When you are injured, and you know it is someone else’s fault, it can be frustrating. The average person may not understand exactly how to put it into words, but you know that someone else should be held responsible for your suffering. The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm help injured victims through this process every day, and may be able to help you, too. The term that usually explains how others are responsible for your injuries is “negligence.” This is the concept that they could have done something different, or done something better that would have prevented your injury. Proving the responsible party’s negligence is the cornerstone of most personal injury cases, and our lawyers can help you understand what it means, and how it affects your personal injury suit.
In order to prove someone was responsible for your injuries, you have two choices: you can prove that they intentionally harmed you; or you can prove that, through their “negligence,” they allowed your injury to happen. Proving an intentional action usually requires proving that they meant to do you harm, and that they succeeded, which is a relatively straightforward case – but rare. People do commit crimes against each other, but more often, people are harmed because of someone else’s poor decisions or by accident.
This is where negligence comes in. The legal definition of “negligence” can be found in a legal text called the Restatement of Torts, but we’ve simplified the definition to help you understand. Negligence is when someone fails to act with the proper amount of care that a reasonable person would use in the same situation. The law does not ask people to use extreme care or act perfectly – it merely asks that they act reasonably.
When someone fails to act reasonably, and it causes your injury, you may be entitled to compensation in court. This usually requires proving these four elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty, based on the relationship between the two of you;
- The defendant breached that duty by failing to act as a reasonable person should;
- That breach caused your injuries; and
- You suffered injury or other harms that a court can compensate – called “damages.”
Examples of Negligence
These elements are the technical process for proving how the negligence occurred, and what a court can do to help you. Some typical examples of negligence in personal injury cases are the following:
- Because another driver was driving while texting, you suffered injuries in a car accident, like whiplash.
- Because a shop worker failed to clean up a spill, you suffered a slip and fall, resulting in brain injury.
- Because your doctor slipped and nicked an artery, you suffered medical malpractice injuries and required additional surgeries.
- Because a local park showed negligent property maintenance, you suffered a personal injury from a falling tree.
Before the law establishes a duty, there must be some relationship between you and the person who harmed you. The only duty we owe the general public is to refrain from intentional harm. When guests come to your home (or even when trespassers enter your property), that relationship of guest and homeowner creates a duty to warn them of hidden dangers. When you get behind the wheel, the relationship to other drivers creates a duty to drive reasonably. These relationships are necessary in proving your personal injury case.
Compensation for Negligence
You can recover for injuries someone intentionally causes, but negligent injuries often have higher compensation available, since they are often covered by insurance. Homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, medical malpractice insurance and other forms of liability insurance help cover injuries caused by negligence. This means that there is often someone who can pay for your injuries, even if the person who harmed you is poor, a friend, or a loved one.
In general, a personal injury lawsuit may entitle you to compensation for multiple harms. Economic harms, like the cost of medical bills, the cost of hiring home care, or the wages you lose while you are unable to work from your injuries can all be compensated. Noneconomic harms, like the physical pain and mental suffering you experience, can also be compensated. Proving these in court may be a challenge, but keeping good records of your medical bills, bank records, and journaling your personal experiences can help.
Ultimately the jury in your court case determines what compensation you deserve – but talking to an attorney may help you understand what your case is worth.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers
Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your injuries, today. You may have important deadlines to file for compensation, so act fast. The lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm offer free consultations on personal injury cases in the greater Philadelphia area. To receive a free, confidential consultation on your case, call (215) 246-9000.