If you suffered a physical or mental injury as a result of someone’s negligence or harmful act, you may have a personal injury claim. For example, home accidents, motor vehicle accidents, defective products and failure to diagnose or treat are all examples of potential personal injury cases. 

As a victim of one of those types of accidents, you might wonder what legal avenues you can take to help you recover. A personal injury claim (also known as a “tort”) has four parts, called elements, that must exist for you to have a valid case. 

Duty

In a personal injury case, a judge will determine whether the defendant owed you a duty of care. A legal duty means that a relationship existed between you and the defendant that required the defendant to act in a certain manner towards you. Essentially this means that the person owed you a duty to act with reasonable care so you or others did not become physically injured. 

Breach of duty

The second element in a personal injury claim is the breach of duty. The defendant or negligent party must have breached his or her duty to you. This means that the person failed to exercise reasonable care in your presence resulting in your injury. 

Causation

The causation element relates to whether or not the defendant’s actions hurt you. Sometimes it is not exactly clear how your injury happened. There are two types of causation. The first is “cause in fact” which means that “but for” the defendant’s actions, your injuries would not have occurred. 

The second type of causation is proximate cause. Defendants are only responsible for the harms that they could foresee through their actions. Anything outside of that scope of responsibility means that the negligent person’s actions were not the proximate cause of your damages. 

Damages

The damages concern the losses you suffered. The calculation of these damages includes the financial losses you suffered as the injured party, as well as physical, mental and emotional losses. Damages typically include medical expenses related to treating injuries, the cost to fix damaged property, lost wages and sometimes lost future wages. A judge may also award you damages for your pain and suffering. 

Each case is different

Personal injury cases are fact-dependent, which means the details of the accident will determine if there was negligence or recklessness involved.