During the course of a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party will typically need to prove four main elements to obtain a settlement or jury verdict. Cases involving strict liability, such as many product liability claims, may not require all four elements. However, general personal injury claims in Michigan do.
The burden of proof in a civil case is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for causing his or her damages, based on a preponderance of evidence. Fulfilling this burden usually takes four elements of proof.
Duty to exercise reasonable care
The first element of proof is that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care. The parameters of this duty will change depending on the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant at the time of the accident. A driver, for example, owes other drivers a duty to reasonably prevent accidents.
Breach of duty
A breach of duty of care can refer to any act or omission that falls outside of the defendant’s legal responsibilities to the plaintiff. Acts of negligence, carelessness, recklessness, wanton disregard for the safety of others or intent to harm could all qualify as breaches of duty. It is the plaintiff’s job to provide evidence of the breach of duty of care.
The third element of proof is causation. If the defendant’s breach of duty did not cause the plaintiff’s damages, the defendant may not owe any compensation. The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions were the proximate, or main, cause of the injuries or damages in question.
Finally, the plaintiff must have suffered real, specific damages to have grounds for a claim against the defendant. Damages in Michigan can include personal injuries, hospital bills, out-of-pocket costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. The plaintiff will need proof of damages, such as medical records or statements from witnesses. The value of the personal injury claim will depend on the extent and severity of the victim’s damages.