Pennsylvania Personal Injury Claims
Securing a judgment or settlement in any Pittsburgh personal injury litigation requires many different things to be successful, including a good Pittsburgh personal injury attorney. However, the most basic requirement is satisfying the four elements of the legal theory of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Personal Injury Claims are Negligence Claims
Generally speaking, a claim for damages related to an injury suffered because of the actions of another individual - personal injury claims - is claiming that the individual that you are seeking to hold responsible was negligent. Negligence is a legal theory that requires any plaintiff to prove four elements:
- The Defendant owed a duty of care to the Plaintiff
- The Defendant’s actions breached that duty of care
- The Defendant’s actions caused the injury claimed by the Plaintiff
- The Plaintiff suffered a compensable injury because of the actions
The Duty of Care
The duty of care is the responsibility that one person has to another to act in a way that would be expected of any average person in a similar situation. The duty of care is sometimes also called the “reasonably prudent person” standard. When applied, the idea is to measure the conduct of the Defendant against the standard of conduct that would be expected of any other person faced with the same circumstances. This makes the duty of care owed somewhat dependent upon the situation, which should make its application more just. Generally speaking, everyone owes a certain duty of care to everyone else; what that duty of care is, however, depends upon the situation.
Breach of the Duty of Care
Just because someone does something that is ill-advised does not mean that they have breached their duty of care. Sometimes accidents are accidents, and just because someone was injured does not mean that the duty of care was breached. In order to show that the duty of care was breached, a Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant’s actions were not reasonable in the situation, that the Defendant knew those actions were not reasonable, and that the harm suffered by the Plaintiff was reasonably foreseeable - meaning that it would be reasonable to expect the type of injury suffered to have arisen from the Defendant’s action.
Establishment of the existence of a duty of care and that the duty was breached are incredibly challenging aspects of any personal injury claim, but critical in order to be able to move to the next steps.
The Defendant’s Actions Caused the Injury Claimed
In order to have a successful negligence claim, a Plaintiff must be able to to show that the injuries claimed were actually caused by the breach of duty, and proximately caused by the breach.
For example, say that the Defendant causes a 40-car pileup on the freeway. It is determined that the Defendant had a television set up in the passenger seat, on which he was playing a video game, while driving down the road. He did not see the car in front of him slow, causing him to rear-end the car and ensnare 38 other vehicles. A pedestrian walking across a footbridge over the highway stops to observe the accident. That pedestrian is struck by a car while standing and watching and is paralyzed. That person seeks to sue the Defendant that caused the 40-car pileup, claiming that had he not been playing a video game while driving, he would not have caused the accident that the pedestrian was observing, and therefore the pedestrian would not have been standing in that spot to be hit.
Clearly, the Defendant breached his duty of care to other drivers on the road. Clearly, the pedestrian suffered an injury while observing the accident caused by the Defendant. Therefore, the Defendant’s breach was the actual cause of the injuries. Pennsylvania uses the “but for” test to determine actual cause: had the defendant not been playing his video game, he would not have caused the crash and the pedestrian would never have stopped to look. Because the “but for” test is relatively easy to satisfy, Pennsylvania also requires that a Plaintiff show that the Defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the injury claimed - that is was a “substantial factor” in the harm.
In this example, the job for the Plaintiff’s attorney will be to prove to the jury that the injury claimed was a reasonably foreseeable result of the Defendant’s negligent act. If the Plaintiff cannot show proximate cause along with actual cause, his or her claim for personal injury will fail.
The Plaintiff Suffered Actual Loss or Damage Because of Defendant’s Actions
Finally, a Plaintiff must be able to show that he or she suffered actual economic or noneconomic damages in order to be successful. Whether it is loss of a limb, damages to property, or lost wages, the Plaintiff must be able to show actual damage, and the damage claimed must have been reasonably foreseeable to the Defendant. In the example above, reasonably foreseeable damages would be pain and suffering and lost wages for the pedestrian. But what if the Pedestrian was stood to inherit $100 million dollars provided she attained the age of 30, and was killed instead of injured at the age of 29. Would the loss of inheritance to the Pedestrian’s children be reasonably foreseeable damages?
Contact a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a car accident in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC represent clients injured because of a car accident and other types of motor vehicle accidents in Indiana, New Castle, Uniontown, Washington and throughout Pennsylvania. Call 412-275-4122 or email us to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 310 Grant Street Suite 720 Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.