Recent Ruling Upholds Law in Negligence Lawsuits

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A recent court ruling will uphold an Arizona law that provides a defense to lawsuit defendants in cases that involve plaintiffs who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Recent Ruling Upholds Law in Negligence Lawsuits

A recent Court of Appeals ruling against Mark William Franklin stems from the lawsuit he brought against fellow spectators who punched Franklin during a 2009 hockey game. As the trial judge ruled, jurors were able to rule against Franklin as part of the “intoxicating liquor defense” if he was intoxicated and at least 50 percent at fault.

In the trial, the jury eventually ruled against Franklin. Franklin appealed, arguing that the 50 percent threshold violates a state constitutional provision that jurors decide who was at fault in negligence cases.

The appeals court has upheld that the defense is constitutional due to the fact that it is up to jurors' discretion whether to consider a plaintiff’s negligence.

Personal Injuries

A personal injury occurs when someone has been physically or emotionally injured or killed because of a wrongful act of another person.

A personal injury claim can be brought when the harmed individual seeks compensation (most often in the form of money) from the person or company that wronged them. This claim can often be in the form of a negligence claim or a premises liability claim.

Negligence

Most cases involving personal injury require that “negligence” be established as the fault for the accident. An injured person and his or her legal team will need to establish that the other person’s negligent actions caused the injury. To understand negligence, you’ll want to understand two other concepts: duty of care, and the “breach” of that duty.

“Duty of care” is the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another person. With a personal injury claim or lawsuit a lawyer will need to prove that another person had a  duty of care in the accident that caused the injury.  An injured person (called the plaintiff) will need to demonstrate exactly how the other party (called the defendant) failed to meet that duty of care. After duty of care is established, it will need to be shown that the plaintiff sustained real injuries that were caused by that breach of duty of care.

Level of Reasonable Care

For a plaintiff to demonstrate a breach of care he or she, or their legal team will need to show that actions either taken or not taken by the defendant failed to me a level of reasonable care. An appropriate level of reasonable care will be determined by the specific situation surrounding the case.

Establishing Who Is At Fault

After duty of care is established, a plaintiff needs to establish exactly how the defendant “breached” the standard of care. Either the defendant did something or failed to do something that would have been reasonable under the circumstances. It will need to be shown that the defendant is legally at fault for causing the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

For example, with a car accident, fault can be established a number of ways, including:

  • showing the defendant violated a traffic law. A police report can be helpful for determining this.
  • testimony of an eyewitness to the accident,
  • the plaintiff’s own testimony regarding what happened, and
  • examination of evidence at the accident scene, including vehicle damage.

Comparative Fault

Occasionally a plaintiff will share fault with the defendant. In these cases it must be shown that the plaintiff’s own conduct played a role in causing his or her injuries in addition to the defendant’s negligence. For example, in the car accident scenario, perhaps the defendant made an abrupt left turn in front of the plaintiff’s car. But if the plaintiff was shown to be driving at a limit above the speed limit the the jury or insurance adjuster might decide that the plaintiff’s own negligence played a part in causing the accident.

Every state follows some variation of one of two legal rules: comparative negligence or contributory negligence.

In comparative negligence states each party is able to collect collect damages equal to the percent of fault that belongs to the other party. So in the above example, the plaintiff’s total compensation or damages award would be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of his or her fault.

In contributory negligence states, if a plaintiff is found to be even one percent responsible for causing the accident, he or she is not able to collect damages from other at-fault defendants.

Lastly, to establish negligence the plaintiff will need to show how he or she was harmed by the defendant’s action (or inaction).

Reconstructing the Accident

When an accident occurs, and there are no eye-witnesses, it’s hard to understand exactly what occurred. The accident needs to be reconstructed by investigators in order to get a full understanding. Once that understanding has been given, liability can be assessed. The dynamics, methodology, and principles involved in reconstructing a pedestrian accident or a personal injury accident are slightly different than those used to reconstruct car accidents. For exmaple, an investigator looks at car speed as well as pedestrian speed (which can be very difficult to determine), perception and reaction time, as well as highway design and sign placement. The pedestrian’s impact kinematics (which is how the pedestrian moved at or through the impact phase of the collision) are reconstructed. Once all these factors have been identified, a lawyer can build a negligence or wrongful death case based on the investigator’s findings.

Working with a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident

If you have been a victim in a car, truck, pedestrian, or bicycle accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney that understands the specific laws around these types of accidents. They will be able to perform a full investigation and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents. They will help build a case to ensure you receive everything you need to recover from your specific accident.

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