What You Should Know About Negligence
Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on Jun 01, 2017 in Personal Liability
If you suffered a personal injury that was caused by another person's careless or intentional actions, this individual could be held liable for your injury under the theory of negligence.
The theory of negligence has four elements that you and your South Bend personal injury attorney must establish to pursue a legal claim against the party that caused your injury. Contact our firm today for a free case consultation to learn more about the legal process and your right to pursue compensation for the damages you incurred.
What is Negligence?
Negligence occurs when someone acts in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner, causing another individual to get hurt or damages another’s property.
There are four elements of negligence you must establish to recover compensation in a personal injury claim based on the theory of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty of care, causation and the existence of damages. You need clear evidence to prove each of these four elements and establish that the defendant acted negligently. Even if you can prove that a person’s negligent actions caused you harm, you will not have a legal case unless you can prove your injuries caused you to suffer economic damages such as medical bills and lost income.
Duty of Care
This is a legal obligation to exercise the same level of reasonable care that another person would exercise in a similar situation.
For instance, doctors have a legal duty to provide their patients with the same level of care that a similarly-trained medical professional would provide if he or she were in a similar situation.
All drivers on the road have a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and in accordance with all traffic laws in order to prevent chaos and injury to others on the road.
In some cases, your attorney will need to consult experts to determine the specific duty of care for the situation where your injury occurred.
Breach of Duty of Care
You must also prove that the defendant breached his or her duty of care by failing to act the way that a reasonably prudent person would if he or she were in the same situation.
In other words, you must prove that an average person possessing the same knowledge as the defendant would have behaved differently because he or she would have known that his or her actions or lack of action would cause injury to the plaintiff (accident victim).
This means there must be a direct link between the breach of duty of care and your injuries. You must also show that there was a reasonable expectation for the defendant to foresee that his or her actions might cause an injury to the plaintiff.
This means that, regardless of the defendant's actions, he or she will likely not be held liable for an injury that was random or unforeseeable.
To receive compensation for your negligence claim, you must be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused damages, such as medical bills for the treatment of your injury, bills to repair property damaged in the accident and other monetary expenses like loss of income from the inability to work.
For more severe accidents, victims can also pursue noneconomic damages. These types of damages are highly subjective and vary widely depending on the severity of the accident and the effects on the victim. Some common examples of noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability or disfigurement.
These four elements listed above are vital aspects in every personal injury case. Our lawyers are available to evaluate your situation and discuss your legal options.
There are a variety of ways to prove the different elements of negligence. For example, if a driver received a traffic citation in connection with an accident, it is usually pretty easy to establish this person is at fault for any injuries or property damage that resulted.
Your attorney can also use eyewitness testimony, testimony from the victim and by presenting evidence from the accident scene, such as damage to the victim’s car or property.
You may have to contend with arguments from the at-fault party that you assumed the risk of injury when you engaged in the activity that led to your injury. If they can prove you had actual knowledge of the risks and those risks resulted in your injury, they may not be held liable for damages. This could apply in a slip and fall case when there are warnings about entering a certain area of a property because of the risk of injury.
If the other side asserts the argument of assumption of risk your attorney will need to show that you did not have knowledge of the risks or your injury did not result from known risks. For example, people do not expect an amusement park ride to injure a rider because a bolt came loose. In other words, people cannot assume the risk of something they could not be reasonably expected to know about.
While you are attempting to prove that your injury was caused by the defendant's negligence, his or her attorneys will be attempting to prove that your injuries were caused by your own negligence.
If they prove that you bear the majority of the responsibility for the injury because of your own negligence, you will be unable to recover compensation and may be held liable for the defendant’s legal costs.
This is because claims asserting the theory of negligence are governed by Indiana's modified comparative fault system, which prohibits plaintiffs from recovering compensation if they bear 51 percent or more of the responsibility for their injuries.
If you are less than 51 percent at fault, your compensation award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. In other words, if you are awarded $100,000 for an injury but are 25 percent at fault, your award will be reduced to $75,000.
Before this system was introduced, plaintiffs could not recover any compensation if they were partially at fault for their injury, no matter how small their percentage of fault.
Contact Us About Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you suffered an injury due to someone else's negligence, schedule a free legal consultation with the attorneys of Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak to discuss your legal options. We can answer all of your questions about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Indiana.
If you have a case, we are prepared to conduct a thorough investigation and guide you through the legal process to ensure that you have a fair chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries.