Accidents rarely happen for no reason, and one of the very first steps in getting compensation for an accidental injury is determining who was at fault. You may have been injured as the result of a car accident, in a slip and fall accident in a public place or due to a defective product, or as the result of a medical error. Either way, in order to get the compensation you need to recover from your injuries, you will need to show that someone else was somehow in the wrong, and that their actions or inactions caused the accident to occur.
Determining Fault in An Accident
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental injuries send approximately 3.1 million people to hospital emergency rooms each year in the United States. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, your first concern should always be getting medical care. At the same time, while waiting for an ambulance or before heading to the doctor, take a moment to look around and notice who is present. These are potential witnesses to what happened, and their testimony can play a big role in determining who will be held accountable for your injuries.
Mentally review the circumstances leading up to your injury, and look for clues or things that did not seem right. In a slip and fall case, perhaps there was a puddle on the floor, or the walkway was uneven? In a medical malpractice case, did you doctor seem distracted or try to rush you through your appointment? In a defective product case, did the product make a strange noise, or fail to work properly before you were injured? All of these types of things are important to remember, and will become more significant when trying to prove who or what was at fault for your injuries.
How Your Attorney Can help Determine Fault
In personal injury cases, victims are often contacted by insurance companies immediately after the accident. Use caution when speaking with insurance company representatives, as anything you say can and will be used either to undervalue or deny your claim. Insurance adjusters have limited time and resources to thoroughly investigate every claim that appears on their desk, and this is where it is to your advantage to have an attorney representing your case.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will take the time to find witnesses and get statements, to obtain incident reports and visit accident scenes. Your lawyer can use deductive reasoning to determine what actually caused your injury, and make a compelling argument to the insurance company or in court as to why you should be compensated. There are several ways your lawyer can go about proving negligence in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Standard Duty Of Care: In proving negligence, you may be able to show that the at-fault party in your case failed at providing a basic standard of care one would expect of a reasonable person, such as mopping up a wet floor, or ensuring light fixtures are properly secured. Failing to adhere to this duty of care is considered negligent.
- Res ipsa loquitur: This is a Latin term which means ‘the thing speaks for itself’. In cases of defective products or medical malpractice, it may be relatively easy to show that no harm would have occurred had not some type of negligence taken place.
- Negligence Per Se: Per se means ‘in itself’, and in these case, the evidence shows that the at-fault party committed some violation or broke a law specifically designed to prevent people from being injured, such as in a drunk driving accident.
Even if you think you may have been somewhat at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation under the theory of comparative negligence. If it is determined you were 20 percent responsible for the accident in which you were injured, the person who was 80 percent at fault would be liable to pay that percentage of the damages you sustained.