Typically, a Personal Injury claim is based on a tort theory known as negligence. Negligence occurs when one fails to take reasonable care and because of that failure, damage or injury is caused to another. There are four requirements that need to be met in order for one to have a claim under the theory. Below we will define the requirements of negligence and will explain those definitions using an example.
Example: You are driving on Highway I-75 in 5 o'clock moderate moving traffic and are rear-ended by the car behind you because they looked down to adjust the radio. They hit you going 30 mph. There was $2000 in damage done to your vehicle. You have no prior injuries or prior accidents. You suffer a small back injury and have $20,000 in medical bills.
Element 1: Duty - A duty is an obligation that you owe another person. Duty in an accident case like this is likely to be based on the reasonable person standard. That means that the individual, in this case, had the duty to act as a reasonably prudent person in a similar situation. The person in the example that hit you had a duty to pay attention to the road, to stop in the necessary amount of time, and a duty to operate their vehicle safely. A person in a similar situation would have done just that.
Element 2: Breach - A breach occurs when a person violates their duty. In the example above, the person that hit you violated their duty because they failed to stop and did operate their vehicle in a safe manner.
Element 3: Causation - Causation is broken down into two smaller elements that must be met and can be looked at as a linkage between the breach of the duty and the damages. The two elements are Proximate Causation and But-For Causation. Proximate Causation is based on foreseeability. In this case, the question would be presented: "Is it foreseeable that a person would hit another person and cause them $20,000 in damage if they were not paying attention because they were down at the radio while driving 30 mph?" In this case, the answer would likely be yes. But-For Causation would pose a second question: "But for the accident, would you have suffered a $20,000 back injury?" Because you have no priors, it would be more than likely yes but understand this is just an example and other factors have to be considered.
Element 4: Damages - Damages can be based on a variety of factors. If there are no damages, then there may not be a claim. But, in this case, it would be most due to pain and suffering, the $20,000 in medical bills, and the cost of future treatment.
Now again, understand that this is only an example. But, if a client came to our office with a claim similar to this, they may have a personal injury claim in which they could recover from. Of course, there are variety of other factors that would need to be considered and could be gone over during a FREE no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys.