The 3 Elements of Standing To Sue  

It is commonly believed that in the United States, anyone can sue anyone for anything. However, this is not the case. One of the ways that the judicial system limits the number of cases before it is to require that the plaintiff who is suing has legal standing to sue. 

In the sections below, Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys discusses this important matter and explains whether you might have legal standing to bring your case. 

Standing is a legal concept that refers to a person’s right to bring a case to court. A person must have an “interest” or “stake” in the outcome of a case in a present dispute before they can sue them and ask the court for judicial relief.

For example, if a person was injured in a car accident, they might have legal standing to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused their injuries. If they only found out about the car accident while watching the news and were not directly impacted, they would not have standing to sue. 

Standing to sue is a threshold matter. If the plaintiff cannot show they have standing to sue, the court can dismiss the case without hearing any of their arguments. 

Where Does Standing Law Come From? 

Standing to sue derives from the United States Constitution. Article III specifically says that a plaintiff must establish “standing” to file a lawsuit in federal court. Legal standing, in this sense, refers to an “actual or imminent alleged injury that is concrete and particularized.”

In Florida cases, legal standing means that there is a “real controversy as to the issue” presented. The legal standing definition has been carved out of Florida courts’ rulings in various cases. For example, one court held that, for a plaintiff to establish legal standing, the plaintiff must show that “a case or controversy exists between the plaintiff and the defendant” and that the controversy exists from the beginning of the case until its conclusion. 

The three legal elements of standing to sue generally refer to the following:

Injury In Fact 

Civil courts are concerned with making people whole again after someone else has negatively impacted them. Therefore, it is necessary to show that you were injured in some way. This could be a physical injury, such as a broken bone after you slipped and fell on the defendant’s property. It could also be an emotional injury, such as emotional distress. The term “injury” can also refer to monetary losses like lost wages or property damage

It is not enough to show that you could have been injured or were exposed to a risk of injury. You must show that you were actually injured. 


You must also be able to show that the defendant caused your injury. You have to establish a nexus between the defendant’s actions and your injuries. For example, the defendant’s speeding caused a car accident that injured you. 

It is important to understand that the court does not decide at the outset of a case whether the defendant actually caused the accident. Instead, the plaintiff must make sufficient allegations in their complaint that allege the defendant caused the injury. 


Finally, you must be able to show how the court can help you. For personal injury cases, this is typically through the award of money damages. The court can’t undo the injuries you suffered. However, it can attempt to make you whole again by compensating you for your injury-related losses, such as:

  • Your medical expenses 
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disabilities or impairments
  • Scarring or disfigurement 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life 

You don’t have to prove all of your damages when you file your lawsuit. However, you will need to include sufficient allegations in your complaint that show the court has the ability to address your legal situation. Your lawyer can work with you to develop the evidence necessary to prove your damages at trial.

Examples Of Standing To Sue In Personal Injury Cases

Here are a couple of simple examples to show whether someone has standing to sue in a personal injury case. 

Example 1

Mary is in her car at a traffic light when she is suddenly hit from behind by a texting, distracted driver. Mary suffers neck injuries and pays $5,000 in medical bills. Mary has standing to sue because she suffered an injury, the driver’s texting and negligence likely caused the accident, and compensation would make Mary whole again. 

Example 2 

John is killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. His best friend Tom is upset about the death. While the driver’s actions are deplorable, Tom would not have standing to sue. While Tom has suffered emotionally, the court is not in a position to do anything about it. Tom is not a family member, so he cannot seek financial damages in a wrongful death case. 

Consider Contacting a Personal Injury Lawyer

The best way to find out if you have legal standing to sue is to contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys offers a free consultation to discuss your rights and potential case.  

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm – Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

Contact a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

700 7th Ave N Suite B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015