If someone else’s negligence harmed you or your loved one, there’s a good chance you can sue them for it. The law generally holds negligent parties liable for the injuries they cause to others. You may demand payment for a wide range of damages to compensate you for the physical, emotional, and financial harm their actions caused.
Here’s an overview of the legal concept of negligence, what you can achieve by suing for it, and the role a personal injury lawyer in Macon plays in securing maximum compensation from a negligent party.
An Introduction to the Legal Concept of Negligence
In the realm of personal injury law, negligence plays a starring role. It’s the basis for a significant proportion of legal actions seeking compensation for a preventable physical or emotional injury.
As a legal doctrine, negligence refers to the failure of an individual or entity to act with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under similar circumstances. Essentially, it means behaving in a way that is careless or reckless, leading to injury or property damage.
Negligence has four fundamental elements: duty, breach, causation, and damage:
- Duty (or duty of care) refers to an obligation to act in a certain way toward others. It is the standard of conduct to which a person of ordinary prudence would adhere in any situation. For a person to be negligent, they must first owe a duty of care to the victim.
- Breach refers to a violation of one’s duty of care to others. It consists of a decision, action, or failure to act that violates the standard of conduct you would expect from a person of ordinary prudence. A person can be negligent only if they did something that breached the duty of care they owed to the victim.
- Causation establishes that a person’s conduct led in a logical and predictable way to harming the victim. Causation exists, in a legal sense, if an action contributes substantially to an outcome, the outcome is reasonably foreseeable, and the action and outcome are sufficiently close to one another in time or sequence to be reasonably related. We would say a driver’s speeding causes a crash if the driver can’t hit the brakes in time to avoid a collision, for example, but not if the speeding merely frays another motorist’s nerves, causing that motorist to get into a fender bender several hours later and a hundred miles down the road.
- Damage refers to the measurable harm (physical, emotional, or financial) a person suffers as a consequence of someone else’s violation of a duty of care. A finding of negligence requires a payment of money or some valuable act to compensate for the damage a person suffers. The physical pain and treatment costs of an injury both constitute compensable damages, for example, whereas emotional states like disappointment or boredom do not.
Generally speaking, the law only considers actions negligent if all four elements are present.
Common Examples of Negligence in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Negligence is a common cause of motor vehicle accidents.
Examples of a motorist’s negligence that might injure others include the following:
- Distracted driving is a common form of negligence encompassing any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on the phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, or fiddling with a radio or navigation system.
- Speeding is another common form of negligence that raises the risk of accidents by increasing stopping distance and shortening driver reaction times.
- Drowsy driving constitutes negligence when fatigue impairs a driver’s ability to operate safely.
- Failing to follow traffic signs or signals constitutes negligence because it disrupts other motorists’ expectations and increases the risk of a collision.
Each of these examples illustrates the central concept of negligence: a failure to act with the caution that a reasonable person would exercise to keep others safe from harm, resulting in a crash that inflicts injuries and other damages.
Compensation Potentially Due From a Negligent Party
By law, a person who commits a negligent act will usually owe compensation to the party who suffered damages. Every injury differs, but the victim may have the right to seek the following types of damages:
Economic damages are financial losses that are typically easy to calculate and validate. They commonly include medical expenses, loss of income and earning capacity, and property damage. If an injury carries expected future costs, such as ongoing medical care or long-term therapy, you can recover these as economic damages.
Non-economic damages consist of non-financial losses you suffer because of someone else’s negligence. They’re more subjective and less easily quantified than economic damages. They include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. The value of non-economic damages tends to vary based on the individual circumstances of the case and the extent of the victim’s injuries.
Punitive damages do not directly link to the loss a victim suffers but instead aim to punish a negligent party for particularly egregious or malicious conduct and deter similar behavior by others.
What Role Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Play in Suing for Negligence?
Suing for negligence is a legal process that requires detailed knowledge of the law and a thorough understanding of your unique situation. It’s a job for an experienced personal injury lawyer. Hiring a personal injury attorney to handle your negligence claim is the most reliable way to secure the maximum compensation.
