Anyone’s wrongful or neglectful conduct can cause injury or harm that gives rise to a personal injury claim. A personal injury case is based on the law of negligence. Whether you’re a plaintiff or defendant, it’s important to understand the following elements of a cause of action for negligence:
Everyone has a duty to operate a motor vehicle with reasonable care and within the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is the duty of care associated with driving or operating a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania.
I once attended a lecture on negligence, where the instructor described the duty of care as follows:
Any action we undertake as human beings dispels “risk rays.” Some actions dispel more “risk rays” than others. The duty of care is dependent on the amount of “risk rays” associated with the action. The more “risk rays,” the greater the duty of care. Demolishing a building with dynamite dispels a lot more “risk rays” than driving an automobile at 20 mph.
The second element of a personal injury case is a breach in the exercise of reasonable care. It may have been a careless act, such as failing to post a warning sign by a wet, slippery floor. In this situation, a person’s liability isn’t negated simply because he or she didn’t intend to harm anyone.
Also, the breach of a duty may be the result of
reckless behavior, such as driving 40 mph over the speed limit while
intoxicated and causing an accident. Punitive damages may even be available if a
defendant’s conduct is reckless and egregious.
Analyzing the failure to exercise reasonable care includes considering the victim’s contribution to the accident. Pennsylvania adopts a modified comparative negligence rule, which provides that a plaintiff’s contributory negligence will not bar recovery, provided that the negligence does not surpass the negligence of the defendant. The plaintiff’s percentage of fault must remain at or below 50% – the defendant’s percentage of fault must minimally be 50% for the plaintiff to recover any compensation.
The third element is proving that the defendant’s actions caused the accident and the resulting injuries. Lawyers like to break this element down into legal cause and proximate cause. Personal injury plaintiffs must establish that the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care was a cause of the ensuing harm, even if the act of carelessness or recklessness wasn’t the sole cause.
The fourth and final element is proving actual damages, or losses, in order to recover compensation for the injury you suffered. Financial compensation can come in the form of economic (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages) and noneconomic (e.g., pain and suffering) damages.
Without an injury, there are no damages, and, therefore, there is no valid personal injury claim. Also, if the injuries aren’t serious, pursuing legal action may not be warranted. Consult with the experienced personal injury lawyers at Powell Law to determine your options if you’ve been injured in any type of accident in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Contact Powell Law at call (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE.