The civil court system primarily handles legal disputes between private individuals. When an individual suffers a bodily injury, psychological damage, or a financial loss due to the actions of another party, this constitutes a personal injury, a type of tort lawsuit brought to civil court by an injured plaintiff against a named defendant. Personal injury law allows individuals who have suffered injuries due to the negligent actions of others to recover compensation for their losses.
There are many legal concepts and rules that will come into play in virtually every personal injury claim, and the personal injury statutes that influence a case come into play at the state level. Every state has unique laws in their Codes of Civil Procedure, and these laws inform civil proceedings in all personal injury cases. If you have recently sustained injuries in a car accident or due to the negligence of another party, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the personal injury statutes that apply in your area and the basic elements of a personal injury lawsuit.
Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
The central legal concept of every personal injury case is “negligence,” which describes an individual’s or party’s failure to act with reasonable care in a given situation. “Reasonable care” may seem like a somewhat vague term, but it basically means the way any reasonable, rational adult would be assumed to act in a given situation. Adults in the US must exercise reasonable care in any situation where failure to do so could cause injury to others or damage to property.
If you intend to file a personal injury lawsuit against another party, it’s vital to understand the four elements that comprise a successful personal injury lawsuit:
- Duty of care. The first element of negligence is proving that a named defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care in a given situation. For example, all drivers have a duty of care to abide by the traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely and free from distractions.
- Breach of duty. The second element of negligence in personal injury is proving that the defendant breached their duty of care in the given situation. Following the previous example, there are many possible ways drivers can breach their duty to act with reasonable care, such as speeding, running red lights, or driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Damages. In order to file a personal injury claim, the plaintiff must have suffered some type of tangible loss or measurable economic damage. The plaintiff’s attorney must form a detailed outline of the damages claimed in a personal injury lawsuit when serving the initial Complaint to the defendant.
- Causation of damages. The final element of negligence in personal injury law is proving that a plaintiff’s claimed damages were direct results of the defendant’s actions and not some other cause. Essentially, if a drunk driver caused bone fractures that necessitated long-term medical care, the plaintiff would need to prove they sought immediate treatment following the accident, and that their physician-diagnosed their injuries as a result of the accident.
If a plaintiff’s attorney can prove these four elements of negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, it is likely the plaintiff will succeed with their claim. However, there are many possible ways for a personal injury claim to become a very complicated legal battle. A few examples of these variables would be comparative negligence laws and split liability among multiple defendants.
Divided Liability for Multiple Defendants
Some personal injury lawsuits result from the negligence of multiple parties. In the event an injured plaintiff names multiple defendants in their claim, the defendants may argue amongst each other as to their degrees of liability. In personal injury cases that proceed to trials, the court will determine each defendant’s share of liability based on the evidence and testimony in play. For example, in a $100,000 claim involving two defendants, the court may decide that one defendant is liable for 60% or $60,000 of the case value and the other for the remaining 40%.
California follows a pure comparative negligence statute. Many other states adhere to modified comparative negligence rules, and these rules bar plaintiff recovery if a plaintiff bears 50% or more liability for their claimed damages. California’s pure comparative negligence statute does not bar plaintiff recovery at any point, even if the plaintiff is found to be 99% liable for the damages they listed in their lawsuit. Comparative negligence statutes seek to ensure fair and reasonable outcomes in personal injury lawsuits, so it’s vital for plaintiffs intent on pursuing such lawsuits to acknowledge any potential liability they might bear for the damages claimed in their cases.
Personal injury law may seem straightforward at first, but there are countless possible complicating variables that might arise in any given personal injury claim. If you need reliable and experienced personal injury representation for a claim in Folsom, California, contact the Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC today to meet with a Folsom personal injury attorney and discuss your case.