How to Tell If You Have a Personal Injury Case

It's normal to have doubts about whether you might have a case under personal injury law. There are several key factors that a personal injury lawyer will examine to decide whether a client has ground for a claim. Here are three that everyone pursuing a case or thinking about doing so should know.

Is There an Identifiable Defendant?

One of the first questions an attorney will have to address is who you ought to file a claim against. Sometimes it's fairly obvious who the defendant in a case should be. If someone experiences a slip-and-fall incident at a grocery store, they're probably filing a case against the store. Some claims may be complicated by questions about who is liable for a location, such as a public sidewalk. A personal injury lawyer, though, can sort through the applicable laws to determine who should be the defendant.

Were There Serious Injuries?

No matter how liable a defendant might be based on negligence, recklessness, or even malice, there isn't a case if there weren't injuries requiring medical attention. A few bruises and scratches won't form the basis of a case. Some cases, however, may function almost the opposite way due to catastrophic injuries. In particular, some states have laws limiting compensation under some circumstances. These limits, though, are usually removed if the victim suffered catastrophic injuries. For legal purposes, a catastrophic injury is something life-altering, such as nerve or brain damage, disfiguring scars, or injuries that inhibit range of motion.

Is the Defendant Liable for What Happened?

There is some distinction in personal injury law between someone's responsibility and liability. Generally, liability requires what's called a duty of care. If there's a wet spot from a spilled drink on the floor on the concourse of a stadium, for example, the person who spilled it probably isn't liable for it unless they were trying to harm someone. That scenario is fairly cartoonish, and the most likely liable party would be the operator of the stadium.

Even then, there has to be some reasonable knowledge that the spill was there. If someone spilled the drink and you slipped because of it five seconds later, it's hard to argue that a janitor should have cleaned it up. However, if the spill sat there for a half-hour after someone reported it, then the stadium's operator is probably liable for it.

Some parties are considered automatically liable if their actions led to injuries. For example, a licensed explosive expert has strict liability if someone is harmed by their work.