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Requirement #2: Prove that the negligence/incident caused an injury

By The Husband and Wife Law Team on October 25, 2008

Mark Breyer, Arizona personal injury attorney, continues his discussion of requirements that are incumbent upon any personal injury plaintiff to prove to win their case.

Fortunately, most negligent acts do not result in an injury. It is also fortunate that even where an injury occurs to an innocent person, and even where that injury was caused by someone else’s neglect, the injury is often minimal. Most injuries that are inconsequential are not worthy of bringing an Arizona personal injury claim.

To have a valid personal injury claim, it is not enough that a negligent act caused an injury. Instead, the victim must be able to prove that he/she suffered an injury as a result of another’s negligence. While the allegation of a new injury (or aggravation of prior injury) must be true, it must also be able to be proven with evidence.

We frequently get calls from people that were involved in an Arizona auto accident caused by the negligence of someone else. Though these individuals were not injured, they are understandably angry that their lives were impacted by another’s carelessness or, sometimes, outright recklessness. We are asked by these people whether they can bring a personal injury claim. The answer is no.

Of course, to whatever degree their lives were impacted by the event, they have a theoretical right to make a claim. The defendant or insurance company for the defendant may be willing to offer a small settlement in order to close the claim to and eliminate financial exposure for a belated injury claim. However, to have a personal injury case one must be able to prove an injury resulting from the initial incident. If someone cannot prove they suffered an injury, they have not met this necessary element of a personal injury claim.

This type of question from someone who was not injured in an incident most often takes the form of someone who was involved in a Phoenix car accident. The people who raise this question are usually relieved that they were among the lucky ones who were not hurt. However, they may need their car repaired, or need a rental car, or have a need to get the car declared a total loss so they can purchase a new car. Of course, the law does provide protection to someone with car damage or any type of property damage, due to another person’s negligence; however, this is not really a “personal injury” action, but a “property damage” claim.

The insurance industry – both in the insurance policies they write and in the way they process the claims – usually treat property damage separate from an injury claim. Anything related to a rental car, items damaged in a car at the time of an incident, loss of value to a vehicle, and so forth often are handled as distinct claims from an injury claim.

From a practical standpoint, it is usually lawyers that handle personal injury claims that also take care of these property damage claims for their clients. The legal issues are similar, the factual issues are similar, and it simply makes the most sense for one law firm to handle these issues for their clients.

However, it is important to understand this distinction between a personal injury claim and the related property damage claim: if no injury can be proven, no “personal injury” action exists.

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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer