People get hurt all the time. Maybe they twist an ankle while running. Or fall on the ice. Or get into a car crash.
Most of the time, we just pick ourselves up and move on. Even if the injury is serious, we blame ourselves — or assume that it was bad luck or an act of God.
But that is not always the case. Sometimes, the real reason you get hurt is that someone else made a mistake. They were reckless or negligent.
And you suffered the consequences.
This happens more than you might think in and around Chicago, and all kinds of accidents fall into this category. Some are obvious, like auto accidents. If you are hit by a negligent or careless driver, it makes sense that they should be held responsible.
Other types of incidents, however, you might not immediately think of as negligent or reckless. For example, you slip and fall on a store’s walkway because they did not clean off the ice. Or you get a serious foodborne illness from a restaurant because their cook came in even though he was sick and did not follow proper procedures.
It begs an important question: what exactly qualifies as a personal injury case? What elements do you need to prove in order to win your case and receive the compensation you deserve?
The Nuts and Bolts of Winning a Personal Injury Claim in Illinois
If you are thinking about pursuing a personal injury claim in the Chicago area, it is important to understand what makes a winning case ahead of time. After all, the whole point of going through the process is to hold the responsible party accountable and avoid having to pay for their mistake.
Winning a personal injury case and receiving compensation can be the difference between getting your life back on track and spending years struggling to pay off medical debt that you should not have had in the first place.
In order to win your personal injury claim, there are four elements you must be able to prove.
Duty of Care
What does “duty of care” mean? Essentially, that the other party owed you a certain duty that you could have reasonably expected.
This differs depending on the nature of the relationship. When you go to a doctor, you expect them to provide competent medical care based on accepted best practices. If you are on a hotel balcony, you expect that it will not suddenly fall. If you are driving, other drivers are expected to be safe on the road.
In many of these cases, the duty of care is implied – what a reasonable person would reasonably expect.
Breach of Duty
A breach of duty occurs when the other party did not fulfill their duty of care.
Your surgeon does not tell you about possible complications with your procedure. During a summer party at a neighbor’s home, the planks of their deck give way, and you fall and break your leg. A grocery store does not fix their broken parking lot lights, and you end up falling over an obstacle and injuring your back.
When you prove that a breach of duty occurred, you are showing that the defendant did, in fact, act in a negligent manner.
The next step after you have shown that negligence occurred is to link that negligence with the injury you suffered.
Let’s use a car accident as an example. Say you were driving and got into a serious crash where your left leg was broken in addition to other, more minor injuries. Why did this happen? Because the other driver involved ran a red light and hit you.
Causation means connecting the dots between the other driver’s negligent behavior and you being hurt in the crash. In other words, their failure to follow expected driving standards and stop at the red light led to the accident, which resulted in your injuries. If it was not for their carelessness, you never would have been hurt.
The final element you need to prove is actual damages. This means your lawyer needs to show that quantifiable financial damages were incurred due to the injury.
For example, you have medical bills, you missed time at work, you have a permanent injury or disability, and so on. Less “concrete” damages, such as pain and suffering, may also be included.
Is Your Chicago Personal Injury Case Worth Pursuing?
If your lawyer can prove each of these things, you may have a Chicago personal injury case. But what if you are unsure?
You can set up a free evaluation with a knowledgeable Chicago injury lawyer. He or she will be able to look at the facts of your situation and let you know whether it is worth fighting for compensation.
Don’t automatically assume that an injury is your fault. And don’t pay for another’s mistake.
Richard I. Feingold
Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C.
Personal Injury & Social Security Disability