In any personal injury case, the critical question asked at the outset is who was at fault. Fault is an essential aspect of any personal injury case because once it is determined, whoever I s at fault becomes responsible for paying damages or compensation. This article will discuss determining fault and the use of negligence to prove fault.
According to one legal dictionary [Fault legal definition of fault (thefreedictionary.com)], fault is defined as “neglect of care, an act to which blame or censure is attached.” Fault can then rightfully be used interchangeably with liability. In a personal injury case, it is easy for person A involved in the incident, such as a car accident in Bakersfield CA [https://www.youngwooldridge.com/bakersfield-car-accident-attorney/], to decide that person B involved in the accident is at fault for the accident. While person B affected may blame person A and C, this brings about the question as to who determines the issue of fault in a personal injury case?
The most straightforward answer to this question of fault is determined by the circumstances surrounding the case. To accurately decide who is at fault, an investigation into the case must be made to determine all potential parties at fault. All this is carried out by a personal injury attorney representing the plaintiff. The attorney will, if necessary, present the case to the defendant(s) or a court so that a determination can be made about who is at fault.
It is not uncommon for a party involved in an injury claim who is at fault to carry liability insurance. When there is liability insurance, the burden of paying a damages award or settling the case falls on the insurance company. More often than not, the insurance company will carry out its own investigation into the incident and make an independent decision as to which party is at fault. If there is a disagreement as to who is at fault, the injured person and their attorney may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit. This gives the court, whether jury or judge, the ultimate power of determining who is at fault.
Most personal injury claims are a result of an act or acts of negligence. Negligence is defined by the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute [Negligence | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)] as “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the circumstances.”
Negligence entails an act that falls below the standard of care expected of a reasonable person, which results in the harm of another person. To show the fault of a person using negligence, four elements must be proven. These elements are:
- Duty of care – There must exist a legal duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant. For example, all vehicle drivers owe a duty of care to other road users.
- Breach – It must be proven that the defendant breached their legal duty of care by acting unreasonably.
- Causation – The breach of the defendant’s duty of care must cause harm. For example, while running a red light, the defendant sideswiped plaintiff’s car.
- Damages – there must be actual damages or losses suffered as a result of the incident. For example, medical bills, lost wages, property damage, etc.