If you are a victim of a personal injury in Lafayette, Louisiana and want to get compensated, you may need to prove that the other party was negligent or careless. Here, it would be in your best interests to work with a Lafayette personal injury attorney.
Personal injury cases in Louisiana are determined by looking at the negligence of the parties involved. It is not enough for you to say that the other person was negligent; you'll need proof for your claim to hold in court or out-of-court negotiations.
Elements of Negligence
There are various elements of negligence that help to determine fault in a claim. These are:
Duty of Care
Here, you have to prove that you had a relationship with the defendant and that they owed you a duty of care. The relationship may be that of a doctor and a patient, manufacturer and a consumer, a motorist and a pedestrian, or something similar.
Breach of Duty of Care
You have to prove to the court that the defendant was aware that they were putting you in harm's way and didn't do anything to improve the situation.
Even if the defendant wasn't aware that they were putting you at risk, but a reasonable person could foresee there was a risk of injury, the defendant would be considered to have breached the duty of care.
There was Causation
With causation, you have to prove that the actions of the defendant resulted in the injury. Let's consider an example where a physician prescribes medicine to an expectant mother, which harms the unborn child. In this case, the plaintiff can show causation by arguing that the doctor's action led to the injury of the mother and the unborn child.
Still on causation, manufacturers are required to have a warning label on their products. Failure to do so will make them liable for injuries that result from the improper use of the products.
You are entitled to seek material and physical damages as a result of the negligent act. Damages refer to the compensation given in terms of money for the injuries you suffered.
The damages may be determined by the extent of your injuries, whether the case is settled out of court or in court, and the circumstances surrounding your injury.
Evidence is required for all damages and may be in the form of medical records, employment records, and other related documents.
Other Important Prepositions
As the victim in a personal injury case, you should aim to prove that all the negligence elements exist in your injury claim.
Below are other rules that can help to prove fault in a personal injury claim:
- Did the injury occur at a location where you were not expected to be or were you in a place where the activity that caused the accident was expected to be happening? In such a case, the liability might not fall on the other party since they had no duty of care.
For example, let's say you wanted to complain to the manager of a popular city restaurant. You decide to look for the manager at the back of the restaurant. As you are looking around, you come across a room with an “employees only” sign. After knocking for a few minutes without response, you decide to go in and while inside, decide to sit on an old chair as you think of your next move. Unfortunately, the chair collapses and injures you.
In this case, you may not have an injury liability claim against the restaurant since the restaurant doesn't have a duty to protect clients who do not follow the “employees only” sign or those looking around the restaurant.
- If the person who caused the accident is an employee, then their employer may also be liable.
- In case the accident occurred because a product was defective or you were injured while at a defective property, who will be held responsible for negligence? In such a case, the maker of the product and the owner of the property will be held liable even though they may not be the ones who may have created the defect.
Reasonable Care Rule
Louisiana law regarding negligence outlines that everyone should take reasonable care not to injure the other person.
However, reasonable care varies with the place, time, and the relationship between the parties. What may be considered negligence in some circumstances may not be considered the same in other situations.
Here's an example: If you are watching a game of rugby and accidentally get injured by a foul ball while seated at the edge of the field, this act may not be considered negligence on the player's part. Since the players were playing on the field and a foul ball is expected, the judge may rule that there was no negligence on the player's part. In fact, if you were too close to the field, you might be the one who was careless.
However, if the injury occurred because one of the players was angry and threw a ball that ended up hitting you, then the player may be considered careless. This is because throwing a ball at a spectator isn't reasonable.
Similarly, let's say you were walking on a sidewalk and a rugby ball hits you. On looking around, you realize that some teenagers were playing rugby on the parking lot. In this case, the player who hit the ball may be liable for negligence. The court will compare how careful you were while walking on the sidewalk and the player's carelessness of playing rugby on the parking lot. The player will be more at fault than you.
What Happens if there is Shared Fault in a Personal Injury Claim?
Louisiana follows the pure comparative negligence principle. This means that in case both you and the other party are at fault in an accident, your damages will be based on your degree of negligence.
There is no standard way of determining the degree of negligence for each party. This degree is determined in court. If you are settling the case out of court, the degree of fault is negotiated, just like other issues related to the accident.
The comparative rule can impact your compensation if the court determines that you were also at fault. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident but the court determines that you were 20% liable for the accident as you were speeding, your compensation will be reduced by 20%.
Another important Louisiana law related to personal injury is that all drivers are expected to have auto liability insurance. In case you are uninsured, you aren't entitled to recover non-economic damages such as suffering and pain resulting from an accident. This rule applies even when the other driver is 100% at fault.
The above is an overview of how fault in a personal injury claim is determined in Louisiana. However, proving liability of the other party is easier said than done. For your claim to stand in court, you'll need evidence.