Every personal injury case involving negligence differs. A lawyer’s job is to handle every aspect of proving the liable party’s negligence and obtaining money for your expenses and losses.
The steps a lawyer might take vary depending on your situation. Personal injury lawyers tailor their services to fit your needs.
They have the skill and ability to perform a wide range of functions, including:
- Investigating your injury to identify the parties responsible.
- Evaluating your losses to establish the amount you can rightfully claim from negligent parties as compensation.
- Gathering evidence to prove each of the four key elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
- Handling all interactions with the negligent party’s insurance company as your authorized representative.
- Preparing and filing the paperwork to demand compensation from a negligent party through a lawsuit or insurance claim.
- Negotiating a settlement of your negligence claim when possible.
- Taking your case to court to prove the liable party’s negligence and your damages to a judge and jury at trial.
- Ensuring you receive all money due to you under the terms of a settlement, judgment, or jury verdict.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer to perform these and similar services might seem too expensive, but it’s not. Your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is free of charge. In a meeting with a knowledgeable legal professional, you can discuss your case, learn about your legal options, and assess whether you wish to proceed with taking legal action. You’ll never owe a penny for this session, even if you decide against moving forward.
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. This means that they do not charge upfront fees; instead, they receive a percentage of the compensation they secure on behalf of their clients. In other words, you only pay them if they win for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Suing for Negligence
If you are considering legal action, you may have many questions about the process, potential outcomes, and timelines. Below, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about suing for negligence.
How Much Money Can I Get?
There’s no fixed amount you can count on receiving and no guarantee you’ll receive money at all. The amount of compensation available in a negligence lawsuit depends heavily on the details of your case and how your lawyer conducts proceedings.
Factors affecting your potential recovery can include the severity of your injuries and their effect on your life, the volume and quality of evidence your lawyer can use to prove your case, your lawyer’s skill and reputation, the number of parties liable for your damages, and the liable parties’ financial resources. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today to learn about the range of damages you might have the chance to receive.
How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Case?
The timeline for negligence lawsuits can vary widely. Some negligence cases take just a few months to resolve; others last a year or more. Numerous factors can affect the duration of a case, including its complexity, the number of parties, the level of disagreement on the facts, the parties’ willingness to negotiate a settlement, and the court’s schedule.
You generally have limited control over factors affecting your negligence case’s timeline. One thing you can do, however, is hire a personal injury lawyer. The sooner you take that essential step, the faster your case can take its course.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your injury. Once you’ve hired them, an attorney can start gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and building your case.
They can also take prompt steps to meet critical legal deadlines in your case, such as the deadline for filing a claim under the statute of limitations. This ensures you don’t inadvertently forfeit your rights. Hiring a lawyer quickly keeps your options open and creates the greatest opportunity for a successful resolution.
Is It Worth Talking to a Lawyer if I’m Not Sure Negligence Caused My Injury?
If you suffered an injury and you believe someone else should have prevented it, it’s always worth speaking with a personal injury lawyer. The consultation is free.
An experienced legal professional can quickly assess the circumstances of your injury, determine whether any party was negligent, and explain your legal options for seeking compensation. You have nothing to lose from connecting with an experienced personal injury lawyer and potentially lots to gain.
Will I Have to Go to Court to Get Compensation?
Many negligence cases settle out of court. If a fair settlement is not possible, however, a skilled lawyer may advise you that the best course of action is to present your case to a judge or jury, either through written arguments (called motions) or in a trial.
That’s why you always need to hire a personal injury lawyer with a proven track record of getting successful results in and out of the courtroom. You want a lawyer who will fight for your interests no matter what direction your case takes.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Suing for negligence is a common practice in personal injury law. People who suffered injuries because of someone else’s wrongdoing often seek compensation for their losses; however, just because suing for negligence is common doesn’t make it easy. You will not automatically collect payment for damages. Individuals who have suffered personal injuries because of someone’s negligence need skilled legal representation to maximize their chances of receiving full and fair compensation.
If you or someone you love recently suffered an injury and you believe someone else should have prevented it, you may sue for negligence and recover significant monetary damages. To learn more, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today for your free consultation.