As a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed after a Washington collision or a property accident, or after an injury or illness has occurred when using a product, you must prove that certain elements existed when the incident occurred. In legal terminology, this is known as a “burden of proof.” State law specifies five issues that create a liability against a defendant in an injury claim.
Because you must be able to demonstrate that each of the five elements existed at the time of the accident that resulted in your injury or illness, it is wise to gather as much evidence as possible before heading to court. Following a motor vehicle accident, for instance, such evidence might include photographs of the damage to your vehicle, any visible physical injuries, medical records and more.
The defendant must have owed a duty of care to be liable for personal injury
If you are a licensed physician dining out at a restaurant, and someone nearby has a medical emergency, you are not legally obligated to assist them. In other words, you do not have a duty of care in that situation. However, when you drive a car on a Washington roadway, you have a duty to adhere to traffic laws and maintain safety. If you disregard those laws through negligence or reckless behavior, you may be liable for damages if a collision occurs and causes injury to another person.
When you are the plaintiff in an injury case, you must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care at the time of the incident. You must also submit evidence to prove that he or she breached that duty, meaning that there was a failure to fulfill it. This is known as “negligence.”
Were the defendant’s actions a direct cause of injury?
In addition to the elements of owed duty and breach of duty, you must convince the court that the damage that occurred would likely not have happened had it not been for the defendant’s actions or omission of action. This is known as “cause in fact.” An example would be a car accident that only occurred because a driver ran a red light.
The final two elements you must prove in a personal injury claim in Washington are “proximate cause” and “damages.” The latter includes physical injuries, as well as emotional trauma or economic distress. The former means that the defendant would have known beforehand that his or her actions or inaction could cause injury (i.e., a driver understands that running a red light can cause a collision). If you prove that these elements existed when the accident resulting in injuries occurred, there is a good chance you might receive a favorable ruling.