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How Does One Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Accident?

April 22, 2022

Personal injury claims center on negligence. When someone’s careless or reckless behavior inflicts injury onto another person, the negligent party can be held liable for the resulting harm.

If you were injured due to the negligent behavior of someone else, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Coplan + Crane have helped accident victims in Illinois for years. We understand the complexities of proving negligence on the part of wrongdoers, and we are committed to helping our clients recover the justice and compensation they deserve after an accident.

What Constitutes Negligence in Chicago?

Before we can talk about proving negligence, we first need to cover what it means for a person or company to be “negligent” under Illinois law. There are four key elements to any claim for negligence:

  • Duty – For a person or company to be liable for your injuries, that person or company must owe you a “duty” at the time of the accident. This duty can arise under various circumstances. For example, drivers have a duty to exercise care on the roads, and property owners (both businesses and individuals) have a duty to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe for their visitors and guests.
  • Breach – Next, the person or company must “breach” its duty to you. Just as duties can arise under various circumstances, breaches can take a variety of different forms. Distracted driving, drunk driving, running red lights and stop signs, and speeding are all common examples of breaches on the road. Failing to clean up spills, failing to repair damaged walking surfaces, and failing to provide adequate lighting or security are potential examples of breaches as well.
  • Causation – The third element of negligence is “causation.” This means that the breach of the person’s or company’s duty must cause your accident. If you walked past a spill and then tripped over your shoelace, the spill did not cause your accident. But, if you slipped on the spill, you may have a claim for financial compensation.
  • Harm – The fourth element of negligence is “harm.” This includes any and all forms of physical trauma, from concussions to broken bones. If your injuries leave you in pain, if you experience post-traumatic stress, or if your injuries negatively impact your relationships, these are also forms of harm for which you may be entitled to financial compensation.

What Evidence Can You Use to Prove Negligence in Chicago?

Proving negligence requires evidence of all four elements — and some elements are easier to prove in some cases than others. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on a public road, it will generally be presumed that the other driver owed you a duty (just as you owed a duty to the other driver). In cases involving property accidents, however, the property owner’s duty depends on why you were on the property.

With regard to breach and causation, the nature of the breach determines what evidence is necessary. For example, many car accidents involve negligence per se. If the other driver broke the law (i.e., was speeding or drunk at the time of the accident), then the law of negligence per se says that the driver’s breach is presumed to have caused the accident. In the absence of negligence per se, it may be necessary to collect and present evidence such as:

  • Photos from the scene of the accident
  • Traffic or surveillance video footage
  • Cell phone, employment, or business records
  • Maintenance and repair records
  • Eye-witness testimony
  • A forensic investigator’s report
  • A computer-simulated reconstruction of the accident

When pursuing a claim for negligence, you also need evidence of harm. This includes not only evidence of your injuries themselves, but also evidence of your injuries’ short-term and long-term effects. This evidence will determine how much you are entitled to recover — and it is critical for making sure you receive the full compensation you deserve.

Some examples of the types of evidence a personal injury lawyer can use to prove the “harm” element of your negligence claim include:

  • Medical records
  • Medical bills
  • Prescriptions and medication receipts
  • Receipts for other out-of-pocket costs
  • Employment records
  • Your personal records (i.e., a daily log, diary, or “pain journal”)
  • Testimony from friends and loved ones

Discuss Your Accident Claim with a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer for Free

If you have a personal injury claim, proving negligence won’t be easy — but it will be extremely important. At Coplan + Crane, our personal injury lawyers have decades of experience helping accident victims recover just compensation.

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To discuss your claim with an experienced lawyer in confidence, please call (708) 358-8080 or request a free consultation online today. Our firm serves clients throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas.