Who can be held responsible when a person is injured in Washington?
Elements Required for Personal Injury Claim
The law of personal injury is concerned with determining who may be responsible for your injuries and how much they should be required to pay for your damages that result from the their actions. Personal injury is part of the law of torts, the legal term that includes many types of injuries to people and their property. Every tort claim must include four basic elements including duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate cause. The defendant must have a legal duty toward that is owed to the plaintiff. The defendant must have violated that legal duty. The plaintiff must have suffered some harm for which the law allows an award of monetary damages. The defendant's breach of a legal duty must be related to the plaintiff's injury closely enough to be considered a proximate cause of the injury.
Degrees of Fault
There are a number of principles that apply to the law of torts and personal injury. These principles recognize degrees of fault on the part of the person who causes the injury. In general, the degrees of fault can be described as negligence, intentional fault, and strict liability. Depending on the degree of fault there are various elements that would have to be proven in order to be successful in a personal injury suit.
The term negligence is essential to tort law. Everyone is expected to take normal ordinary care to ensure that their action or the actions of others under their control, do not cause anyone harm. If they fall below that standard, and someone is injured or their property damaged, then they become negligent. Negligence does not mean that the person deliberately intended to cause harm; it only means that they did not take reasonable care or they did not act when any reasonable person would have. The degree of care varies with the circumstances of each case. A plaintiff likewise has a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances on his own behalf.
Strict liability means that one does not have to prove negligence to recover damages. In the case of product liability, the law now holds that you do not have to prove the manufacturer was negligent if someone is injured while using a product. The plaintiff must only prove that the product was defective when it left the hands of the particular seller and that was the proximate cause of the injuries. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store.
An "intentional tort" refers to a personal injury caused by a person who has the intent to cause harm. It may also refer to injury caused by willful or reckless conduct. Intentional torts include assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel and slander, etc.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
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