If you suffered personal injury resulting from an accident or incident, you may consider pursuing damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. A favorable legal outcome will help cover medical bills, make up for lost wages, and compensate you for pain and suffering. To achieve this outcome, you will first need to prove who was at fault with a thoroughly developed legal argument. Here are some of the steps required for proving fault in a personal injury case.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case?
Negligence is a legal concept that is used to determine if a party should be held responsible for personal injury damages. Proving that one or more parties acted negligently in causing your injury consists of four key elements. The first is legal duty, meaning the defendant owed you a legal duty of care in the situation in question. An example of this is if someone is driving a car, they owe a duty of care to other drivers.
The second element is proving that the defendant breached their legal duty of care. An example of this would be someone under the influence of alcohol or texting while driving. Third, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injury or damages. Finally, you must show that you incurred measurable damages such as medical bills, property damage, lost income, or pain and suffering as a result of the incident in question.
Who Decides Which Party Was at Fault?
Now that you understand the importance of negligence as a legal concept, who gets to determine liability for your personal injury? Speaking with a personal injury attorney is often the first step in this process, as he or she will examine your case and apply local law to arrive at an informed conclusion as to who is at fault. Your attorney will then construct your case using corresponding evidence.
In many situations, whoever your attorney decides is at fault will be represented by their liability insurance company. In this situation, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation and come to an agreement with your attorney as to who was at fault. If they cannot reach an agreement, your attorney may advise that it is best to file a personal injury lawsuit to determine who is at fault and pursue damages.
Burden of Proof
Proving negligence in a personal injury case often comes down to presenting a preponderance of evidence. In essence, a preponderance of evidence helps prove that the incident was more likely than not to have happened. This burden of proof represents a lower standard than what must be met in a criminal case, where a prosecutor has to prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt.
While the standard for proving negligence may be comparatively lower, this does not necessarily mean it will be easy. In order to prove your case, you will need quality evidence from reliable sources, and you want as much of it as you can possibly obtain. An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you obtain this evidence and present it in a coherent manner to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome.
Evidence From the Scene
Presenting evidence from the scene of the incident is a critical part of your legal claim. This might include visual evidence of the damage and losses you incurred as a result of the incident. For example, you might present pictures of property damage or key features in certain areas surrounding the location of the incident. This is commonly used in cases where a car accident caused personal injury, as pictures make it easier for others to visualize what happened.
Using the car accident example, photographic evidence may include things like pictures of skid marks or damage to all involved cars to help illustrate what happened and who was at fault. This also applies to slip and fall cases, where pictures can show exactly what caused the accident and resulting damages. Evidence may also include statements from people who witnessed the incident and other information gathered from the scene when it occurred.
If the police were called to the scene of your incident, the responding officer most likely conducted an on-site investigation and filed a report that indicates which party he or she believes was at fault for causing it. This report can be a valuable piece of evidence in proving your case, as it is an unbiased third-party opinion of what occurred delivered by a credible law official.
In many cases, a police report will include evidence, witness statements, and information that your attorney will use to help support your claim. Your attorney will use the information in the police report to validate other evidence and arguments and may even request that the police officer who filed the report testify as a witness on your behalf.
Depending on the nature of your personal injury case, it may be advantageous to call on an expert witness to testify in support of your claim. An expert witness is someone who is called upon to present their opinion during legal proceedings due to their education, training, certification, or experience in a specialized matter. An expert witness can lend credibility to your claim and contribute to the preponderance of evidence you’ll need to prove negligence.
Expert witnesses are particularly useful in cases that are more complex, as they can help explain certain elements in a more understandable way. One example of this is a medical malpractice claim, where a doctor may be called as an expert witness to testify exactly how and why negligence occurred, and what actions might have been taken to avoid harm. An experienced personal injury attorney will help determine if your case needs an expert witness.
Other Methods of Proving Fault
In addition to standard negligence, there are other ways of proving fault in the incident that caused your injury. One of these is by establishing intentional conduct, which refers to something that was done voluntarily, with the desired purpose or substantial certainty of consequences. Intentional conduct is often argued in cases of assault, battery, or similar situations that resulted in personal injury.
Another is known as negligence per se, in which an act may be considered negligent because it violates a statute without an excuse. In this situation, a defendant may be considered liable for damages if the statute was intended to prevent the type of injury they suffered. There is also strict liability, where you don’t have to prove the defendant’s negligence to recover damages. This is often used in cases of product liability.
What If More Than One Person Was at Fault?
More than one party may be at fault for causing the incident that led to your personal injury. If this is the case, your attorney will help analyze the evidence and local law to determine who is responsible for compensating you. All responsible parties can then determine amongst themselves who is responsible for reimbursing whom, but you will already have been compensated and won’t have to worry about further entanglements between them.
These are some of the factors to consider in proving fault for cases involving personal injury. Such cases can be quite complex, and stakes are high when personal injuries and property damage are involved. For this reason, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney in these situations. Contact Houston Injury Lawyers for professional guidance in pursuing adequate compensation for your personal injuries.