Negligence is a complex issue that is the basis for all personal injury claims.
When one is injured, they turn to the assistance of a personal injury attorney in Mesa AZ to help establish negligence through a preponderance of the evidence. Negligence, as defined by Cornell University Law School, is the failure to behave with a level of care that a normal person would have exercised in a similar situation.
While the definition is clear, establishing negligence in an injury case is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Assessing The Issue Of Reasonable Conduct
The law defines negligence as the failure to conduct oneself reasonably but is vague as to what reasonable behavior should be.
To determine if a person was reasonable in their actions or not, a plaintiff must examine what circumstances led to their injury. Then, they must prove that the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof), deviated from the standard actions expected in that situation. They must also show how a reasonable person would have acted had they been in the same situation.
The “reasonable person” in this comparison is a typical person that exercises ordinary prudence. A jury or judge will be the group that decides if the defendant’s actions matched that of a reasonable person, according to FindLaw.
The judge or jury must also determine that the defendant owed a duty, knew they owed a duty and breached that duty. In addition to their knowledge, the judge or jury must assess if the rest of the public would have understood the reasonable care expected in the same situation. If society does not commonly understand it, then the defendant could not reasonably be held to the same standard.
Questions The Court May Ask To Assess Reasonable Acts
- How would a reasonable person act in a similar situation?
- What would have been the fair, reasonable action instead?
- Were the defendant’s actions negligent?
The Comparative Negligence Issue
Unlike other states that use contributory negligence, Arizona employs the comparative negligence rule. Under Arizona Revised Statutes 12-2505, comparative negligence means that the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced based on the relative degree of their fault. If the claimant intentionally, willfully or purposely caused or contributed to their injury, there is no right to collect compensation.
Comparative negligence is commonly confused with contributory negligence, but these are two different legal theories. Under comparative negligence or pure comparative negligence, the judge or jury will assign a percentage of fault to each party. Then, damages will be apportioned accordingly.
For example, the plaintiff was in an accident but was found to be 99 percent at fault for their own injuries. While the jury still decided the defendant was one percent at fault, the plaintiff’s settlement is now reduced by 99 percent in value, and the defendant only has to pay the one percent of the total compensation rewarded.
This allows parties to file a lawsuit even if they were partially at fault.
Most states have a modified comparative negligence rule, which states that a plaintiff cannot collect compensation if they are more than 51 percent at fault for their injuries. However, Arizona does not employ the modified rule, according to FindLaw.
Proving Negligence Through A Preponderance Of Evidence
To establish that the defendant deviated from the acts of a reasonable person, the plaintiff must prove their deviation through a preponderance of evidence. According to Law.com, this means that the plaintiff must provide clear and convincing evidence that clearly establishes the defendant’s guilt.
The meaning, however, is somewhat subjective. A jury may feel that a defendant’s actions were unreasonable, but not find them liable. Because the definition of preponderance of evidence is so unclear, it is best an accident victim seek the services of an attorney in Mesa, AZ. An attorney can help gather evidence to prove that a defendant’s actions were negligent.
Some evidence that may be used to prove such includes:
- Expert testimony
- Witness testimony
- Police reports
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Criminal charges filed against the defendant (if any)
Damages are what refer to a victim’s financial, physical, and emotional losses due to the accident. Even if a defendant is negligent, there is no case without damages. Furthermore, a victim must show evidence of their tangible and intangible damages.
Evidence Of Tangible Damages
- Hospital and Physician Bills
- Health Insurance Statements and Explanation of Benefits
- Physical Therapy Bills
- Out-of-Pocket Expense Receipts
- Estimates For Future Medical Treatments
- Lost Wage Verification (i.e. Paystubs)
Evidence Accepted For Intangible Damages
- Psychological Narratives From Treating Physicians
- Reports From Counselors
- Testimony From Family or Friends
Establishing Negligence Requires The Assistance Of Attorneys In Mesa, AZ
To prove negligence and apportion responsibility correctly, it is imperative that injured victims seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Because Arizona employs the comparative negligence rule, it is easy for the defendant and their insurer to place as much responsibility on the victim as possible to reduce settlement value (even if the plaintiff was not responsible). Attorneys in Mesa, AZ can assist injured victims and preserve their right to seek compensation, as well as protect them from comparative negligence attempts.
Those injured in an accident must contact the accident attorneys in Mesa, AZ at Tobler Law right away. Schedule a consultation now by calling 480-898-9700 or complete an online contact form for more information.