When you or a loved one is injured, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Serious injuries can cost a person an incredible amount of time, effort, and money to recover and get back to a normal life. Legal action can greatly assist victims with this recovery process. The road to compensation can be difficult and confusing. You may be unsure of where to begin and how to get the responsible parties to compensate you for your injuries. There are several elements that make up a personal injury case, and a number of legal doctrines to base your case upon. An experienced personal injury attorney will know which approach is best; every case is different, and the law must be applied differently depending on the situation.
Negligence is the principle upon which most civil liability cases operate. Negligence is based around 4 key ideas:
- Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
- Breach: The defendant somehow breached that duty.
- Causation: The breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered and is owed damages.
These are the elements used in most cases to prove that the defendant's negligent actions were responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. These four steps can be established in court with the help of your attorney.
The first part of any negligence claim is establishing a defendant's duty. Exactly what type of duty was owed to a plaintiff will depend upon the type of claim. For instance, in premises liability cases, the defendant owes a varying degree of duty depending on how the plaintiff entered the property. A duty can typically be thought of as a certain degree of care that a person must take to ensure that their actions do not harm any others.
The second part of a negligence claim is to show that a defendant breached their duty. A breach of duty is the moment when a defendant did not act with the proper care required based on the circumstances at hand. Breaches of duty can come in many forms: a driver looking down at their phone for a split second, or a landlord letting a tenant's broken step go unfixed for some time. All forms of a breach of duty have one thing in common: they are actions or failures to act that fail to provide the standard of ordinary care that would have prevented injury or death from occurring.
Causation is the element of a negligence case that proves that the defendant's breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Defendants will try to prove that whatever happened was not the real or primary cause for your injuries. They may try to point out any prior medical conditions that you have, or suggest that you actually put yourself in a position to be injured.
The term "damages" is used both to describe the effect the defendant's negligent actions had on the plaintiff, and what the various forms of compensation the plaintiff will receive. Damages can be economic or non-economic. Economic damages serve as restitution and compensation for objective losses suffered by the plaintiff, while non-economic damages serve as restitution for things such as emotional distress and other subjective losses. In civil cases, you will see a variety of factors that are important for basing your compensation upon, some of which include:
- Medical Costs: Medical costs can include the hospitalization and/or treatment you received directly following the injury and can also include future or recurring medical care.
- Pain and Suffering: Serious injuries are not a pleasant experience. Broken bones, lacerations, and surgical operations can be some of the most painful experiences a person can go through. The defendant can be held responsible for your pain and suffering.
- Loss of Income: When an injury keeps you out of work for an extended period of time, you may not be able to support yourself or your family. If a loved one dies in an accident, you may be left to support the household. In these instances, it may be appropriate to seek compensation for the lost income or financial support.
- Property Loss: If you are involved in a car accident, your vehicle may be destroyed. It may be appropriate to demand compensation for the loss of your property.
- Funeral Costs: The death of a loved one is stressful enough, but with the added costs of a funeral service you may be utterly distraught. In a wrongful death case, it may be appropriate to seek compensation for the funeral costs of your loved one.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are commonly seen in cases of egregious wrongdoing. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their actions.
Sometimes, certain situations may warrant the pursuit of a strict liability case. The key to strict liability is proving that you have suffered injuries and that the injuries were caused by the defendant. You will not need to try to establish negligence through the four steps above, as the liability of the defendant is implied. In spite of its illusory simplicity, strict liability is actually a deceptively complex area of the law that can only be applied in specific circumstances.
Strict liability is a common legal doctrine to apply when looking at product failures and product liability. It asserts the manufacturer or retailer's liability without the need for you to prove their negligence. You merely need to prove that the injury was caused by the unreasonably dangerous product.
If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to receive Worker's Compensation. However, Washington D.C. only permits negotiations with Worker's Compensation to receive further compensation, instead of having employees pursuing a civil case from their employer. Negotiating with Worker's Compensation can be difficult and taxing, having an attorney on your side for Worker's Compensation hearings will greatly increase your chances of success and a better outcome.
In Washington D.C. personal injury claims, a defendant may put forth evidence of the plaintiff's "contributory negligence." Under the theory of contributory negligence, if the jury finds that the plaintiff has in any way, however small, contributed to the incident that resulted in the injury, he or she cannot recover any damages from the case.
The jury may consider the two parties to both be at fault by a certain percentage. Under contributory negligence, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for your own injuries, you may not receive any compensation.
When pursuing a personal injury case in Washington D.C., this is likely going to be something that the defense will try to capitalize on. The defense will point out any action, no matter how minor or irrelevant, that they can in order to suggest that you have caused your own injuries. Don't let it happen to you. A skilled attorney will be able to counter whatever the defense throws your way in court, and make sure you are able to recover the compensation you deserve.
When you are injured in Washington D.C., the claims process may be long and complex. You need a skilled attorney at your side who will support you through the claims process, and eventually in the courtroom. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Gilman and Bedigian today and let us work to help you.