Sometimes, personal injury cases are relatively simple: It’s clear that the actions of one person caused another to be injured, and therefore should be required to compensate the victim. More often than not, though, personal injury cases aren’t so cut and dry, and there are questions about how much involvement the defendant actually had in the plaintiff’s injury. Often, it’s incumbent upon the plaintiff and his or her attorney to prove negligence — in other words, that the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) were directly responsible for the plaintiff’s injury and loss.
This is rarely as easy as it sounds, since the standards for proving negligence are actually quite stringent, no matter where your case is tried. Your personal injury attorney in San Antonio must produce evidence proving that the defendant’s actions met all of the standards of negligence in order for you to win your case. Therefore, before you file a personal injury case, consider whether your experience meets these standards, and how you will prove your case.
In the eyes of the law, negligence means that an individual or entity (such as a business) failed to act in such a way that would prevent risk, as would be evaluated by a reasonable person. Essentially, if they don’t take the necessary precautions or actions that a reasonably prudent person would take, then they could be considered negligent.
However, because that definition leaves quite a bit open to interpretation, the law further defines several standards that constitute negligence. There are four specific standards that must be met:
- The defendant must have had a duty of care to the person who was harmed. In other words, to be considered negligent, it must have been the defendant’s responsibility to ensure that others would not be hurt by their actions. An example would be a driver who runs a red light and hits a pedestrian. The driver has a duty, as the operator of a motor vehicle, to obey the rules of the road to avoid causing harm to others.
- The defendant must have failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would, thereby breaching that duty by not doing everything they needed to avoid causing injury. Going back to the red light example, if the driver could not stop because the brakes failed, he or she may be negligent if the vehicle had not been maintained properly, and there is evidence of prior knowledge of a break issue. However, if the driver can produce records showing that the brakes had recently been worked on, and he or she tried to warn others of the failure by sounding the horn, there is no negligence, as the driver acted as a reasonably prudent person would to prevent injury.
- The defendant’s actions caused harm. This is often one of the most challenging standards to meet, because people can be injured in many ways, and the standard requires your attorney to prove that this specific accident caused these specific injuries. It may be obvious that you caused someone’s injury when you run a red light, but if someone on the street has a heart attack at the scene, it’s unlikely that they can prove that your negligence caused it.
- 4. The defendant’s actions caused actual, measureable harm. Again, this standard can be challenging to prove, since the plaintiff must be able to show that the injury caused actual losses, and that the defendant needs to pay damages in order to restore them to the financial position they were in before the accident.
Improving Your Case
Clearly, proving negligence can be a challenge. Working with a skilled attorney can improve your chances of a successful case, but you can also help support your claims.
- Keep meticulous records. From the moment you are injured, record everything about the scene, what happened, and collect witness accounts, if available.
- See a doctor as soon as the accident happens, even if you don’t think you are injured. If you wait too long to seek medical attention, the defendant could successfully argue that your injuries occurred after the accident.
- Contact an attorney right away, to explore your options. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to prove negligence in a personal injury case.
Being the victim of someone’s else’s failure to take care is never pleasant. However, when you understand how the courts will review your case, you can avoid some of the pitfalls and frustrations of a legal case — and get back to living your life as soon as possible.