Personal injury law falls under the umbrella of tort law, which is defined as the area of law that protects individuals from the bad or negligent acts of others. The primary aim of personal injury law is to provide relief for damages incurred, and to deter others from committing the same acts.
In order to seek legal action against an at-fault individual, a victim must have a set of facts or legal theory that supports their claim. This set of facts is referred to as a "cause of action," and if true, entitles the individual to be awarded recovery by a Florida court of law.
Cause of Action in Personal Injury Claims
A cause of action can come from an act or failure to act, as well as a breach of duty, or a violation of rights. Legally, cause of action is defined as a condition under which one party would be entitled to sue another. The facts or circumstances of each specific case often have a significant impact on the cause of action. In personal injury law, cause of action is primarily focused around negligence, such as breach of duty.
In order to file a personal injury lawsuit, the party bringing the matter to court must file a document called a "complaint." This individual is typically referred to as the "plaintiff," and the individual being sued is known as the "defendant." In the complaint, the plaintiff outlines the the alleged facts of the case, any theory by which alleged actions are wrong or illegal, and the relief sought from the court.
In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff may bring more than
one cause of action. It is common for the facts of a case
to create multiple causes of action, each of which is addressed
in the same complaint. These causes of action can be cumulative,
such as "The defendant did A, B, and C" or alternative,
such as "The defendant did A or B." If the plaintiff prevails
on any of his or her causes of action, then the court will
grant whatever remedy is prescribed by law.
How Are Causes of Action Defined?
To prevail on a cause of action, a plaintiff must prove each of the set of facts that supports their claim. These facts are referred to as "elements." Cause of action elements often overlap, especially in personal injury. Personal injury cases typically center around negligence, which has four elements that must be present in order for the plaintiff to recover on their claim.
- Duty: This is the responsibility one has for the safety of another. This could be created by a law, or may result from the standard of reasonable care. For example, the owner of a store has a duty to provide a safe place to shop, and a driver has a duty to not endanger other motorists on the road.
- Breach of Duty: An important element to prove, breach of duty must show that the defendant did not uphold their responsibility. Sometimes breach of duty is evident by law, such as a driver running a red light. Other times it is common sense and reasonable care, such as ensuring no vehicles are oncoming before making a right hand turn into traffic.
- Causation: There must be a link between the breach of duty and damages. It must be proven that the damage incurred by the plaintiff was caused by the defendant's actions.
- Damage: An actual injury must be present. This could be physical or psychological trauma.
If a plaintiff is not able to prove one cause of action, it is possible to still recover in one of the other causes of action included in the lawsuit. When a plaintiff successfully proves a cause of action, the defendant is deemed liable for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages resulting from the victim’s injury.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that different causes of action have different statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations are the maximum time limits after an event occurs for which an individual can file a lawsuit.
How to Choose the Right Cause of Action
Choosing the right cause of action is crucial to arguing a successful case. Each cause of action will require unique evidence in order to prove each element, which often requires expert testimony. However, this also means that you may only provide evidence which supports the cause of action you choose.
For example, if you believe a driver's erratic behavior on the road was intentional, but only alleged negligence as a cause of action as opposed to negligence as well as assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, you will not be able to present evidence of the driver's past of road rage and aggressive driving in court. This would not serve as evidence for your negligence claim, in which you would just be proving that the driver did not take reasonable care while operating the vehicle.
As the elements of these cases strongly overlap, it is wise to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can walk a plaintiff through the cause of action and complaint process, and ultimately help fight their case in court.
Contacting a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
A Florida personal injury attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected. If you've recently sustained injuries in a car accident, slip and fall, malpractice, or other situation that was caused by another's negligence, contact Weinstein Legal today.
Do not attempt to file a personal injury claim without the guidance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Available for free consultations and willing to answer your every question, Weinstein Legal is ready to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Fill out a free case evaluation form on your right to gain insight into your case today.