There are three essential elements in a good
personal injury case:
- Injury, and
If an injured person can show each of those elements, they will probably
be able to recover money. If any of those three elements are missing,
recovery is unlikely. Without any of those three things it doesn't
make sense to go forward with a case because it means that you are unlikely
to recover any money. Said another way, if any element is missing, then
you are probably wasting your time. I don't want to waste your time,
or my time.
Examples of Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
The first required element of an injury case is negligence. Negligence
means that someone made a mistake, or that a reasonable person would have
done something differently. Some examples:
- Speeding and cause a car accident.
- Blowing through a stop sign.
- Not cleaning up snow on the steps.
- Driving a truck for 30 straight hours.
- Texting while driving.
- Allowing an untrained employee to do a job that could hurt somebody.
- Leaving a step made of rotten wood outside your building.
- Driving a boat too fast for the wave conditions.
- Driving a boat without the proper safety equipment.
If someone does something stupid, that creates a risk that others will
be harmed, it is probably negligent.
Was there an injury?
The second required element of an injury case is: injury. A payment, or
settlement, is money paid to a plaintiff to represent money they lost
because they were injured, in addition to compensation for pain and suffering
caused by the injury. No matter how negligent an action is, there is not
a case without injury.
For example, imagine a property owner that doesn't remove snow. A person
slips and falls, and then stands up and walks away - there is no case because there is
no injury. You might also imagine a
car accident where someone runs a red light (clear negligence) but nobody is hurt -
no case because there is no injury. In New York, the term "injury"
means something very specific. It means serious injury, broken bone, something
permanent or scarring. The technical definition of injury is a topic for
another day. Just remember there must be an injury, for a valid injury
case - it makes sense.
Is coverage available?
The third required element of an injury case is the ability to pay. Technically,
if there is negligence and injury you can sustain a case in court. However,
we like to live in reality, not theory. In reality, without someone to
pay the claim if we win, an injury case is a waste of time.
For example, it is much better if the driver of a car has a million dollars
of insurance coverage than no insurance at all. Recovery is much more
likely if a person slips and falls at a municipal building, instead of
an abandoned house, where nobody can locate the owner. Most of the time
we are looking for insurance for the ability to pay a judgment. In other
cases we are looking for people or entities with enough money to have
the ability to pay.
In conclusion, there are three requirements for a successful personal injury
case. The first requirement is negligence. The second requirement is injury.
The third requirement is coverage, aka the ability to pay. Each of the
elements should be carefully examined and investigated by an experienced attorney.