Negligence In Personal Injury Cases
Unfortunately, it’s all too common for individuals to drive carefully down the road while obeying traffic laws, only to have their car hit by another driver who runs a red light or rear-ends them. This type of accident can lead to injuries such as whiplash and other significant financial and physical harm.
In situations like these, understanding negligence in personal injury cases is essential for obtaining the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Elements of Negligence
Negligence is the legal term for failing to act reasonably or responsibly, resulting in harm to another person. To win a personal injury case that involves negligence, a plaintiff must prove the following four elements:
Duty of Care
The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Owing a duty of care means that the defendant had a legal responsibility to act in a certain way to prevent harm to others.
Breach of Duty
The plaintiff must show that the defendant breached their duty of care. This means the defendant failed to act reasonably or responsibly under the circumstances.
If a driver fails to stop at a red light and crashes into another car, the driver who caused the car accident may be held liable for breaching their duty of care towards the other driver and any passengers involved in the accident.
Similarly, if a pedestrian is hit by a car due to the driver’s negligence, the driver may be deemed to have breached their duty of care towards the pedestrian.
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused an injury. In other words, the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence. For instance, if you can show that the puddle of water caused you to slip and fall, you’ve established causation.
Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Damages can include medical bills, damage to your car, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Types of Negligence
There are various forms of negligence that can impact personal injury cases. Here are a few common ones:
Comparative negligence is a legal concept that allocates fault between the plaintiff and defendant. Comparative negligence laws allow a plaintiff to receive payment for damages even if they were partially at fault for the accident. The plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Contributory negligence is an older legal doctrine that completely bars recovery for a plaintiff who was even slightly at fault for their injury. Today, only a few jurisdictions still follow this strict rule.
Gross negligence involves a higher degree of carelessness or recklessness. It often results in more severe consequences and may lead to higher damages awards or even punitive damages.
Proving negligence in a personal injury has its challenges, but with the right evidence and strategy, it is achievable. Here are some steps to help build a strong case:
Collecting evidence is crucial to proving negligence. Potential evidence may include photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles involved, medical records, eyewitness statements, and any other relevant documentation. The more evidence you gather, the stronger your case will be.
Expert witnesses can play a significant role in negligence cases. They can help establish the standard of care that the defendant should have followed and determine whether the defendant breached that standard.
Expert witnesses can also help jurors understand the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries and how the injuries will impact the plaintiff in the future.
Experts may include doctors, engineers, or other professionals with specialized knowledge relevant to your case.
Were You Injured Due To Someone's Negligence?
Defenses to Negligence Claims
Defendants in personal injury cases may raise various defenses to avoid liability. Some common defenses include:
Assumption of Risk
If the plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of harm, the defendant might not be held liable for their injuries. For example, if you choose to participate in a dangerous sport, you may be deemed to have assumed the risk of injury.
Statute of Limitations
Personal injury lawsuits must be filed within a specific time frame, known as the statute of limitations. If the plaintiff fails to file their claim within the required time, the defendant may be able to avoid liability.
Damages in Negligence Cases
In negligence cases, plaintiffs may recover various types of damages, including:
Compensatory damages are awarded to restore a plaintiff’s financial and emotional state prior to the injury. These damages are divided into economic (monetary) and non-economic (subjective) categories.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
- Physical impairment
Compensatory damages are important in personal injury cases to help plaintiffs recover from financial and emotional losses caused by the defendant’s actions.
In cases involving gross negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and prevent others from engaging in similar behavior.
What is the difference between negligence and intentional torts?
Negligence involves a failure to act reasonably or responsibly, resulting in harm to another person. Intentional torts, on the other hand, involve deliberate actions that cause harm, such as assault or defamation.
How is the standard of care determined in negligence cases?
In negligence cases, the standard of care is based on what a reasonable person would do in similar situations. This standard helps judge if the defendant’s actions caused harm to the plaintiff.
Factors affecting the standard of care include:
The Defendant’s Profession
Experts like doctors or engineers are held to higher standards because of their specialized skills.
Certain industries have specific guidelines and regulations that affect the standard of care, like construction safety rules and treatment guidleines for doctors.
The standard of care can change based on unique factors, such as weather or visibility during an incident.
Predictability Of Harm
If the defendant could have foreseen the harm, they might be held to a higher standard of care.
The court considers these factors to determine the standard of care for each case, which is essential for deciding if the defendant was negligent and should be held responsible for damages.
Can I still recover damages if I was partially at fault for my injury?
In Texas, the legal system follows a modified comparative negligence standard when determining compensation in personal injury cases. Under this rule, if you were partially at fault for your injury, you can still recover damages. However, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
For example, if you were awarded $100,000 in damages but found to be 30% at fault, your compensation would be reduced to $70,000 ($100,000 – 30% of $100,000).
It’s essential to understand that Texas law has a 51% bar rule. This means that if you are found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident, you will not be eligible to recover any damages. In such cases, it is crucial to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to help present your case in the best possible light and maximize your potential for compensation.
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim that's based on negligence?
Under Texas law, if you want to file a personal injury claim based on negligence, there is a specific time limit within which you must do so. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and it can vary depending on the circumstances of your case.
Generally, in Texas, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury claim based on negligence. However, it is important to seek the advice of a local attorney to confirm the applicable time frame for your case.
Do I need a lawyer to handle my negligence claim?
While you are not legally required to have a lawyer, it is highly recommended. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for your best interests in court.
Speak With A Lawyer About Your Negligence Case
Negligence in personal injury cases is a complex area of law. Understanding the elements of negligence, the different types of negligence, and the process of proving negligence can be essential to obtaining the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact Allbee Law Firm for a free consultation. You can call us at (817) 244-6453 or submit your information through our website.