One of the most critical factors in a personal injury case is whether or not the elements are present. Without the four essential elements, you do not have a case – which means you cannot collect compensation.
These four basic elements are whether the defendant owed you a duty, breached the duty, if the breach caused your injuries, and whether you suffered damages. These elements are established by using a preponderance of the evidence because, as the plaintiff, you carry the burden of proof in an injury claim.
Exploring the Four Elements of Personal Injury
An attorney may refuse to take your case if you do not have the four basic elements, because a court will not grant compensation if these four elements cannot be proven through a preponderance of evidence either.
Here are how these elements play a role in your case:
Duty of Care
Everyone owes a duty of care, but the level of duty depends on the situation. For example, a daycare provider has a legal duty to watch children under her care. A driver must obey traffic signals, safety laws, and not drive while under the influence. A homeowner is required to keep their premises safe for guests.
For you to recover damages against a defendant, you must show that the defendant owed you a duty of care. Without a duty, you have no claim.
Breach of Duty
Once you establish the duty owed, you must then prove that the duty was breached.
Just because you encounter an accident does not mean someone breached his or her duty of care or acted negligently. For example, you fell in a store on a slick surface. But the store staff had placed signs notifying you of the wet surface and were working to clean it up. You ignored those signs and slipped anyway. In this case, the owner of that store is not liable for your injury.
An example of when a defendant breaches his or her duty could be seen in a car accident. Drivers must obey traffic signals as part of their duty of care. A driver that chooses to run a stop sign and causes an accident breached that duty.
Breach of Duty and Causation
Even if someone breaches their duty of care, you must tie that breach to your injuries to collect compensation. If you cannot show through a preponderance of the evidence that the breach directly relates to your injury, you cannot collect compensation.
Likewise, you cannot be mostly responsible for your injuries. If you contribute or cause the injuries, you may receive a reduced amount of compensation or be barred entirely.
Even if the three elements apply, you still must prove that you suffered damages. Without losses, you have no reason to file a claim. Damages depend on the injury and might include medical costs, lost wages, physical pain, mental anguish, or property damage.
Hiring an Attorney Is Key
While you might know the four elements exist, you must prove their existence in court. Therefore, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney that has experience handling these types of claims.
An injury attorney in your area helps gather evidence and present it to the court to ensure you meet the four basic elements.