How do I determine fault in a personal injury case?

//How do I determine fault in a personal injury case?

Personal injury can happen almost anytime, anywhere, and at often at no fault of your own. If you or a loved one was injured at work, in a car accident, or even died, get the justice you deserve. No matter the scenario, you are entitled to compensation for the damages that occur, both physically and emotionally.

Proving or determining fault can be done in a number of ways. In every case, the defense team will do everything they can to minimize or avoid compensating victims. It’s important to work with a top personal injury lawyer with a history of success to effectively fight the person or company that caused your accident. 

How to Prove or Determine Fault

After an injury has occurred due to the fault of another person or entity, the first action to take is seeking medical treatment. Next, start gathering evidence about the incident itself and the damage that injury has caused. This includes video camera footage, pictures, police reports, medical records and bills, insurance adjustments, W-2s, disability claims, witness and doctor testimonies, and more. 

Once the evidence has been gathered, the next step is to determine who is at fault. In personal injury cases, fault can be shared by both the plaintiff and the defendant. Often, a judge decides who was more responsible or solely responsible. 

Proving Fault Using Negligence

When the plaintiff and their lawyer can prove that the defendant was negligent, it will help seal a case for fault, increase damages, or both. To prove negligence, a plaintiff has to meet the following criteria:

  • A duty or obligation that required the actor to adhere to a certain standard of conduct to protect others 
  • The required duty or obligation was not performed 
  • The defendant’s failure to act is closely connected to the injuries 
  • Actual loss or damage was suffered

Each of these elements must be met to prove negligence. Determining negligence is entirely fact-dependent and can vary from case to case. Since there is not a standard “cookie-cutter” method of determining negligence, doing so requires an experienced attorney who knows the case-law of that particular injury. 

Other Methods of Proving Fault

Not every injury claim involves negligence. Often, there are circumstances that would fall under strict liability or willful or wanton misconduct. 

Strict Liability

Companies have an obligation to properly prepare, package, and label all of their products, including any inherently dangerous ones. If a product, package, or label caused injury or death to a person, this can make the company liable for any damages that their product has caused a consumer. 

Willful or Wanton Misconduct

Willful or wanton misconduct is usually applicable to people or entities normally protected from civil litigation, as long as they were acting in good faith. Examples of this could be charitable organizations and emergency responders. 

Common Defenses to Disprove Fault in Personal Injury Cases

Even with all the evidence that you can gather, there are still defenses that the opposing side will use to eliminate or reduce your just compensation. These can include claiming comparative fault, assumption of risk, employer liability, and trespass. 

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault means that both parties are to blame for an accident. During the case, the judge will determine just how much at fault all parties were in causing the injury. The reasoning behind this is the law stating that people shall be responsible for their own basic premise of safety at all times. Oftentimes, the injured person may have done something to help contribute to the injury. 

Example: In a car accident, you, the plaintiff, were going ten miles an hour over the speed limit when you were t-boned in an intersection by someone who ran a red light. Though the person that hit you is more at fault, the defense can shift some blame onto you, which can result in a reduced settlement. 

Assumption of Risk

To counter a personal injury claim using this defense, a defendant must prove three things: 

  • The plaintiff had knowledge of the risk
  • Understood the risk
  • Voluntarily exposed him or herself to it 

Example: A person maneuvers a vehicle in front of a police car with its sirens on, speeding down the road. If the person saw the police car, heard its sirens, and then still turned, failed to yield, or some other action that caused an accident, they may be unable to make a personal injury claim. The person had knowledge of a risky situation and failed to act on it. 

Defendants may try to make it seem like the plaintiff had more information than they actually did or try to explain their actions as being more overt than they were. Countering this defense requires a three-pronged attack to prove this claim is meritless. 

Employer Liability

Employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees if:

  • The employer knew the employee had dangerous propensities
  • The plaintiff’s injuries should have been foreseen
  • The act occurred during the person’s employment

Example: An apartment complex hired a violent felon as a maintenance man. They burglarize regularly and eventually murder a tenant, all on the company’s time and dollar. In this case, the company would be held liable for wrongful death since they failed to properly investigate the background of their employee and failed to act after numerous reports of the employee’s theft from apartments. 

The employer had multiple opportunities to fire or have the employee arrested for the burglaries but did not. Employers may try to downplay their previous knowledge of an inherently dangerous employee or offer evidence that they took ample action to address any issues.

Trespass

Under O.C.G.A. § 51-11-9, there are several ways to be awarded damages for trespass. The first one is the most obvious and involves actually trespassing onto someone’s property. Any injury sustained while trespassing is normally not eligible for compensation. 

However, if someone uses unjustifiable, deadly force to get someone off the property, they could file for damages since unjustified force does not fall under the castle doctrine. 

Example: You and your neighbor are having a dispute in their yard and they shoot you without any provocation. Their defense of trespass would be nullified since deadly force would not be justified

Trespass can also happen without someone even stepping onto your property. If any actor does something that causes damage to your property or your body by their action alone, you could receive damages. Defendants may try to argue that you still had a duty to keep safe at all times, but a rigorous defense can prove that damages suffered at home were unforeseen or impossible to stop. 

The Importance of Hiring a Top Personal Injury Lawyer

If you do not hire a top personal injury lawyer with a strong history of success, you’ll have a tough time proving the fault of the person or entity that owes you compensation for the injury or death that has occurred. 

Crucial evidence can be destroyed accidentally or intentionally. Critical points to your arguments could be missed or underutilized. Even worse, a defendant could personally attack you or your loved one during your time of need. 

Rafi Law Firm can guide and protect you every step of the way, just as we have guided dozens of other clients. Let Rafi Law Firm handle the legal battle for you, so you can focus on what is most important: your family and your recovery. 

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our top personal injury law team today. We want to hear about your case and fight to get the compensation you deserve. We’ve helped recover more than $45 million for our clients, with many cases resulting in several million dollars of compensation. Let’s get the results you deserve.

Get your free consultation by calling 404-800-1156 or filling out our online form today!

 

2020-07-31T17:24:26-04:00