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Proving Fault in a Personal Injury Case


After the documentation of an injury and after consultation with an injury lawyer, the next course of action is to prove negligence so as to prove fault in a personal injury case. Determining fault and the criteria that is required for conviction varies according to...


After the documentation of an injury and after consultation with an injury lawyer, the next course of action is to prove negligence so as to prove fault in a personal injury case. Determining fault and the criteria that is required for conviction varies according to the type of injury, the severity of the injury, and the circumstances which caused the injury. While there are guidelines in place, each case is individual and so is the evidence needed to prove fault beyond a reasonable doubt in court.


In order to be awarded financial compensation or damages as a result of the personal injury case, the accused party must be proven to have been negligent or to have knowingly contributed to an unsafe condition which created an elevated level of risk of injury. While no business, employer or facility ever make decisions to deliberately injure people, it is common for businesses or private individuals to be charged with negligence as a result of not taking adequate steps or precautions for the safety of others. When that is proven, a strong personal injury case can be established.


How Negligence Proves Fault

In a civil court the majority of cases represent the injured and the party was negligent. Negligence can be defined as failing to take the appropriate steps preserve safety, or knowingly neglecting safety precautions for the purpose of saving money or convenience. For example, if an apartment owner neglected to apply salt to a sidewalk during winter months in order to save money on supplies, that owner would be negligent in the event that someone slipped, fell and injured themselves. It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure that the pedestrian walkways are safe to use.


A homeowner who neglects to construct a fence around their pool can be held liable for personal injuries and even death in their pool as a result of not being compliant with the minimal safety precautions.


When using negligence to prove fault, evidence falls into four categories:

  • Duty: a definition of the responsibilities of the defendant to the plaintiff with regards to the personal safety and measures which were required.
  • Breach: the plaintiff must provide evidence that the accused breached protocol, or reasonable standards for safety and neglected to provide them.
  • Causation: the plaintiff must prove that the accused was directly responsible for the circumstances which led to the personal injury. For instance if the plaintiff was attacked by the defendants dog and the resulting injuries are directly attributable to the personal injury claim.
  • Damages: the plaintiff must demonstrate with evidence and documentation the amount of damages or an accounting for the requested compensation. This accounting should include cost of medical care, lost wages or insurance expenses. It can also include a calculation of potential lost wages in the event that the plaintiff is unable to return to work or regain their pre-injury quality of life.


In addition to some of the tangible ways that fault can be proven in a personal injury case, the plaintiff can also demonstrate a malicious intent to injure. In these kind of cases, domestic assault and violence can be included and the accused can be held responsible in civil court for damages due to personal injury. Intentional conduct is easy to prove where the accused has committed an act of violence or has contributed in a deliberate way to circumstance in which the plaintiff has become injured.


Preparing for Defense Arguments

An experienced personal injury attorney will prepare not only evidence of negligence, but will also prepare counter arguments to the defense’s claims of non-negligent behavior. While accusing someone of negligence is easy, and it is recognized by the court, proving it in absolute terms requires skill and preparation.


The legal team for the defense will argue on the grounds of comparative fault. The defense will attempt to lay blame in a decision and action of the plaintiff as contributing factors to the injury. In the state of Illinois, defense will pursue this argument in order to reduce the percentage of comparative blame, in order to reduce the amount of settlement payable to the plaintiff.


Another common defense in personal injury cases is assumption of risk. If the defendant is able to successfully prove that the plaintiff made decisions that placed him or herself in peril despite being forewarned. An excellent example of this is when someone is bitten by a dog, on private property, when sufficient signs have been posted to warn visitors about potential biting risk. If the individual opted to ignore the warnings, the defendant may demonstrate that the plaintiff is responsible for the contributing factors that contributed to a decision, which in turn led to the injury.


The legal requirements for proving fault in a personal injury case are complex. An experienced personal injury lawyer in Chicago is your best advocate and defense in personal injury cases.


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