Personal injury claims usually involve negligence: failure to adhere to the standard of care expected in specific situations, which may lead to serious injuries for others impacted by that act of negligence. Can you sue for negligence? In some cases, yes.
When Can I Sue for Negligence?
The ability to sue for negligence may depend on specific circumstances.
To put together a personal injury claim, you will need to work with an attorney to establish four key things about the incident.
- That the liable party bore some duty to you: most notably, that the liable party had a responsibility to you at the time of the incident. For example, you might establish that all drivers bear a duty to other drivers on the road, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders.
- The liable party breached that duty in some way. That driver might, for example, choose to speed or drive while drowsy or distracted.
- The liable party caused a dangerous incident due to that act of negligence.
- You suffered an injury or damage due to negligence.
In many cases, a breach in duty does not lead to injury and does not entitle the impacted individual to file a personal injury claim. You can sue for negligence if you suffer damages due to that negligence. However, if you note the danger and avoid it, allowing you to escape injury, you may not have the right to file a claim.
Damages related to negligence can take several forms.
In most personal injury claims, serious physical injuries will form the vital foundation of the claim. Physical injuries occur when the liable party’s negligence causes you to suffer a dangerous incident.
Injuries may include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries
- Crushing damage
- Loss of sight or hearing
- Broken bones
- Severe lacerations
- Internal trauma, including organ damage
Physical injuries often bring with them several losses. You may, for example, have immense medical bills related to a serious accident, and ambulance transport and emergency room fees alone can cost thousands of dollars. If you have more substantial injuries, especially those injuries that may require long-term treatment, you may notice those bills growing even higher.
Next, physical injuries can cause you to miss substantial time at work. Your employer may prefer that you not work due to the increased danger you face while performing your job duties while injured or the increased liability your injuries could place on your employer. You might lack the physical capacity to work because of your injuries.
Finally, physical injuries may cause substantial overall pain and suffering, including emotional symptoms or ongoing loss of joy in many areas of your life.
In some cases, even if you did not sustain a substantial physical injury in an incident caused by another party’s negligence, you may have significant emotional challenges related to the incident.
Filing an injury claim for emotional negligence alone can prove considerably more complicated than an injury claim that includes a physical injury. However, if you suffered immense emotional distress because of an incident, you may find that filing an injury claim offers your best chance of recovering compensation for those losses.
You may need a diagnosis of the emotional distress you sustained due to the incident, including PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Then, you will need to show the financial and non-financial costs associated with that diagnosis and the suffering you have faced.
For example, if you had to miss work because of PTSD symptoms, you might have the right to claim compensation for those lost wages. You may also have the right to claim the direct medical expenses associated with psychological treatment, which may rise higher than anticipated.
Sometimes, you may have the right to sue for negligence that caused immense financial damage, even if it did not result in injuries. For example, you would have the right to file a car accident claim for damage caused to your vehicle even if no one suffered injuries in the accident.
If your home or other property sustained severe damage due to the negligence of another party, you might have the right to claim compensation for those significant financial losses. However, working with a lawyer can prove essential to establishing the full compensation you may deserve for the financial damages sustained due to an act of negligence.
Examples of Negligence
Negligence can occur in various scenarios, many of which may leave you with grounds to file a claim against the party that committed that act of negligence against you.
On the Road
Drivers bear a duty to all other drivers on the road to provide a safe, reasonable experience and exercise a reasonable level of care to help prevent injuries for other parties.
Negligence on the road may include:
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while intoxicated
- Ignoring the rules of the road
- Failing to look out adequately for others who share the road
- Failure to yield to pedestrians
Auto accidents often occur as a result of driver inattention or error. While some acts of negligence include deliberate acts, like looking at another device while driving, others may prove as simple as failing to look closely enough before changing lanes or merging.
