Personal injury claims in Florida are based on tort laws. A tort is an act or omission that causes another person to sustain injuries or harm.
If another person harms you, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. However, the law requires you to prove that the other party’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries before you can recover compensation.
What Are the Required Elements to Prove Liability for a Personal Injury?
Most personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence, including slip and fall accidents, car accidents, and medical malpractice.
A defendant is negligent when they fail to act with reasonable care to avoid causing harm or injury. “Reasonable” care is based on what a jury believes a reasonably prudent person would have done given the same circumstances.
The legal elements of a negligence claim are:
- Duty – The defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care
- Breach of Duty – The defendant’s actions did not meet the level of care owed to the plaintiff
- Causation – The defendant’s conduct was a direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
- Damages – The plaintiff incurred losses, physical injuries, and other damages because of the defendant’s negligence
The injured party has the burden of proving the above legal elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The jury must be convinced that there is more than a 50% chance that the allegations against the defendant are true.
The legal requirements for intentional torts are similar. You must still prove that the defendant’s actions caused your injury. However, you must also prove that the defendant intended to cause you harm.
Proving Causation in a Personal Injury Case
The evidence you present must create a “chain of causation” that directly links the defendant’s actions to your injuries and damages. It is evident in some personal injury cases that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. However, fault for the cause of an accident or injury is not always apparent.
First, you must prove that the defendant’s actions or omissions were the “direct” cause of your injury. The direct cause is the reason an event occurs.
For instance, suppose an accident is caused by someone running a red light. The direct or actual cause would be failing to stop at a red light. The crash would not have occurred “but for” the actions of the person who ran the red light.
The proximate cause test determines if the injury was a foreseeable and natural consequence of a person’s actions. The defendant’s actions must have been a significant contributing factor to the victim’s injuries.
Defendants cannot generally be held liable if they could not reasonably foresee that their actions could result in an injury. Exceptions would be in cases involving strict liability.
Evidence Used to Prove Causation in a Personal Injury Case
You must have sufficient evidence to convince a jury that the defendant caused your injury to win your case. A personal injury lawyer will conduct thorough investigations to determine the cause of your injury and identify the parties responsible for causing the injury.
The evidence necessary to establish a link between the defendant’s conduct and your injuries may include:
- Copies of accident reports, incident reports, and police reports
- Testimony and statements provided by the parties to the case
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Videos and photographs from the accident scene
- Medical records describing your injuries
- Physical evidence from the accident scene
- Testimony from medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, and other experts
- Research, reports, and expert opinions
- Employment records showing you were unable to work due to your injuries
Each case is unique. There could be other evidence based on the type of case and the circumstances involved. For example, if a defective product caused your injury, your attorney might hire manufacturing experts to offer evidence proving that the product was defective.
What Damages Could I Receive If I Prove Causation?
You must prove each element of negligence to recover damages. However, even if you prove causation, the other party is not financially liable unless you can show that their conduct caused damages.
Economic damages are the financial losses you incur due to an accident or injury, including:
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Medical bills
- Long-term nursing care
- Lost wages
- Personal care
- Diminished earning capacity
You could also be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.
These non-economic damages include:
- Decreased quality of life
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability and permanent impairment
The compensation you receive for damages depends on the severity of your injuries, the strength of your evidence, assignment of liability, and other factors. Your legal team will work to maximize the factors that increase your chance of receiving a fair and just amount for your injury claim.
Contact a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Proving Causation
Were you injured in an accident? Did another party cause you harm or personal injury? If so, contact a personal injury attorney for help proving the elements of your case, including causation. A lawyer will fight to get you the money you deserve after an injury. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in St. Petersburg to discuss your case.