When is Someone Liable for Someone Else's Injury?

Accidents happen. Every day in the United States, people are seriously hurt and killed in accidents. Whether a person is hurt in a motor vehicle accident, a defective product accident or due to medical malpractice or another type of personal injury accident, the outcome is often the same. Significant medical costs, lost income, out of pocket expenses and pain and suffering often ensue. Sometimes an accident is just that – an accident and no one is at fault. However, many times someone is legally responsible for the injuries. A person is liable for someone else’s injuries if the person was legally negligent or committed an intentional tort against the victim. 
In order to find someone liable for negligence, the injured party or his or her survivors must prove that:
  • The defendant owed the injured party a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached the duty of care by failing to act like a reasonable person would act in the circumstances that resulted in the accident;
  • The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused the injuries which would not have happened but for the defendant’s conduct; and
  • The plaintiff is entitled to damages because the above elements of negligence have been satisfied.
Lawsuits that involve common accidents such as motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents and medical malpractice are often brought on the basis of alleged negligence.
Intentional Torts
Intentional torts are different than negligence because, by definition, they require the tortfeasor to act with the deliberate intent to cause injury. Some common examples of intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass, libel, slander and the intentional inflection of emotional distress. The elements of each of these torts vary but all require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant acted with deliberate intent to cause harm.
While a plaintiff may request that a court find a defendant liable for injuries caused due to negligence or an intentional tort, the plaintiff is unlikely to recover damages unless the plaintiff can prove all of the elements of his or her case. The plaintiff’s attorney will gather evidence during the discovery phase of the lawsuit through means such as depositions, interrogatories and requests for production of documents that the attorney will then use to present to the court at trial or to the other party in settlement negotiations.
The amount of a defendant’s potential liability is dependent on the evidence that is admissible in court and on the extent of the injuries. Generally, if a plaintiff is successful at trial or the defendant agrees to settle the case prior to a verdict being reached then the plaintiff is entitled to compensation for economic losses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs and lost income and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering that were caused by the defendant.
If you, or a loved one, have been injured and you believe that your injuries were caused by someone else then you have important legal rights to protect and you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. 

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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