You are entitled to recover damages for a personal injury when you are injured as a result of another person or entity’s negligence. Negligence requires proof of the following elements:
Duty: Did the defendant have the legal duty of care for the plaintiff?
Breach of Duty: Did the defendant breach the duty of care or fail to meet that duty?
Causation: Did the breach of duty directly result in the injury?
Damages: Did the plaintiff suffer damages or losses due to the injury?
Some common causes of personal injury claims are automobile accidents, premises liability (such as a slip and fall injury), products liability, and wrongful death.
In some cases, such as a rear-end motor vehicle accident, the first two elements are clear. Other drivers on the road have a duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner, and generally, any violation of the statutory rules of the road is a breach of that duty.
Proving the final two elements of causation and damages, however, can often be an uphill battle with the insurance company. If you have pre-existing medical conditions or the accident itself seems minor in comparison to the claimed injuries, the insurance company may try to claim that some or all of your post-accident injuries and related medical treatment was not actually caused by the accident.
The insurance company will also want documented proof to support your damages, such as related medical records and bills, any insurance payments made to medical providers on your behalf, and verification from your employer and/or past tax returns if you are claiming lost wages. After receiving this proof, the insurance company will often attempt to apply various “reductions” to the amount of claimed damages based on issues such as comparative fault, questions related to causation, or the reasonable cost of your related medical treatment versus the amount actually billed.
Essentially, if the victim sustained a physical injury that was caused by another party’s negligent actions, you may have a claim. The details of whether and how much you can collect for damages will vary depending on your unique circumstances. It is usually helpful to at least consult with a personal injury attorney – and the good news is that an initial consultation is usually free! If you want to know more about why you might need an attorney to assist you with your claim, check out my article “Why do you need a personal injury lawyer?” for more information.