer any questions you may have about personal injury cases and recoverable damages.