Springfield, MO Personal Injury Lawyers
When you’re injured in an accident that was caused through the fault of someone else, you have the right to get compensation. But proving that fault can be challenging, even in cases where fault might seem obvious. Getting fair compensation in a settlement is another area that presents its own challenges. A Springfield, MO personal injury lawyer can work through the methodical step-by-step process it takes to secure a fair settlement.
Taylor & Phillips works with clients from across Greene County, Christian County and Webster County, helping them prove negligence and fight for the compensation they deserve and rely on.
4 Elements of Negligence in a Missouri Personal Injury Case
All personal injury cases ultimately revolve around the concept of negligence. The plaintiff (the injured party) must demonstrate that the defendant was negligent. The legal standard for negligence is built on four elements, all of which must be demonstrated if the plaintiff is to collect damages.
Duty of Care
The first thing the plaintiff must show is that a defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff. There are some cases where duty of care is self-evident. All drivers have a duty of care to everyone else on the road. Doctors have a duty of care to their patients. Businesses have a duty of care to their customers.
Other cases though, might be a grayer area. Does a homeowner have a duty of care to everyone who shows up for a large barbeque party in their backyard? If they were invited, yes. If they crashed the party, maybe. If a person was outright trespassing on someone’s property, the duty of care may not exist.
Your attorney can advise on whether duty of care exists in your case and if any legal legwork will be necessary to demonstrate that.
Now, the Springfield, MO personal injury lawyer must show that the defendant breached the duty of care. There are some accidents that are just that–accidents, where no one is at fault. For a personal injury case to be made, there has to be real fault on the part of the defendant. That means proving breach, which is understood in the law to mean the defendant did not act as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances.
There are as many possible examples of breach as there are personal injury cases. A driver who goes too fast for conditions is one example. The nurse who gives a patient the wrong medication might be another. Truck accident cases are an area where the ultimate source of responsibility might lie beyond the driver.
Establishing breach can mean some significant legal legwork. The nurse who gave the patient the wrong medication might have done so because they were given such a large patient load that a mistake was almost inevitable. In this case, the breach might be further up the management ladder.
Furthermore, the defendant’s lawyer–which usually means an insurance company’s legal team–might seek to show that the plaintiff bore fault of their own. Perhaps the defendant in a car accident case was driving too fast for conditions. But the defense might argue, the plaintiff was on their phone and could not respond to the oncoming car as quickly as they otherwise might have.
Breach of duty all comes down to the intangible question of reasonable standard of care. In some cases, like car or bike accidents, a jury can make the determination for themselves. In more complex cases, like medical malpractice, expert witness testimony will be needed to determine what is reasonable and what is not. In all cases, the quality of the plaintiff’s lawyer–how well they’ve done their research and how strongly they present the argument–can be a big factor in the outcome .
At this point, we’re presuming there was a duty of care that was breached. Now, the plaintiff’s lawyer has to demonstrate that the breach was in fact the cause of the injuries.
Disputes over causation often arise when the plaintiff has pre-existing medical conditions. Perhaps the person hit by a car already had a bad back. The insurance company may seek to argue that the severe injuries the plaintiff suffered were not really caused by the accident–or were only partially caused by the accident.
Plaintiffs can be reasonably confident that insurance industry lawyers will dig through medical records looking for a way to sever the injuries in the accident from the breach that occurred. Plaintiffs have to be even more confident that their Springfield, MO personal injury attorney is hard at work making certain the connection between accident and injuries–holds firm.
The last step in the process involves showing that the plaintiff was in fact damaged by the defendant’s breach that caused their injuries. This is another area where the reality of damages will be self-evident. But not always.
Let’s illustrate the other side by using an extreme. A person is walking down the sidewalk and is run over by someone on a bike. A duty of care existed. We’ll assume the lawyer further demonstrated that the duty was breached, and this caused the plaintiff to be injured. But if those injuries were some minor bruises and scrapes, that really won’t rise to the level of damage necessary to close on a personal injury settlement.
Closing on a legal victory means a personal injury lawyer must show the true scope of damage the plaintiff suffered. That means basics, like medical bills and lost time at work. In cases where injuries are severe, it can mean adding up rehab costs. Were the injuries severe enough that advancing in one’s career will be hindered? Do they require therapy for mental trauma? Are they now unable to enjoy hobbies, or time with family and friends? All of these go into getting a fair assessment of damages and a proper settlement figure. It’s the attorney’s job to make sure all these questions and more are getting asked.
In reviewing the four elements of negligence, we’ve noted that there are circumstances where the defense may seek to assign partial blame–but not all–to the plaintiff. If this tactic is successful, it can reduce the amount of damages paid through Missouri’s laws on comparative negligence.
Let’s say it’s determined that the plaintiff was negligent, and the final damage award will be $1 million. But it was also determined that the plaintiff was 20 percent responsible for the accident–or their pre-existing medical conditions were 20 percent responsible. This means the plaintiff can only collect 80 percent of the final damage award–$800,000 in this case.
This is one of many reasons that personal injury lawyers must have a deep attention to detail, even in cases where the fault of the defendant is obvious. A shift of a single percentage point in a million-dollar case amounts to $10,000. The insurance company will fight for each point. Plaintiffs need an attorney who will do the same.
Taylor & Phillips knows the law, we know personal injury and we know how to get into the legal details and fight. Call our Springfield office today at (417) 487-4244 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
We Provide a Free Initial Consultation Also Available by Phone or Video
We Offer Reasonable Financing Options & Payment Plans
We Are Available to Our Clients 24/7
We Treat Clients With Respect at All Times
We Have Exceptional Litigation Skills & Know When to Use Them
We Are Honest & Focused on Your Goals
We Provide Great Value Through Our Service