The victim of a personal injury “accident” often suffers more than just physical injuries. Both emotional trauma and financial hardship frequently go hand in hand with those physical injuries. While we traditionally use the term “personal injury accident” the term is misleading because in most cases the victim’s injuries are not the result of a true accident but are caused by the negligence of another party. In fact, most of the time the victim of a personal injury accident must prove that another party’s negligence caused, or contributed to, the victim’s injuries to be entitled to compensation. What is negligence though? A Smyrna personal injury attorney explains the legal concept of negligence as it applies in a personal injury accident case.
Tort Law Basics
“Torts” is the area of the law the addresses injuries to your person and/or property. Within the area known as torts is where we find personal injury accidents. In order to hold someone financially liable for injuries to another person, the law requires some standard of proof that the other person was responsible, or at fault. For most personal injuries, the standard is “negligence.” A defendant must have been negligent to be held financially liable for your injuries.
The Elements of Negligence
To prove that another party was negligent you must prove the four elements of negligence, including:
- Duty of care – the duty of care is a legal duty imposed upon the potentially negligent party. Often, the duty of care is already well established. For example, courts have long held that the driver of a vehicle on a public roadway owes a duty of care to others with whom he/she shares the roadway. Likewise, it is also well decided law that the owner/occupier of property owes a duty of care to those who are lawful visitors to the property.
- Breach of the duty of care – the individual must have owed you a duty of care and breached that duty of care. Again, some examples of the breach of the duty of care are well established. For instance, a driver who is driving while under the influence has clearly breached his/her duty of care. That property owner has also breached his/her duty of care if the front steps are rotting away and he/she does nothing to fix them nor to warn visitors of the danger. While these examples are clear examples of the breach of the duty of care, not all fact scenarios present a clear breach.
- Causation – the breach in the duty of care must have caused the victim’s injuries. Usually, this is simple to understand and prove; however, not always. For example, in the rotten steps example, imagine that the victim actually slipped on ice in the sidewalk before getting to the rotten steps. While the property owner did breach the duty of care owed to the victim, that breach wasn’t what actually caused the victim’s injuries.
- Damages – The victim must have suffered injuries as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care.
Note that in the State of Tennessee, negligence can be shared by more than one party. In fact, the victim could be found partially negligent and still be entitled to recover compensation for injuries. This is known as comparative negligence.
How Can a Smyrna Personal Injury Attorney Help?
Because every personal injury accident involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, it is always best to consult with an experienced Smyrna personal injury attorney right away if you believe you are the victim of negligence. Your attorney can evaluate what happened and offer you advice and guidance on how best to proceed in your case. Because there are important steps that a victim should take shortly after a personal injury accident, do not wait too long to consult with an attorney.
If you have been involved in what you believe to be a personal injury accident, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Smyrna personal injury attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.