What Must You Show to Recover Compensation for a Personal Injury?
When the actions of another person cause you to suffer personal injury, you have a right to seek compensation (known as “damages”) for your losses. Though you can always bring a lawsuit for personal injuries intentionally inflicted by another person, most claims for compensation are based on a legal theory of negligence.
What Is Negligence?
To recover under a legal theory of negligence, you must prove three things in court:
- The defendant (the person from whom you seek compensation) failed to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances;
- The failure to act reasonably caused an event (usually an accident); and
- You suffered actual or measurable losses as a result of the accident.
The Failure to Act Reasonably
Under negligence principles in New Jersey and across the country, every person in society is expected to use reasonable care in all their actions, including, for example, driving a motor vehicle, maintaining property, and designing and manufacturing consumer products. When a person fails to act accordingly, it is considered to a “breach of the standard [or ‘duty’] of care.”
Generally, there are no written laws or regulations that identify what is considered reasonable in a given situation. Ultimately, whether a person acted reasonably is determined by a jury, on a case-by-case basis. To ensure consistency in the administration of justice, however, courts give weight to prior decisions involving similar legal and factual issues.
To successfully show negligence, you must prove two types of causation:
- Actual, or “but for,” cause—The accident would not have occurred “but for” the carelessness or negligence of the defendant; and
- Proximate cause—The accident and/or the injuries sustained were “reasonably foreseeable” as a consequence of the breach of the standard of care.
There are two general types of damages—compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to “compensate” the injured person for identifiable losses, whereas punitive damages focus on the behavior of the defendant and represent sanctions for socially unacceptable behavior. You cannot recover damages for losses that you did not incur or for which you are reimbursed—losses covered by insurance, for example.
Contact the Cintron Firm
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintron has worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing, and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or (201) 535-0323 to set up an appointment.