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A Guide to Determining Liability For Personal Injury Cases

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Posted on October 3, 2023

When a person experiences a sudden, unexpected injury, the results can cause serious financial hardship as well as pain and trauma. When the injury was preventable and only occurred because of someone else’s negligence, it’s even more distressing. The civil court’s answer for achieving justice, accountability, and compensation for damages, is a personal injury claim. The term “damages” in a personal injury case refers to the economic and non-economic consequences of an injury like medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering. But for an injury victim to make a successful claim for damages, they must first determine the liable party and then provide evidence of their liability to their insurance company or in court.

What Are the Legal Points of Liability in a Personal Injury Claim?

Most personal injury claims resolve with a settlement from the insurance company of the party at fault for the injury. The injury victim could make the claim against the appropriate policy, such as a store owner’s commercial property liability insurance in a slip-and-fall case, or a driver’s personal injury protection auto insurance in a car accident case. In order to successfully negotiate a settlement, the burden of proving liability through a preponderance of the evidence lies with the injury victim. Insurance adjusters understand that they can deny a claim if the victim doesn’t present clear evidence that would hold up in a courtroom. It’s beneficial for an injury victim to hire a skilled personal injury attorney to investigate the case and prove liability by demonstrating the following legal points.

  • Owing a Duty of Care

Every individual and business entity owes others a duty of reasonable care to prevent injuries. This could be a driver’s duty to avoid distraction or a dog owner’s duty to prevent their dog from biting.

  • Breaching the Duty of Care

When an individual or business is negligent in their responsibility to take reasonable measures to prevent injury to others they breach their duty of care. 

  • Directly Causing Injury Due to the Breach

When one party’s negligence, recklessness, or purposeful wrongdoing directly causes injury to someone else, they are responsible for the damages. For example, if a car accident causes serious injuries, the negligent party will be held liable. 

Finding Evidence of Liability

Car accidents and dog bites typically result in a police report, but law enforcement focuses more on criminal investigations and may not spend a great deal of time or resources investigating an accident-related injury. Falls and other accidents may have no legal investigation at all. Often, it takes hiring an experienced San Diego personal injury attorney to investigate a case to identify the negligent party and document compelling evidence of their liability. A diligent attorney will do the following:

  • Scrutinize the police report, accident report, or business incident report
  • Review eyewitness testimony
  • Examine any existing photos or videos
  • Consult with accident and injury reconstruction experts to determine the exact sequence of events that resulted in the injury

Once an attorney documents this evidence, they can make a compelling case for the injury victim’s compensation and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. Only in cases of an insurance company’s denial or undervaluing of a claim does the case become a lawsuit in court. In a courtroom, a judge and jury examine the evidence of liability and the calculation of damages to determine who is at fault or if the injury victim shares fault. 

In comparative negligence insurance states, even if a court finds the injury victim partly at fault for their injury, they can still recover damages minus their percentage of fault. For example, if a victim is 20% at fault and their damages amount to $100,000 they can still recover $80,000.

It’s essential to have an attorney to prove liability to prevent an insurance company from assigning the victim a large percentage of fault in order to lower the amount they must pay out on the claim.