On Public or Private Property
If you have the right to enter a specific property, you have the right to expect a reasonably safe experience on that property. Property owners must carefully maintain their properties or warn guests about potential hazards to prevent or reduce the risk of serious accidents. Public property owners, including the owners of businesses, may need to exercise particular care for maintenance and cleanup since even minor spills can spell disaster and severe injuries.
On the other hand, private property owners may still owe a duty to anyone who visits that property legally and with permission.
Private property owners may need to:
- Warn about potential hazards on the property
- Take care of basic upkeep
- Keep swimming pools and other “attractive nuisances” covered or isolated from children and pets
- Keep dangerous animals locked away or under control, particularly when guests arrive on the property
In Medical Care Settings
Medical negligence can pose a serious problem for many victims. When you work with a doctor, you expect that doctor to exercise a high standard of care and provide the support you need to make a full recovery from your injuries. Unfortunately, some people find that their care providers do not exercise that high standard of care, often resulting in substantial injuries.
In medical care settings, negligence may include:
- Failure to properly diagnose a patient
- Failure to properly treat a patient
- Major errors, including surgical errors that can lead to immense challenges for the patient
Negligence in medical care settings may also extend to childbirth, where mother and child face considerable vulnerability and may need additional support from care providers to ensure a safe outcome. Birth injuries often occur as a result of provider negligence.
In Nursing Homes
When elderly individuals enter a nursing home, they expect to receive a high standard of care and support to maintain the overall quality of life throughout their golden years. Nursing homes must provide that standard of care to all residents, supporting them physically, medically, and emotionally.
In nursing homes, even minor neglect can have immense consequences. Patients who suffer from nursing home neglect may notice a decline in their overall health or emotional stability. They may find that conditions previously under good control become more difficult to manage or start showing more symptoms than before.
Nursing home negligence may also cause considerable injuries for the patient. It can lead to elopement, fall injuries, bedsores, and complications in medical treatment that can cause immense medical complications for the patient. If a nursing home fails in its duty of care to a patient, even passively, the nursing home may face substantial repercussions.
In Childcare Settings
Children often require a high standard of care and support to minimize the risk of injuries. Child injuries often result from caregiver negligence, including failing to pay adequate attention to a child or realizing that a child has gotten into trouble in time to fix it.
Often, people bear a higher duty of care to children than other adults since children lack the reasoning capacity and knowledge to help get themselves out of those dangerous situations. Child caregivers who commit extreme acts of negligence may also find themselves facing criminal repercussions.
Do I Have to Suffer an Injury to Sue for Negligence?
Most personal injury claims involve bodily damage. Injury claims aim to compensate the injured individual for damages sustained due to the other party’s negligence.
An injury claim cannot restore lost health or solve the plaintiff’s medical challenges, but it can provide financial compensation for many of the monetary losses associated with the incident. Furthermore, most injury claims include compensation for non-financial losses, or pain and suffering, which can make it easier for the victim to rebuild following substantial life changes.
However, in rare cases, including extreme emotional distress that leads to PTSD, anxiety, or immense financial damages even without physical injury, you may sue for negligence.
What If Negligence Had the Potential to Cause Extreme Injury?
Sometimes, another party’s negligence may have the potential to cause extreme injury, but you may notice the problem before you suffer those injuries. Suppose, for example, that you open a broken product, notice the damage, and choose not to use the product.
Later, you discover that other products, broken similarly, have the potential to burst into flames, which could cause serious injuries to anyone using the device or to the property around it. Since you did not suffer those damages, you do not have the right to file an injury claim—however, your product will likely fall under a specific recall, which may allow you to replace the product.
If you do not suffer injuries or damages, even in cases where the incident had the potential to cause extreme injury, you may not have the right to file a claim.
Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Your Right to Compensation
If you suffered damages due to another party’s negligence, including extreme injury, you might have the right to compensation. Contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more about the act of negligence committed in your specific situation and the steps you may need to take to protect yourself and receive compensation for your losses.