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Establishing Liability

In the first article in this series, we discussed in a very general way, the three basic elements that are involved in all Personal Injury Cases. Just as a quick review, they are:

  • Liability- Who is at fault and therefore responsible for the damages
  • Damages- What losses resulted from their actions
  • Collectability- Is there any way to collect if you win

In this article, we are going to take a deeper look into the issues surrounding liability and what you should and shouldn’t do.

What is Liability?

In a Personal Injury Case, liability literally means, blame or fault or who is responsible. While at first glance, this may seem to be a simple concept, when dealing with the law, there can be varying degrees of responsibility, depending on the case.

Why You Need a Lawyer

As an example, John Doe spills coffee on the floor and you slip and fall, injuring your back. On the surface, it would appear John is responsible (liable) for the accident. Upon reviewing Security Camera footage though, it is found that John spilled his coffee because you, in a hurry, threw the door open almost hitting him.

It could be argued and insurance companies love to argue, that you are actually the guilty party in this case or at minimum, bear partially liability for your own injuries.

Insurance companies are not in the habit of giving money away. They have buildings full of attorneys, whose sole purpose in life, is to protect the company. That is why you always need a lawyer on your side, that knows the law, can speak on your behalf and protect your rights.

That being said, it is also important that you do your part to make your attorney’s job as simple as possible. Here are a few steps you should take to help your lawyer in getting you the best settlement that the law will allow.

Picture, Picture

The first thing you have to remember in any type of legal case is that when you get to court. The judge or jury may or may not believe everything you or your opponent might say. What they will believe is what you are able to show them. That is why it is paramount that you photograph everything that you can from the moment an accident happens.

Today’s smart phones are wonderful for this purpose. Take pictures, lots of pictures, not just of the damages, but everything around the site. There is no detail too small to be ignored and pictures of the larger scene will bring everything into perspective.

In auto accidents they will show skid marks or a lack thereof, road conditions, vehicle positions and hundreds of details that might not be obvious in testimony. In a Falls Case, they might show cluttered surroundings, obstructed walkways or spills on the floor.

Regardless of the type case, people are visual animals and pictures will have an impact that no amount of words can bring to them.

Document, Document, Document

Record everything, take notes, don’t depend on your memory; get a list of any and all possible witnesses complete with as much contact information as you can.

Record the time of day, what the weather was like and why you were where you were. Even make a record as to what clothes you were wearing at the time of the accident. Some of these details may seem insignificant, but if your claim should go to court you don’t want to look doubtful about anything.

There is an old saying that you can’t have too much information. I’m not sure where it originated, but it is entirely possible that it came from a lawyer, in a personal injury case. The first step, in any injury claim, is establishing liability. The more information and evidence that you can give your lawyer the easier it will be to do this and the more likely you are to reach a satisfactory settlement.