How do I prove liability in a personal injury claim?
Liability is the legal term for holding at-fault parties responsible for the damages they cause. A party is negligent if they fail to act as a reasonable party would. A party is liable, or responsible, for any injury that their negligence caused.
If another party — whether they be the driver of another car, a home-owner, or a business — has been determined to be liable for an injury you sustained, it means they failed to uphold their duty to act reasonably, and that their breach of that duty caused damages to you.
If this is the case, you can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party to receive compensation for the damages they caused. But before you can receive any compensation from the other party, your lawyer has to prove that the other party is liable.
The other party may be liable because of something they did or did not do. At the heart of liability is negligence, and a party will only be negligent if their actions are proven to be unreasonable. By way of example, a driver not following the rules of the road causes a collision, or, a property owner not removing slippery snow and ice from their premises, can be held liable.
It may seem obvious to you who caused your injury. Even if that’s the case, proving liability is still necessary for your claim to move forward. The plaintiff, the person bringing the personal injury claim, has to prove everything that they claim.
Proving liability in an auto accident
To have a meritorious personal injury claim, the first thing the plaintiff will have to do is prove that the other party is liable.
In auto accidents, a party is usually liable because they did not follow the rules of the road. A plaintiff can prove that the other party did not act reasonably by producing police crash reports, photographs, and witnesses. This is why it is important to take photographs at the scene of the collision, to get information from any police officer that responds to the scene, and to get the contact information for any witnesses of the collision.
While a personal injury claim is a civil action, the at-fault party may also face criminal ramifications for causing a collision. It is important to stay informed of any criminal actions against the at-fault party. If the at-fault party pleads not guilty to any criminal charge resulting from the collision, you, the injured party, may be asked to be a witness in the criminal traffic hearing. The at-fault party’s actions and statements at their criminal traffic hearing can be used in the civil case to prove liability.
An experienced personal injury attorney will make sure to monitor the criminal action and use the criminal action to help prove liability in the civil case.
Proving liability in a slip-and-fall (or trip-and-fall) accident
Property owners are responsible for keeping their property adequately safe. If a dangerous condition or hazard causes you to slip or trip and fall on someone else’s property, you can file a premises liability claim against them.
But just like in auto accidents, you won’t be able to receive compensation for your injuries until you prove that the property owner is liable.
A premises liability case can be filed after accidents on either private property, such as a residential home, or commercial property, such as a retail store. In either case, injuries can occur due to safety hazards like snowy or icy walkways, slippery floors, unlit or poorly lit areas, unmarked cracks or bumps in sidewalks, or other types of poor property management.
If your injury occurs on a commercial property, reporting the injury and filing an incident report with the company can serve as valuable evidence in proving liability down the road. Any pictures taken of the area where you were injured, and of the hazard that caused you to fall, can be used to prove liability. Witnesses may also be interviewed during the accident investigation.
Just like in an auto accident, your lawyer will work to compile this evidence to build a case that proves the property owner’s liability for your injuries.
Liability has been proven! What comes next?
Proving liability is just the first of two sides of the equation needed to receive compensation for your injuries. After liability is established, there is still one more thing that must be done: proving damages (see our next blog).
Tom Curcio, the driving force behind Curcio Law, is a dedicated trial lawyer with more than 35 years of experience in Northern Virginia. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to…
Rakin Hamad is a graduate of the George Mason Law School and joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018. Rakin works closely with Tom Curcio and staff in preparing cases from the initial client meeting through trial and has been a perfect fit for the firm. During law school, Rakin interned at the…
Justin Curcio received his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 2015, where he was awarded an academic scholarship. During law school, he worked for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the law firm of Bartlett, McDonough & Monaghan, LLP. Justin also spent a semester studying law at the University of Glasgow…
As the firm’s office manager, Kathy McAfee is dedicated to making sure the office runs smoothly and that the team has what it needs by way of resources, technology, and supplies to best serve our clients. Kathy graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Roanoke College in 1986 and afterward, returned to Alexandria. She began…
Riann Winget, a native Texan, graduated with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Legal Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. She was a member of the varsity soccer team, Chi Omega Sorority, and was on the university board for Big Brothers Big Sisters. After graduation, she joined AmeriCorps and taught preschool…
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