If you have been injured in some sort of accident, then before you can recover any compensation for your injuries, you will need to prove to the insurance adjuster that their “insured” is the person or entity that was responsible for your injuries. This is a complicated and intricate legal area called personal injury law. If you can’t prove that someone else was responsible for your injuries, or if it isn’t otherwise obvious from your injuries and the facts of the case, then the adjuster will deny your claim and you won’t recover a dime.
It’s that simple.
So how in the world do you show that the person who hit you, or otherwise caused your injuries, is responsible? That, and personal injury law in particular, is what we are going to talk about in this article.
In order to show that someone or some business is responsible or “liable” for your injuries, you have to show that they were negligent. We discussed the law of negligence in great detail in this post. In North Carolina and every other state in the United States, negligence means that someone was careless and their carelessness caused you harm in some way.
There are four distinct elements of negligence that must be proven before you can recover for your injuries:
1. Duty. You must show that the insured had a legal duty to behave in a certain way given the circumstances of the situation;
2. Breach. You must show that the person who caused your injuries breached their duty to you in some way, either by acting or failing to act in a certain way;
3. Cause. You must show that because the defendant breached their duty, it was the legal cause of your injuries;
4. Damages. You must have actually been injured or harmed in some way as a result of the actions or inactions of the person who harmed you.
If you can prove three of these elements, but not the fourth, then you won’t recover. You must be able to prove all four elements of negligence to win your case in court.
Proving Negligence vs. Showing Negligence
There is a big difference between proving negligence in court and showing the insurance company that their insured was the cause your injuries. How you can establish liability for your injuries, and the level of proof you must show to establish that liability, will depend in large part on whether you are filing a claim with an insurance company or filing a claim in court.
When you make a claim for personal injuries with an insurance company, you will need to show them that their insured’s negligence was the cause of your injuries. And if the accident occurred in North Carolina, you may also need to show that you were not to blame for the accident – not even a little bit. Some of the ways you can show this is by sending the adjuster documents such as medical records and bills, the accident report, witness statements, etc.
The claims adjuster will review these documents and make a decision about whether they should admit or deny the claim, and if they do admit the claim, they will decide how much money they will pay you to make you “go away”. There is no formula or legal evidentiary threshold that you need to meet to convince an insurance adjuster that their insured was negligent.
However, proving your case in court is an entirely different story. You will need to meet a legal burden of proof and must prove each and every element of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. If the defense raises contributory negligence as a legal defense, you may need to overcome that defense as well. When you are in court, you must follow a set of rules and procedures that will govern how the evidence is presented, when it is presented, and what is admissible and what is not admissible. If you are unable to meet your legal burden of proof, your case will never even make its way to the jury as the judge could dismiss your case before even handing it over to the jury.
This is why we highly recommend that you consult with a personal injury lawyer if you are thinking about filing a lawsuit.
Basics of Liability and Personal Injury Law
Here are some basic ideas that you need to keep in mind if you were injured in an accident.
First, if it is very obvious to you, the defendant, the adjuster and everyone else that the defendant caused your injuries, then:
- The insurance company will be less likely to oppose your settlement demand;
- Assuming there is enough insurance, it will be easier for you to obtain a fair and adequate settlement without filing a lawsuit;
- You may not need to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you settle your case.
However, if it is unclear whether someone else caused your injuries, or if your injuries are minor, then:
- The insurance company is much more likely to deny your personal injury claim outright;
- Obtaining a fair and adequate personal injury settlement that fully compensates you for your injuries will be more difficult; and,
- You are much more likely to need to hire a lawyer and potentially file a lawsuit.
In the articles that follow, we will jump into more detail about the law of negligence and how it applies to personal injury insurance claims and potential lawsuits. This information should not be considered a substitute for consulting with a personal injury lawyer, Only a lawyer can advise you about your particular situation and answer your legal questions.
Return to the Personal Injury Claim Guide
If you have a question for us, you can submit it confidentially online by clicking here. You can also call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 460-5422. We are happy to speak to you and answered any detailed questions you may have.