What Must You Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case?
Elements of a Personal Injury Case
In order to win a personal injury case, you must prove the following elements of your case:
- Breach of Duty
- Proximate Cause
Our legal system holds people and corporations liable for their negligence by ordering that they pay an amount of money that a jury determines fairly makes up for or “compensates” them for the harms and losses that their negligent conduct proximately caused. The injured person bears the burden of proof.
What is Meant by Duty?
A “duty” is a legal obligation to act or not act in a certain way. Every person of sufficient age and/or mental capacity to comprehend their duty has a general duty to not act negligently. When you act in a way that is considered negligent, you have breached your duty to not act negligently.
What is Negligence?
“Negligence” is the failure to exercise reasonable care, and in terms of personal injury claims, a person or entity that is proven negligent will likely be responsible for compensating the victim injured. Said another way, everyone has a duty to exercise reasonable care.
What Does Reasonable Care Mean?
“Reasonable care” is that degree of care that an ordinary prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. In a PI case, a person can usually be found negligent if they fail their duty to provide reasonable care, ultimately leading to a person’s injury.
What is Proximate Cause?
“Proximate cause” means a cause that was a substantial factor in bringing about an event, and without which cause such event would not have occurred. Basically it means that if this thing had not happened, the rest of the events would not have been set in motion and the person would not have been injured.
In order to be a proximate cause, the act or omission complained of must be such that a person using ordinary care would have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result therefrom. In Texas there may be more than one proximate cause of an event.
When a person fails to exercise reasonable care and thereby causes another injury he may be held liable to the person for the damage done.
What are Damages?
The term “damages” refers to the harm done as a result of the negligence. What you may recover as damages is not unlimited. The law allows recovery for specific elements of damages. Common damages include: pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, scarring, physical impairment and mental anguish. For a detailed discussion of what you can and cannot recover, please see the “Questions About Damages” section below.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.