Strategies for Proving Fault in Your Personal Injury Case
A recent three-vehicle crash in Stoneham MA resulted in multiple injuries. While Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state, before any of the victims can seek compensation outside of their own insurance, they will have to first establish who was responsible for the accident. Proving fault is a necessity when personal injury protection insurance is insufficient to cover the losses suffered by the victim.
How to Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case
When someone suffers an injury, determining who is at fault can be difficult. However, there are some simple ways to prove fault that many victims do not consider. Some of these include:
- Photographs — whether a victim suffers an injury in a car crash, a slip and fall accident, or a dog attack, photographs of the scene of the accident, the injuries suffered by the victim, and any other images which can prove liability can be helpful. An example of this may be photographing the angle a car was hit from or a broken handrail can show how a victim could fall down a flight of stairs.
- Medical records — while medical records may not be able to help directly establish fault, they can be useful. For example, when someone is treated for an injury, their medical records would indicate the source of the injury.
- Accident reports — police and accident reports are typically invaluable in most personal injury cases because they generally are statements that are taken shortly after an accident. This is when people have the best memory of an incident.
- Witness statements — few things have more impact than a third-party who did not suffer an injury. Witness statements should be obtained as soon after an accident as possible to ensure their recollections are captured accurately.
When filing an insurance claim, the more evidence there is available, the better for the victim. Video recordings from nearby businesses, traffic cams, or passersby may be available as well. While there may be challenges in proving fault, the more documentation the better.
Types of Injuries Typically Considered for Personal Injury Cases
While most people think personal injury claims are only for roadway accidents, this is not the case. Injuries can be caused by another party in various personal injury cases including:
- Back injuries from a slip and fall accident — whether someone falls down a flight of stairs, trips on a surface which is wet due to a leak which should have been identifiable, or trips over a lifted piece of carpeting or tile on a floor in a commercial building, they could suffer a serious back injury.
- Scarring and disfiguring injuries — disfigurement due to a dog attack or scars resulting from fires due to an unsafe appliance, are all possible areas which may entitle someone to file a personal injury claim.
- Injuries suffered in an assault — when a victim is assaulted in a parking garage, or other facility where safety features or security are lacking, the victim may have the basis to file a personal injury claim.
- Broken bones suffered at a playground — if an adult or child is injured in a playground due to a poorly maintained or defective piece of equipment, there may be a basis for a personal injury claim.
These are a small sample of some of the potential issues which may result in someone having an injury that was caused by someone’s negligent conduct or lack of action.
Evidence That Demonstrates Defendant’s Responsibility
One of the issues that must be addressed is how does one prove that someone was responsible for an injury. Liability must be established by using a four-step approach:
- The person who is responsible owed the victim a duty of care
- The person breached their duty of care
- As a result of the breach, a victim suffered an injury
- The victim’s injury resulted in a financial loss
Here’s how victims can demonstrate liability:
- Duty of care — when someone invites the public to their place of business, they owe them a duty of care.
- Breach of duty of care — the party responsible for the injury failed to provide a safe environment in their place of business. For example, poor lighting, unsafe staircases, or lack of security.
- Victim suffered an injury — easily proven with medical records.
- Injury resulted in financial losses — inability to work resulting in no pay and/or medical bills demonstrating the costs of the injury to the victim.
This is merely one type of case, in this case, premise liability, but the requirements for establishing liability are the same in all personal injury cases.
Understanding Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations provide information to victims regarding when they can find a claim. These vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, an injured victim has a period of three years in which to file a claim.
Other states have more restrictive rules, such as Louisiana’s statute of limitations which restrict victims after one year. Less restrictive rules also exist, with Maine being one of the least restrictive, allowing six years after an accident for filing a personal injury claim .
It is also important to recognize the clock begins running on the date the incident occurred. There may also be cases where a victim may not be immediately aware of their injuries in which case the date of the injury would start the statute of limitations running. An accident injury attorney can help ensure that victims are aware of these time limits.
Shared Fault and Comparative Negligence
One of the challenges that many victims face is when an injury is caused by another person, but they were partially responsible for the incident. How does this occur? Here are a few instances:
- Car accidents — when a car accident occurs, the cause of the accident could be a driver who hits the victim from behind. However, if the victim slams on their brakes unexpectedly, they may be partially responsible for the accident.
- Slip and fall accidents — should someone fall on a wet surface, there may be partial fault on their part. An example of this could be the victim should have known the surface was wet such as when it is raining or snowing outside.
These are merely a couple of examples of when a victim may be partially responsible for their injury. In these cases, shared fault or comparative negligence could result in the victim’s final compensation for their injury being reduced by the percentage of fault they bear for the incident leading up to the injury.
Accident Victims May Need Legal Assistance
Regardless of whether a victim is injured on someone else’s property, suffers an injury in an auto accident, or is the victim of an assault, proving someone was responsible is a necessity to be able to file a claim. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, please call 617-404-8878 or contact an accident injury attorney as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation.