All personal injury cases are based on the concept of negligence. Under the law, everyone has a duty to act with care under certain circumstances—such as when driving, or when in charge of a business. These are circumstances where your careful behavior, or lack thereof, can have a substantial impact on someone else’s safety and wellbeing. If a person acts carelessly under these circumstances, and their carelessness leads to an injury, they are “negligent” or at fault for the injury. In most cases, they will also be found liable for the costs, including medical bills, property damage and other costs.
While this concept is simple in theory, the way it’s applied by the law can be complex. When you have a personal injury claim, you have to prove negligence by the other party in order to win. There are four elements to proving negligence:
- The other party had a duty to act with care. There are many different ways that this legal duty can be established depending on the type of case. For example, all car drivers have a duty to drive safely, so proving it in car accident claims is easy. Sometimes a person has a duty because of the specific service they are providing you, such as providing a medical device. And in slip and fall cases, the property owner has a duty to keep their premises safe—both for visitors who were formally allowed on the premises, and for children who might wander in to play.
- They did not live up to their duty. The person must have failed to do something they should have done to keep the situation safe. A driver who breaks the rules of the road or follows too close, a medical device company that does not properly test their product before marketing it, or a business owner who doesn’t clean up spilled product—leading to a slippery floor—are all failing to live up to their duty. This makes them negligent.
- Their failure to do their duty caused your accident. You have to be able to show that your accident resulted from the negligence of the other party. Often, insurance companies will try to show that the accident was actually your own fault—even if it wasn’t. A good lawyer will use investigators, witness testimony and physical evidence to show what really happened.
- Your accident involves tangible damages. The law can’t compensate you if there is no actual damage to pay for. For example, let’s say you hire a dogsitter and they carelessly allow your dog to get away. They may be negligent, but if the dog is (thankfully) found safe a few hours later, there is no “damage” to sue over. Your damages, in a legal sense, are things that either cost you money, prevent you from working, or cause life-altering changes such as a disability.
There are rare exceptions to these rules. For example, 12 states are no fault states for car accidents, meaning they do not worry about proving negligence for car accident claims. Georgia is a fault state, however, and the normal rules of negligence apply.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.