A personal injury attorney typically has to prove that a defendant was negligent. If you're planning to hire an injury attorney, it's important to understand what negligence is, when it applies to cases, and how to prove it.
What Is Negligence?
There are many situations where one person's conduct may harm another person. Most of the time, this is purely accidental. However, the law assumes each person has a duty to try to prevent many predictable scenarios where harm can occur.
Consider a scenario where a box falls from a shelf at a store and cracks a customer's head. Someone should have done something about that, right? The store has a duty to provide a safe environment for its customers, and it must do everything within reason to prevent events like this. Failing to do so is a form of negligence.
When Does Negligence Apply?
Negligence applies in all but a handful of successful injury cases. The exceptions are ones involving either malice or strict liability. Malice arises when someone intentionally harms another. Strict liability applies in a specific set of scenarios involving known dangerous conduct, such as owning a dangerous animal. It also tends to apply to the use of explosive, flammable, chemical, radioactive materials.
In cases of malice, the claimant must prove that the defendant meant what they did. In cases of strict liability, the claimant must only show that the defendant did what every injurious thing harmed the claimant.
First, a personal injury lawyer must prove that a defendant had a duty of care. This means the law recognizes the duty. In the example of a store, the duty arises from premises liability. Anyone who runs a business assumes a duty of care when their doors to the public. Drivers take on a duty of care when they hit the road. Homeowners accept a duty of care when they invite people into their houses.
Second, the claimant's side must prove that the defendant's actions were the proximate cause. In the store example, an employee's act of putting the product on a shelf is likely enough to make the business liable, unless another customer messed with it. Even then, if no one at the store rectified the situation after several hours, the business is probably still liable.
Finally, you must prove meaningful damages. If the box hit the customer and just left a light bruise, then the story likely owes nothing. Conversely, if the customer needed multiple surgeries to treat a neck injury, the medical bills would meet the requirements for damages. To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney.