What Are the Four Elements of a Successful Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a legal dispute that arises because a person has suffered harm from an accident or injury that another person or entity might be legally responsible for because of negligent or reckless behavior. Put another way, injuries caused by another person or organization’s reckless behavior may lead to a personal injury claim. Personal injury attorneys are familiar with the laws in the state they practice and can assess your situation to let you know whether you have a legitimate personal injury claim.
Understanding the elements of a personal injury claim is the first step to knowing whether you could have a successful claim.
What are the four elements of a successful personal injury claim?
The following four elements must be proved for a successful personal injury claim:
1. Duty to exercise reasonable care – In order to be liable for an accident or injury, a person or organization must have a duty to exercise care. For example, a physician has a duty to exercise reasonable care with their patients and a motorist has a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid motor vehicle accidents and accidents involving pedestrians. A business, homeowner, or organization has a duty to exercise reasonable care to provide a safe environment. What defines reasonable care may depend on the situation.
2. Failure to exercise reasonable care (negligence) – Next, a personal injury attorney must prove that the defendant breached their duty to exercise reasonable care. Some examples include a physician failing to refer their patient to a specialist when the patient’s symptoms pointed to heart disease and a motorist getting behind the wheel while intoxicated and speeding on a crowded roadway. (The latter example would be considered reckless behavior).
Note that Washington State is a comparative fault state, which means that fault can be shared in a personal injury case. Damages are awarded based on contributory fault law which says that you may only be awarded damages proportionate to the percentage of fault contributed by the defendant and nothing for the amount of fault that you contributed.
3. Causation – The third element that must be proved is causation. This means that there is a direct link between the negligent behavior and the harm caused to the injured victim. At a minimum, the breach of duty must have at least contributed to the injury.
Note that here again, in Washington State, the claimant’s own liability will be factored into the cause of the accident or injury.
4. Actual damages suffered – There is no claim unless the victim suffered damages. It’s also generally not advisable to pursue a personal injury claim if the injuries were minor. Recoverable damages include: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of consortium, and disability.
A personal injury attorney can determine whether your case has the four elements required for a successful personal injury claim. In addition, they can help you identify the damages involved in your case and what each of them is worth to give you a total valuation for a reasonable settlement.
Seek the help of a personal injury attorney
If you or a loved one was injured because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!