How is Liability Determined in a Personal Injury Case?
Liability is a significant word in a personal injury case. The challenge in obtaining compensation after a preventable accident is proving that the party who harmed you is legally liable for your injuries.
How Liability is Determined
Determining liability will depend upon the case’s specifics, but most accidents happen because someone was negligent. Proving a party was negligent and, therefore, liable for your injury can be complicated. A personal injury lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation to collect evidence and, if necessary, an expert to reconstruct the accident to identify all liable parties.
The at-fault party will typically carry liability insurance, which means you will file a claim, and their insurance company will make its own decision on who is liable. After they complete their investigation of the facts, the insurer may agree that their policyholder is responsible, and they may offer you a settlement. On the other hand, if liability is disputed, you and your attorney may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit so the court may decide.
Proving Negligence to Establish Liability
To prove another party’s liability in court, you must have evidence to demonstrate the following:
- The party in question owed you a duty of care. The defendant (at-fault party) had a legal responsibility to act with a certain level of caution to prevent harm. (e.g., drivers have a duty to protect others on the road by following traffic laws, and property owners must keep their premises reasonably safe for visitors.
- The party breached their duty of care. The defendant knowingly or carelessly failed in their duty to prevent you from being harmed. (e.g., a driver driving while drunk, a property owner failing to repair a broken handrail)
- The breach of duty of care caused your injuries. The defendant’s violation of their duty of care was the “proximate cause” of your injury. In other words, your injury would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s negligence.
- Damages. You suffered verifiable financial, physical, and/or psychological losses. A defendant may have acted negligently, but there are no grounds for a lawsuit if you didn’t suffer any losses.
Minnesota’s Contributory Negligence Law
In any personal injury case, the liable parties may not be entirely at fault for your injuries. Under Minnesota’s contributory negligence law, multiple parties can be responsible. Each party will be assigned a percentage of the blame, including you. The amount of your settlement or award will then be reduced by your percentage of liability. For instance, if another party is found 80% responsible and you are found 20% to blame, you will only receive 80% of your award. If you settle for $100,000, you will recover $80,000—the higher your percentage of liability, the lower your compensation. However, if you are greater than 50% responsible, you are barred from recovering compensation.
We Can Help You Prove Liability
Hall Law, P.A. will help you determine and gather evidence to prove another party is liable for your accident. Contact us today to speak to a highly-skilled Minneapolis Personal Injury Lawyer in a free consultation.