What Are the Elements of a Successful Personal Injury Lawsuit?
When you have been hurt in an accident—whether a motor vehicle collision, slip-and-fall, malfunction of a household appliance, or mishap at work—you hope that the person who caused the accident (or the appropriate insurance company) will cover all your losses. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. To get the monetary award you need to compensate for all your losses, you typically have to bring legal action against one or more parties. You might be able to settle your claims before trial, but otherwise, you must bring your case to a judge and jury to get the outcome you want and deserve. This article provides a broad overview of what you must demonstrate to the court in order to get a ruling in your favor.
The Legal Principle of Negligence
As a general rule, most personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. To successfully prove negligence, you must show three things:
- That the defendant (the alleged wrongdoer) did not act as a reasonable person would at the time of the accident;
- That the defendant’s failure to act in a reasonable manner caused the accident; and
- That, as a consequence of the accident, you suffered actual losses.
In the American civil justice system, there is no written law or rule specifying what conduct is considered reasonable. Instead, that question is resolved by the jury on a case-by-case basis. Juries are bound to follow prior rulings so that there’s consistency in the application of the law.
To establish cause, you generally must prove two things: that the accident would not have occurred had the defendant not acted unreasonably; and that the accident and the ensuing injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of the failure to act reasonably.
Finally, you must demonstrate to the court that you had actual losses. If your injuries and damages were all covered by insurance, there’s no actual loss—you can’t recover twice for the same loss. Furthermore, if you had property damage, but the property had no recognized value, there’s no actual loss.
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we have protected the rights of personal injury victims in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. We are currently communicating with clients by phone, text message, e-mail, and videoconference. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online.
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