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Not every accident or personal injury is eligible for a claim of compensation. In order to be legally entitled to compensation for your medical bills or property damage, you must be able to prove negligence on the part of another party. This may be more complicated than it sounds, especially given the way that emotions can get tied up in personal injury cases. Fortunately, negligence is composed of four elements that offer a structure for your case.
A Virginia personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you have a case. If you do, they will gather evidence to prove negligence and get you the compensation you deserve.
Types of Negligence Claims
If you are suing people for causing an injury through their negligence, it’s important to understand the different types of negligence. These different types of negligence help the court determine how much the defendant owes. The four main types of negligence include:
- Comparative Negligence. In many cases, both parties can be found partially at fault in an incident. When dealing with a legal claim, most states practice comparative negligence, in which a jury decides the percentage of fault for each party. Compensation is then reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff.
- Contributory Negligence. Virginia, on the other hand, is a contributory negligence state. This means that if the plaintiff is found to be even a little bit responsible for the accident, they are not awarded any damages. Some states also modify this rule, allowing plaintiffs to collect as long as they are not more than 50% responsible for the accident.
- Gross Negligence: This is an egregious, reckless form of negligence that disregards the safety and well-being of others. For instance, running red lights or driving or performing a medical procedure under the influence are all considered gross negligence. In some cases of gross negligence, the court may determine that the defendant owes punitive damages.
- Vicarious Negligence. Vicarious negligence occurs when one party is held responsible for the actions of someone in relation to them. For instance, if the person responsible for the accident is a minor, but their parent permitted them to behave in a way that led to the accident (allowed underage drinking or driving without a license, for instance), this could constitute vicarious negligence. In some cases, a company may be found to be vicariously negligent for the actions of an employee if their own rules allowed or facilitated these actions.
Elements of Negligence
What are the four elements of negligence? For any negligence case, your attorney must be able to establish four elements, including:
(1) Duty of Care
The first thing that needs to be established is that there was a duty of care on the part of the defendant. In a medical malpractice case, medical professionals have a duty of reasonable care to their patients. Drivers have a duty to be mindful of the drivers around them by following traffic laws. If the defendant had a duty of care that they did not attend to, they may be considered negligent.
You must be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the incident. For instance, if a driver was texting and driving when you made an illegal turn and hit their car, at best they might be found partially responsible and unable to collect damages. Their texting and driving, while negligent, did not cause your illegal turn which led to the accident. If, however, they turned to look at their phone as they made a turn and, in doing so, hit your car, that could show causation.
(3) Breach of Duty
Once you’ve shown a duty of care and causation, you must show how the incident was a breach of their duty of care. Was the car accident caused because they failed to adhere to traffic laws? Was the botched surgery due to a surgeon falling short of their standard of care?
This point builds off of the last two elements and is the last element in establishing the negligence itself. The fourth element of negligence has more to do with the results of the negligence.
Finally, your attorney must be able to argue that the negligence established by the last three elements entitles you to certain damages. In personal injury cases, damages are divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are fairly straightforward: medical bills, lost wages, disability, and/or funeral costs.
Non-economic damages are more nebulous. These damages are designed to reimburse you for the emotional pains you may have suffered as a result of the accident, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Compensation When Negligence Causes Harm
A personal injury claim can be handled with a settlement and mediation, or, if the parties are not able to reach a settlement agreement, it may go to trial. In a trial, a jury or a judge will decide whether the defendant was negligent in a way that caused harm.
Compensation will vary depending on the type of case you have. Again, because Virginia is a contributory negligence case, it’s important that you are not partially responsible for the accident. If the other side can prove that you were partially responsible, you will not be able to collect compensation.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for Medical Negligence Claims
Looking for a personal injury attorney in Virginia who can help you prove your medical negligence claim? The lawyers at Commonwealth Law Group are here to help you establish negligence and receive your compensation today. Contact Commonwealth Law Group to schedule a free consultation.
If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.