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Four Elements Required for a Successful Personal Injury Lawsuit

Updated on April 13, 2017

After an injury due to a person’s reckless or negligent actions, you may be entitled to compensation for your expenses, pain, and suffering. However, to file a lawsuit and be successful, you must first ensure that your case carries the essential elements.

Without these elements, your case is unlikely to survive, let alone win compensation. Realize that these are merely elements, and evidence is still required to help those elements stand up in court. With the assistance of a personal injury attorney, you should be able to collect the necessary evidence, but also ensure that your case meets the basic requirements.

During your initial consultation, your attorney will review the four core elements. If these are present, the attorney will then work to secure evidence that strengthens your position and gives you a good chance at achieving a favorable settlement out of court or through jury award.

What Are the Four Elements Required for a Successful Personal Injury Claim?

1. Proof of Liability

First, you must know who was responsible for the accident that caused your injuries. Sometimes, responsibility is shared among multiple parties. If so, your attorney may group them together in the lawsuit, or drop parties that are unlikely to be able to pay and focus on those negligent parties who could.

For example, if your injury occurred because of a careless employee, it may be more beneficial to file the suit against the employer under vicarious liability. Through the theory of vicarious liability, an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees, if they are not independent contractors. However, the employee must be performing duties within his or her normal scope of employment.

Another instance of multiple party liability might be when you are in a multi-car accident. Each of the drivers could potentially make errors contributing to the crash; therefore, they are each partially responsible for your injuries, as well.

Under this proof of liability, you too may be partially at fault for your injuries. While this may reduce your settlement, if your share is under 50 percent of liability, you should be able to receive compensation in most states.

2. Proof of Injury

The second element is your injury. You must have proof that you suffered an injury, and the injury you encountered was caused by the person whom you claim is liable.

The injury is linked directly to the accident – not something that occurs days or weeks later. You may, however, have previous injuries that are worsened by the accident. In this case, you can still sue for compensation, because had you not encountered that incident, you would not have further complications from your pre-existing condition or injury.

To prove your injuries were the result of the accident, your attorney will have your case and injuries reviewed by a medical expert. This expert will then testify to the cause of the injury or how the accident complicated a pre-existing condition.

3. Damages

Even with an injury and responsible party, you must have damages that are compensable.

Also, your recovery costs must outweigh the costs associated with going to court, and the legal fees required to file your lawsuit. If your recovery costs are very minor, it may not be in your best interest to file a lawsuit.

If, however, you encountered extensive present and future medical expenses, property damage, and countless missed hours of work, then your case qualifies as one that requires compensation. Also, if your injury will be something you deal with long-term, or if the injury leaves you permanently disabled, you must file a lawsuit to receive compensation for not only the damages you have already encountered, but future damages that will affect your quality of life.

4. The Ability to Deliver Compensation

You must have a viable party to hold liable for your damages. If that party has no way to compensate you, suing them may not yield the financial relief you were hoping for. In most cases, however, the liable party will have some form of insurance, and that insurance will cover the monetary losses involved in their clients’ reckless or negligent actions.

For example, after a car accident, the at-fault party’s insurance will cover most of the settlement. However, anything that is not covered under the policy limits falls to the defendant, which may mean assessing his or her assets or wages to determine if compensation is possible.

If a defendant has no insurance and no assets, then your attorney may be able to help you receive compensation from your own insurance company, if applicable.

Speaking with an Attorney is the Most Important Factor

To determine if you have a case, it is critical that you speak with a personal injury attorney. An attorney can ensure all four elements are present. Also, the faster you contact a lawyer, the quicker he or she can preserve evidence to strengthen your case.


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