People’s lives change drastically after a traumatic event, and unfortunately, accidents can happen to anyone. Knowing there was no fault of your own can make it worse. So, whether you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall on someone else’s property, or injured because of a dangerous consumer product, the question of liability will arise.
Determining who was at fault or legally liable can be a complicated process. In most cases, the matter will come down to proving that the defendant’s actions were reckless or negligent. Proving fault and liability can be done in various ways and may be essential in deciding how much compensation you receive. Working with qualified Atlanta injury and accident attorneys who know how to handle your case successfully is vital.
As a legal term, negligence is used to describe conduct that falls below the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in a given situation. To prevail in a negligence claim, you must prove that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant violated that duty of care
- That violation caused harm to you
- You suffered actual damages as a result
Elements of negligence
In Georgia, a personal injury attorney must demonstrate the existence of an identifiable duty, a breach of that duty, injury to the victim, and a causal relationship between the defendant’s breach and the victim’s injury.
Each person has a duty to act or refrain from acting in a certain way. For example, to prove a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a legal duty to use reasonable care in a particular situation. Legal responsibility is a legal obligation to avoid a specific type of harm to the plaintiff. Legal duties are typically created by statute, common law, or contract in personal injury cases.
For instance, a doctor has an obligation to provide their patients with adequate and appropriate medical care. Or the driver of a car near is expected to follow specific road rules, such as stopping at red lights and driving at an appropriate speed.
Breach of Duty
After the court determines a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, it will look at whether the defendant failed to meet that duty. Before deciding whether the defendant was negligent, the court will first examine the possible risks involved in their conduct to see if any of these risks were foreseeable. If so, the defendant might be held responsible for failing to take action to protect others from these foreseeable risks.
To determine how a reasonably prudent person would act under similar circumstances, the court might focus on all relevant facts and circumstances, including what the average person would know about the risk involved. With that said, for example, the defendant may be liable if a reasonable person had known that someone might be hurt and acted differently.
If the defendant did indeed breach their duty of care, the court would then consider whether this breach was a cause of your harm. This means that the court will determine whether the violation occurred in a way that directly led to your injury. For example, suppose you can show that the defendant’s failure to abide by their legal duty caused your injuries. In that case, you will likely be compensated for your damages by way of a liability judgment or order.
For example, a surgeon might be negligent in a medical malpractice case if the plaintiff developed a severe infection after knee replacement surgery. But, to win, the plaintiff needs to show the infection emanated from the negligent surgical procedure. If the plaintiff developed an infection after knee replacement surgery from a previous injury unrelated to the operation, this would not be the surgeon’s fault.
Before the court hands down its decision, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered an actual monetary loss due to the defendant’s actions. A plaintiff would need to prove these damages with evidence, which could come from medical records, past injury claims, witnesses, photos of the damage caused by the accident, and more. Damages include compensation for losses such as medical expenses, lost wages or loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, physical impairment, and more.
Once the plaintiff has established liability on the defendant’s part, they will be awarded monetary damages. Georgia has a limit on non-economic damages and a cap on medical malpractice. But your injury lawyer will know what to do to get you and your loved ones the payouts you deserve.
Types of Liability in a Personal Injury Claim
The three types of liability are negligence, intentional liability, and strict liability.
- Negligence Liability – Negligence is the most common cause of action in personal injury claims. Negligence occurs when one person’s careless actions or inaction cause another party to suffer harm. For example, if a driver runs a red light and T-bones another car, the driver who ran the red light is negligent.
- Intentional Liability – Intentional or malicious acts are also grounds for compensation, although compensation is often limited under these circumstances. For example, an office worker cannot claim damages for emotional distress if her supervisor yells at her. However, if he physically assaults her by hitting her across the face with his fist, she can sue for damages like medical bills and pain and suffering because the assault was intentional and out of anger, not discipline.
- Strict Liability – Strict liability claims are used frequently in injury cases, particularly those involving defective products. Strict liability means the defendant is responsible for the harm even if the plaintiff was negligent. For example, if a faulty product causes an accident, the manufacturer is still liable no matter how well the product was designed or manufactured.
Common Liability Scenarios
Slip & Fall Accident
Many slips and fall accidents occur in public places, such as on city sidewalks or parking lots. If you’ve suffered an injury due to a slippery surface or uneven walkway, then the property owner might be held liable for your damages. For example, suppose you’re visiting a friend who has a collection of glass vases on display, and one of the vases falls over and hits you.
In that case, you could potentially sue your friend because they knew about the vases and should have taken action to ensure your safety. Other instances include a grocery store that could be held responsible for a slip and fall accident in their parking lot. Likewise, a hotel may be responsible for a fall inside its lobby.
Each state has different laws about this, but typically it means following traffic laws — like stopping for red lights and stop signs — and using reasonable care while driving. If the other driver broke traffic laws and their actions caused your injuries, they should be held responsible for those injuries. For example, a drunk driver speeds through a red light and hits you as you’re waiting at the intersection. He would be considered negligent because he was speeding (breaking traffic laws), and his actions caused your injuries.
A medical malpractice claim may be brought against a medical care provider or healthcare facility if their actions or inactions are deemed to have caused your injuries. These injuries can be physical and psychological, both of which are grounds for an award of damages.
Medical negligence can occur due to inadequate pre-surgery preparation, defective surgical equipment, misdiagnosis, post-operative complications, incorrect medications, surgical mistakes, and more.
Product liability is a legal claim against a manufacturer or seller of a product that caused injury or damage. It can apply to any merchandise, but it’s most common for defective products that cause personal injury or property damage, such as cars, appliances, and medical devices.
For instance, a phone company launched an affordable phone that unfortunately had a faulty battery. This caused the battery to overheat or explode, causing injury to several users. As a result, the company recalled the defective mobile phones and is liable for the medical expenses of the injured users.
Suppose a little girl is playing outside her house with her dogs and her next-door neighbor’s dog bites her. The girl is rushed to the hospital because the dog’s bite resulted in severe injuries. The next-door neighbor is responsible for the damage since she should have exercised proper control over her dog.
Legal Help is Here for You
There is a lot on the line regarding your Atlanta personal injury case. By working with the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm, you can be sure that you have a lawyer who will answer your questions during your initial free consultation and provide you with the right legal advice. We’re an award-winning law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, with extensive experience and an excellent track record of settlements and verdicts.
Our injury and accident attorneys will help you with car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, dog bites, defective products, or other accidents caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. We’ve helped many clients recover money for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages after an auto accident. At the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm, we value your time and understand your concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (833) 254-2923, so we can get started immediately to protect your rights.