Three Requirements For An Injury Case

There are three essential elements in a good personal injury case:

  1. Negligence
  2. Injury, and
  3. Coverage

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.


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.


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.


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.


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