Personal Injury: common types of accidents and how the law holds someone responsible
If you have been injured in an accident, you may be able to recover damages for your injury. This area of law is known as personal injury law. In today’s America it is difficult to miss advertisements from personal injury attorneys. Although we are aware that there is help out there, few of us know what kind of accidents qualify and how we hold others responsible for what happened. Here is a quick primer on some of the areas of personal injury law out there and how the law operates to hold others responsible for the injuries.
What kinds of accidents qualify?
Although personal injury claims can be successful in any accident where another person was at fault, there are a few areas where personal injury claims are common and often successful. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the common areas of personal injury law:
- Automobile and vehicle accidents
- Bicycle and motorcycle accidents
- Injuries at someone’s home, business, or public property (for example, slipping and falling in a grocery store or at someone’s house)
- Injuries involving children
- Injuries caused by animals
- Injuries caused by defective or dangerous products
How the law determines legal responsibility for personal injuries
The basic rule for determining liability in personal injury cases is known as a negligence theory. Negligence in the law basically means that someone was careless and because of that carelessness another person ended up getting hurt. If both people were careless, including the injured party, the injured party will only recover if the other party was more careless than them. Let’s take a look at how the law breaks down a typical negligence claim.
Negligence and personal injury claims
Negligence has four elements in the law with all four needing to be met in order for someone to win their case. They are 1) duty; 2) breach of the duty; 3) causation; 4) damages.
The law must first recognize that the person who caused the accident had a “duty of care” or a legal responsibility to prevent the accident. For example, if you own a storefront you are under a duty to keep it reasonably clear of excessive snow or ice that could cause someone to slip and fall and get hurt.
This simply means that the person failed to exercise his or her duty to avoid harming someone. Thus, using the example above, if a storeowner regularly shovels and salts his storefront walkway he will avoid liability. It is only when he fails to do that and snow accumulates that he has breached his duty and will be held responsible for injuries.
Causation means that the breach of the duty actually and legally caused the injury to the person. This means that the injury must not be too remote to be attributed to the breach of the duty. Here’s a quick example: someone tosses a football over the fence, it hits your neighbor in the head, and he then falls down knocking over a playset which rolls down the hill into another neighbors yard hitting that other neighbor in the leg. The person who threw the football may be liable for the first injury, but not the second, because the second would be too remote. Of course this is an unusual circumstance and this element is normally easily met.
Last, the person affected by the accident must actually be damaged. So if someone did not shovel their walk and you fell because of them, but you were not hurt, you have no cause of action. You must actually be damaged in order to bring a claim.
So in order to hold someone responsible for an auto accident, motorcycle accident or slip and fall, the person injured must show someone else was negligent. Negligence consists of duty, breach, causation and damages. If you have been injured in an accident, contact Kraemer, Manes and Associates and we will be able to guide you in getting relief for your injuries.