It happens every year.  We get that big snow storm that leads to disaster, even though everyone knows it is coming.  Streets and parking lots get iced over.  Sidewalks become dangerous.  Buildings shed snow and ice.  Drivers fail to adjust to the conditions.  Every year in Spokane, hundreds of people are injured due to winter conditions.  The question then becomes:  was the person just being careless, or were they injured because of another’s negligence.  An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you can be compensated for your injury. 

For an injured person to recover damages, they must be able to prove another party’s negligence.  That requires a showing of four things:

  1. The existence of a duty.  Let’s look at a slip and fall in an icy parking lot as an example.  Land owners, or property managers, have a duty to ensure that their property is reasonably safe for the people who are supposed to enter upon it.  If someone knows, or should know, that a dangerous condition such as an icy parking lot exists on their property, they have a duty to act reasonably to correct that dangerous condition or warn people about it.
  2. A breach of that duty.  Taking the example above, you would ask whether the land owner took reasonable efforts to sand, shovel or de-ice once they became aware (or should have become aware) that their parking lot or sidewalk had become dangerously slippery.  If not, then they may have breached their duty.  This element of negligence can be proven by comparing the land owner’s actions to what is reasonably accepted in the area.  If they did less than what is reasonably expected of others in similar situations, then there is a breach.
  3. The existence of damages.  In order to recover damages – the monetary measure of your injuries – you must be able to show they exist.  There are two types of damages:  “special” damages and “general” damages.  If (again citing the above example) a person slips and falls due to a landowner’s negligence, then they may incur “special” damages that can be quantified by adding up the resulting medical bills, the loss of wages from time missed from work, the cost of prescriptions, mileage associated with doctor’s visits or other accident related travel, and so on.  “Special” damages are all those expenses that can have a monetary amount readily assigned to them by a receipt or bill or invoice; they are objectively quantifiable.   “General” damages, on the other hand, are subjective.  These are what you often hear referred to as “pain and suffering.”  A person who suffers injury as a result of another’s negligence is entitled to recover a monetary amount to compensate them for the subjective anguish that the accident and resulting injury caused them.  If the injured party is married, then their spouse may also have a similar type of claim for the loss of enjoyment of their partner.  This is called a “loss of consortium” claim, and can be added to the injured party’s claims.
  4. The damages were actually caused by the breach of duty.  This last element kind of ties the claim together.  After you show that there was a duty, it was breached and that damages exist, you must be able to prove that the breach of said duty was the actual cause of the damages.  In some rare cases, a duty may have been breached and a person may suffer some injury, but the two cannot be necessarily connected in a cause and effect chain.  In the current example, a doctor’s testimony that the person’s injury was caused by the slip and fall, and an expert witness’s testimony that the slip and fall was caused by the land owner’s failure to de-ice a parking lot when they knew they should to prevent a dangerous condition would be evidence of that causal connection.

The above elements apply to any claim of negligence, from auto accidents to product liability to injuries resulting from negligent construction.  An early evaluation of these elements is important in analyzing the strength of a claim.  Of course, there are a whole host of other difficult issues to tackle before these issues will ever come before a jury, or lead to a settlement.  Insurance companies, adverse parties, issues regarding assets and many other tricky practical matters apply to a seemingly simple injury claim that will greatly affect the outcome.  Call The Green Law Office, PLLC if you have been injured in Spokane, and find out if you are entitled to recover from a negligent party.

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