As a team of experienced personal injury attorneys, we often hear the question, “What constitutes ‘personal injury’?” The short answer to this question is negligence that caused harm. To begin fighting your case or negotiating any type of settlement, you and your injury lawyer will need to be able to prove that another party’s negligence caused you harm or damages. To do so, you must understand the four elements of a personal injury and how each element relates to the other.
The Four Elements of Personal Injury/Negligence
Here’s a closer look at the four elements of negligence in a personal injury case:
Element 1 – Duty
The “duty of care” element of negligence arises when a relationship between two parties is legally recognized, and as a result of this relationship, one of the parties has a legal duty to act in a specific way toward the other. For example, business owners are required to take reasonable measures to provide safe premises for customers, manufacturers are obligated to ensure that their products are safe for use or consumption, and drivers are responsible for following the rules of the road to operate their vehicles in a way that is safe for other drivers or pedestrians.
Element 2 – Breach
If the person who caused the harm owed a duty of care to the person harmed, then the next question is whether that duty of care was breached or violated. This means that one party has failed to provide reasonable care or action in fulfilling the duty to the other party. As an example, a pet owner who knows that her dog is aggressive but knowingly allows her dog to roam freely throughout the neighborhood has breached her duty of care to her neighbors. Similarly, a business that invites customers to its store but fails to clean up dangerous conditions that the business knows to exist breaches its duty of care to its customers.
Element 3 – Causation
The third element in a personal injury claim is causation. This means that it must be proven that the breach of duty of care must be the legal cause of the harm or losses of the injured party. Here, a lawyer is needed to demonstrate that if not for the breach of the duty of care, the injured person wouldn’t have sustained an injury or loss (actual cause). A lawyer may also be able to prove that any injuries sustained were reasonably related to the breach of duty (proximate cause).
Element 4 – Harm/Damages
Finally, to have a successful personal injury case, the victim must be able to show that he or she was harmed or sustained damages as a result of the first three elements. Sometimes people claim that a dangerous condition or act on the part of another could have hurt them, but that’s not enough for a successful personal injury case. The damages caused by the breach of the duty of care are an important, and necessary element of any personal injury case.
Proving the four elements of a personal injury case is essential to making a successful personal injury claim. However, sometimes statutes and other regulations alter the typical personal injury claim evaluation by making a defendant strictly liable for a plaintiff’s damages, such as for certain damages in dog bite cases, or by lessening the defendant’s obligations to others, such as when someone injured on a defendant’s property was a trespasser. Because every case is different, it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. Mintz Law Firm understands the ins and outs of injury law and is prepared to discuss your case today. Reach out to our team for a free case evaluation.