The Four Elements Of A Winnable Civil Lawsuit

Unfortunately, our headlines are often filled with ridiculous and frivolous lawsuits. An adult sues his parents for continued support because he doesn’t want to get a job. Someone with high cholesterol claims the fast food restaurant made them sick. And someone wants thousands of dollars because their $2 bag of jellybeans isn’t made with real fruit.

A reasonable person might wonder how the judicial system became such a mess. On the other hand, civil suits serve a purpose in our society. Without them, the strong would prey on the weak without consequences, and the weak would have no recourse.

  • A surgeon operates under the influence of opiates and amputates the wrong leg. The surgeon caused irreparable harm to someone in his care because he needed his next fix. Not only did the patient lose a good leg, she is now going to have to go under the knife again to amputate the bad one. She will rely on double prosthetic legs for the rest of their life.
  • A construction worker discovers their boss uses substandard safety equipment too late and is permanently injured as a result. He can no longer work to support his family.
  • A motel owner tells everyone that a competitor has bed bugs. The slandered motel owner sees her bookings drop no matter what she does to try to clear her name. Without customers, she can’t afford to pay her staff, the mortgage on the property, utilities, or taxes. She goes bankrupt and loses her only livelihood.

These aren’t mistakes or miscommunications. They are deliberate acts that hurt others. Without a civil suit, the victims would have nothing to help them deal with the loss. However, with the right accident attorney and a strong case, the amputee can afford adaptive equipment to get around; the construction worker will keep his house and still put food on the table; and the motel owner can dig herself out of a mountain of debt.

What Makes A Strong Negligence Case?

There are four elements to a solid and winnable civil lawsuit:

1. Duty

The first step is to prove the defendant had a duty or civil obligation to the plaintiff.

  1. The surgeon has a duty to their patients to provide quality care, which means showing up rested, sober, and able to perform the surgery with steady hands and a clear head.
  2. The construction worker has the right to expect a safe working environment. Sometimes, safe is a relative term. Working on a high rise attached to safety lines may seem dicey to some, but with the right equipment and training, the worker expects to go home without injury at the end of the day. The boss must provide the means for their workers to be safe.
  3. The motel competitor had a civil obligation to conduct business without deliberately causing harm to someone else.

2. Breach

Establishing a breach means the plaintiff can prove that the defendant did not act as a reasonable and prudent person would in a similar situation.

  1. The surgeon amputated the wrong leg, something a sober and reasonable doctor would never do.
  2. The construction boss cut corners to save money, risking his workers’ lives.
  3. The motel competitor lied about the bed bugs.

3. Causation

The defendant’s actions or inactions must injure the plaintiff.

  1. The surgeon caused bodily harm to the patient when he removed the wrong limb. The unnecessary pain from the additional amputation, physical therapy, phantom nerve pain, and emotional trauma cause suffering. The patient now needs expensive prosthetics, a wheelchair, adaptive equipment to help them with daily tasks, and extra doctor visits. Beyond that, they could lose their ability to work to support their family.
  2. Due to faulty equipment that caused his injury, the construction worker must deal with the injury’s pain, medical treatment cost, lost wages, and the cost of any adaptive equipment needed to function.
  3. After the competition slandered the motel owner’s reputation as a clean and suitable place to stay, the motel owner lost her business and savings, accrued additional debt, and lost the ability to support her family with current and future earnings.

4. Evidence Of Damages

Some unethical people will try to claim their injuries are worse than they are to collect more money. The plaintiff must justify the extent of damages and request a sum of restitution. Evidence could include:

  1. Receipts from medical bills
  2. Medical reports, X-rays, and other tests
  3. Statements or testimony from qualified experts
  4. Statements or testimony of witnesses
  5. Bankruptcy paperwork
  6. Bank statements
  7. A drug test for the surgeon
  8. An inspection of faulty equipment
  9. A paper or digital trail showing the competitor was the one who spread the rumors about bed bugs
  10. Mileage logs
  11. Projected future earnings

While every case is different, establishing these four elements (duty, breach, causation, and damages) with evidence to support your claims will vastly improve your chances of a favorable ruling.

If you live in Utah and have any questions or want to schedule a free consultation with our personal injury attorneys or medical malpractice lawyers to evaluate your case, contact us HERE.


The Four Elements Of A Winnable Civil Lawsuit