A personal injury case is only as successful as your ability to pursue the proper defendants. Many cases have been thrown out of court because it was shown that the defendants to the action were not actually liable. Sometimes, the person or entity responsible for your accident is not immediately apparent. Therefore, before you consider filing a personal injury claim against any person or organization, it may be helpful to consult a personal injury attorney with experience in identifying the right defendants for an accident or injury claim.
Who Is Liable?
Liability is the state of being responsible for someone else’s injuries. That may seem simple enough, but it can quickly become complicated when you consider all the ways someone might be considered “responsible” for someone else’s injuries.
For example, when you slip on a wet floor and fall, causing a hip injury, it is fairly clear that the reason for your fall was the wet floor. However, who is really responsible for the floor being wet? Was it the employee who spilled water there and left to get a mop, or the store manager for not placing warning signs around the spill? If the employees are responsible, is the company responsible also? What about the company that made the flooring and neglected to manufacture it so that it was not slippery, knowing that it could be used in a public place? What about the person behind you who was in a hurry and pushed you out of the way, causing you to step on the wet floor in the first place?
Clearly, there can be multiple angles of liability even in a simple slip-and-fall case. Determining who to sue, however, may require a much greater depth of knowledge than the average person usually has regarding potential theories of liability. When there is the possibility of more than one avenue of liability, it is usually best to involve a personal injury attorney in your case.
How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Establish Liability?
When you take your case to a personal injury attorney, the first thing he or she will do is examine the facts that are already known about the case. Are there police reports about an accident or witness statements to be reviewed? The first thing to do is to establish what has already been said or done. At that point, the attorney can determine if more investigation is needed.
As the attorney examines the case, he or she will compare the facts to existing law and case precedent. In most cases, a defendant will clearly emerge who is responsible for the injuries; however, in some cases, it may not be clear if the defendant is solely liable or if someone else may share liability. The attorney may need to investigate the case more fully, hire a professional investigator or even ask the court to make a determination if an individual or company can be added to the case as a defendant.
In addition, the attorney may later discover the presence of an additional defendant or defendants who must be added to the case. He or she may have to ask the court for permission to amend the original plea in order to do this, and may have to argue the case in court in order to secure that right.
Finally, the victim may be partially at fault for the accident. This happens quite often; for example, the victim may have been speeding just before the crash, but someone else ran a red light and hit the victim’s car, causing the injuries. The defense will almost certainly try to argue that the victim brought about or worsened his or her own injuries, but a good personal injury attorney will use the doctrine of comparative liability to show that the defendant should be at least partially responsible for paying the damages.
If you have been injured in a personal injury accident, it is important for you to have an attorney to handle your case. Many victims who use personal injury attorneys recover far more in damages than those who try to handle their cases alone.