When an attorney represents a client in court for a personal injury claim, there are a few key elements that they must prove in order to secure a recovery for their client.
Existence of a legal duty
First, the attorney must prove that the person who allegedly injured his or her client had a legal duty to do something, or to refrain from doing something. For a car crash scenario, this could be a duty to drive in a responsible and safe manner. For an on-the-job injury, the client’s boss had a duty to provide a safe work environment free of unreasonable hazards.
Breach of that duty
Next, the attorney must show that the duty was breached, or broken. For example, a legal duty to drive safely is breached when the driver exceeds the speed limit or fails to use turn signals. A duty to provide a hazard-free work environment is breached when an employer fails to provide adequate safety equipment to their employees.
Existence of damages
In legal jargon, “damages” simply means that there was some kind of injury. The attorney must be able to show that his or her client suffered an injury that needs the justice system in order to be fixed. This can be a physical injury, like a neck injury caused by a car crash, or it can be an economic injury, like the loss of ability to work.
Once the attorney has shown the court that his or her adversary had a legal duty that they breached, and that the attorney’s client suffered damages, the last step is to connect the two. The attorney does this by showing clear evidence that his or her client’s injury was caused by the breach of the duty; in other words, that the injury would not have happened if the legal duty had not been breached. For example, in a car crash case, the attorney would have to show that the driver’s failure to drive safely was the cause of the crash that injured his or her client’s neck and damaged their car.
Working on a personal injury case often involves long hours of gathering evidence and preparing arguments for an attorney. Personal injury attorneys take on these cases on a contingency fee basis which means the client or injured party does not pay anything unless and until a settlement is won in the case.