You were hurt in an accident in New Jersey and want to bring an injury claim. A claim to compensate you for your uninsured medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and loss of quality of life.
But what will you need to prove in order to be successful with your personal injury claim?
The answer is that it varies, depending on the type of case. Car accidents have different rules than medical malpractice cases. Dog bite claims have legal principles that do not apply in, say, slip and fall cases.
That said, there are some common principles that apply to most injury claims. I will discuss some of those common principles in this post.
INJURY CLAIM RULE 1 – RESPONSIBILITY
First, you generally must prove that you were not mainly responsible for the accident. And that the person or business whom you are suing was mainly responsible.
For example, if you violated the traffic laws by, say running a red light, and the other driver did not violate any traffic law, your injury claim would likely fail.
Note that there are exceptions to this rule. For example, in a dog bite case, a dog owner is strictly liable for a bite injury, even if the animal never bit before, and never gave the owner reason to believe that it was vicious. In other words, in a dog bite case, you needn’t prove any “fault” on the dog owner’s part. The same principle of “strict liability” applies to a few other types of injury claims, but not to the vast majority.
RULE 2 – LEGAL DUTY VIOLATION
Second, you usually must prove that the other person had a legal duty to you. And that he or she violated that duty. In my initial example, the legal duty would be to comply with the traffic laws. Another example would be a store’s duty to provide a safe environment for its customers.
RULE 3 – INJURY
Third, you must generally prove that you suffered a demonstrable physical or psychological injury. Merely being upset isn’t enough.
RULE 4 – DIRECT CAUSATION
Finally, you usually need to prove that the violation of the legal duty DIRECTLY caused your injury. An indirect cause is not good enough.
Thus, the other driver running a red light and therefore hitting your car and therefore injuring you is a good example of direct causation. The law calls that “proximate” cause. Even if the driver’s red light violation merely forced you to swerve, and, say, hit a tree, you still likely would have a valid personal injury case, if you suffered an injury.
But let’s say you just saw another driver run a red light. And that viewing the flagrant violation caused you to become upset and distracted, and drive into the tree. A judge would probably rule that the other driver only indirectly caused you to crash, and thus you did not have a valid injury claim.
Again, the above discussion just lists some general rules. Every type of injury claim has its own requirements. If you ever are an accident victim, consult a personal injury lawyer immediately to evaluate your specific case.