If you have suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Even if you have health insurance, you may have significant out-of-pocket expenses such as copays and deductibles. You may also be entitled to compensation for any lost income as a result of being unable to work or having to miss work to go to doctor’s appointments or physical therapy. Finally, you may also be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Altogether, the value of your claim can be significant.
However, you must be able to prove your claim in order to receive the compensation you deserve. Even if you don’t plan to go to court, insurance companies can be exacting in what they require to document the other party’s fault, your injuries, and other losses. Understanding what you need to do in order to prove your case underlines the importance of working with an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Four Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
Whether you have been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall, or some other type of accident, you need to be able to prove four things (referred to as “elements” in legal terminology) in order to bring a successful claim. These four elements are as follows:
- Duty. You need to prove that the other person or party owed you a duty of reasonable care. For example, you must prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed between you and the doctor in order to succeed in a medical malpractice case.
- Breach. You need to prove that the other party breached their duty to you. This is typically where you would prove that they were negligent in some way.
- Causation. You then need to prove that the other party’s breach caused the accident that resulted in your injury.
- Harm. Finally, you need to prove that the accident caused the harm that you suffered.
This may sound relatively straightforward and obvious. However, it is often more complicated than people expect. You will need to submit evidence supporting your claim, which can be an onerous task when you’re injured. Furthermore, the other party may deny liability or dispute other elements of your claim, such as that their negligence caused the accident. For these reasons, we strongly encourage you to contact a personal injury lawyer for help if you have suffered a serious injury so that you can get the compensation you deserve.
In most cases, proving that the other party owed you a legal duty. However, the duty owed to you will vary according to the type of accident. For example:
- Drivers have a legal duty to drive safely at all times and comply with all traffic laws. In most motor vehicle accident cases, the duty of the other driver is typically not at issue.
- Property owners have a duty to maintain their property in such a manner that it is free of unreasonable hazards. However, that duty will vary according to the type of property and the relationship between the owner and the guest. For example, a retail property owner owes a higher duty of care to their customers than does a private property owner to their guests. Generally speaking, property owners owe no legal duty to trespassers.
Whatever type of accident you were involved in, there are nuances that can arise that can jeopardize your claim. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will know how to conclusively prove that the other party owed you a duty of care.
Proving that the other party breached their duty of care - i.e. was negligent in some way - is often the crux of most personal injury cases. Even when it may be obvious to you, you will need to submit proof of how exactly the other party was negligent. This is often more difficult than people expect, especially when important facts are in dispute. Some of the evidence you may need to support your claim include the following:
- Accident reports
- Video camera footage
- Eyewitness statements
- Expert testimony
You need clear and compelling evidence that supports your claim. Insufficient evidence can result in your claim being denied or lowball settlement offers. A personal injury lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need so that your case will be as strong as possible.
This is another element that can be tricky. In short, you need to prove that the other party’s negligence was an immediate cause of the accident. For example, the other driver may have been driving while fatigued, but you need to prove that it caused your accident rather than it was simply unavoidable. While proving causation isn’t an issue in most cases, it can be problematic for people with prior or preexisting injuries that are reinjured or made worse as a result of the accident.
It may seem obvious, but the fact that you were in an accident by itself does not entitle you to compensation. You need to prove that you suffered some actual harm. While any accident can be a traumatic experience, generally speaking, you have to prove that you suffered some physical injury that resulted in financial loss. You should be prepared to submit the following types of documentation in order to prove your claim:
- Copies of your medical bills
- Copies of all medical records detailing your injuries, prescribed treatment, and any limitations caused by your injuries
- Pay stubs and other records that document your lost income
- Documentation concerning how your injuries affect your daily life
For people who have been seriously injured, collecting this evidence can be a challenge. A personal injury attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to support your claim for compensation.
Injured? Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer at Powell, Powell, & Powell Today
We have decades of experience in helping accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries so that they can rebuild their lives. Contact us today at 850-682-2757 to schedule a free consultation - we can discuss your case, whether you have a claim, and what we can do to help.