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What Elements Must a Plaintiff Prove in a Personal Injury Case?

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be wondering, “What do I have to prove to win compensation for my losses?” There are four basic elements that you must prove:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care — Basically, this means the defendant had a responsibility imposed by the law to act carefully. Drivers have a duty to proceed with reasonable caution, and doctors have long been held to “first, do no harm.” Landlords have a responsibility to make their grounds reasonably safe from hidden hazards.
  • The defendant breached the duty of care — The breach usually comes as an act or omission that is careless. Defendants can also breach their duty through reckless or intentional conduct. A motorist can breach the duty of care by speeding, making an abrupt lane change without signaling, running a stop sign or traffic light, or driving while intoxicated.
  • The breach directly caused an injury event — Here you must prove that because the defendant did or failed to do something, something bad happened to you. Lawyers often use a “but for” construction to explain this element: but for the defendant’s act or omission, the plaintiff would not have been hurt.
  • You have injuries that are compensable — You have no case unless you can show that you were harmed. In a personal injury case, there is harm done to the plaintiff’s body that causes economic losses, in the form of medical bills and lost wages for missed work, as well as noneconomic losses, due to the plaintiff’s “pain and suffering.” Here, a plaintiff must be sure to prove the full extent of injuries to secure the appropriate level of compensation.

Since a personal injury case is heard in civil court, the plaintiff need not prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard in civil court is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” That simply means that it is more likely than not that the defendant had a (1) duty of care, (2) breached the duty of care, (3) caused an injury event and (4) hurt the plaintiff.

If you have been injured due to someone’s negligence, a knowledgeable attorney at Swartz & Lynch LLP can evaluate your case for free. To schedule a consultation, call 857-250-0664 or contact our Boston office online.

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