Picture this… You become seriously injured after slipping and falling in a disorderly grocery store. You suffer a spinal cord injury and need near-constant physical therapy and expensive medical treatments. You worry that you will never regain a full range of motion. You recuse yourself from work with a medical leave of absence, but the pay is much less than you normally make, which just adds to your list of growing concerns.
So, what can you do to cover the high costs of healthcare and financially prepare for your future after an accident of this sort? In this hypothetical case, you may have grounds to file a negligence lawsuit against the store owners for failing to make their premises safe for customers.
In personal injury law, cases hinge on the legal doctrine of negligence. In order to prove someone was negligent and thus owes you compensation, there are specific requirements you’ll need to meet first. At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Littky-Rubin & Whitman, our skilled West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers can help people throughout the state of Florida navigate this process from initial investigation to final case outcome.
But first, let’s review the four key requirements involved in a negligence lawsuit.
Requirement #1: The Duty of Care
The first step to proving negligence is showing that the defendant (or the person you are suing) had a “duty of care.” This simply means they had a responsibility to use reasonable thought and care in their interactions with you. For example, a car driver has a clear duty of care to other drivers to obey the law and refrain from driving while drunk.
However, it is important to keep in mind that this duty is defined differently depending on the circumstances of your injury. To use our grocery store example, the property owner has a duty of care to protect you as a shopper because you were invited onto their premises. However, if you were trespassing when you sustained your spinal cord injury, the property owner’s duty of care toward you would be significantly reduced.
Requirement #2: Violating the Duty of Care
In order to claim negligence, you will also have to show the defendant in question violated their duty of care. Florida tends to define violation as failing to do what a reasonable person would do in very similar circumstances. The degree of the violation will be taken into consideration here, too. Forgetting to put away a broom is a less severe violation of duty than, say, leaving a slippery substance on the grocery store floor.
Requirement #3: Legal or “Proximate” Cause
Once you’ve established the duty of care – and shown how the defendant violated it – you’ll also need to prove their actions directly caused your injuries. Often, this is the most difficult element of a negligence case to establish, as you’ll need to provide evidence that a reasonable person could have easily anticipated your injuries as a result of their action or inaction.
Requirement #4: Damages
The final piece required in a negligence lawsuit is damages. In order to win compensation, you have to demonstrate that you suffered a real and serious injury, and show what it cost you. From lost earning potential to current and future medical expenses, a successful negligence claim should show that you have experienced significant losses as a result of your injury.
Do you believe you have grounds for a negligence lawsuit? Contact our West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys today at 561-899-2100 for a free consultation. Our firm serves residents throughout the state of Florida and because we work on a contingency fee basis, you won’t have to pay unless we can win your case.