When someone’s negligence has injured another, determining the at-fault party in order to name them as the defendant in a lawsuit may not be cut and dried. In some cases, multiple parties who bear responsibility for a person’s injury might need to be named as co-defendants. Factors attorneys consider when deciding who to name as a defendant are (1) what the evidence reveals, (2) the legal requirements for bringing a successful case, and (3) whether damages could be collected if the case is won.
The Question of Evidence
Evidence can take many forms—what witnesses have to say, the contents of police reports, photographs of the scene, video recordings, and other data that might turn up through relevant research. Reviewing the available evidence carefully is the first step in establishing fault. Fault must be determined to initiate a case that is likely to succeed.
For example, if you were injured in a car crash where the other driver ran a red light, and their blood alcohol content indicated they were driving under the influence, it’s likely they are at least one of the at-fault parties who can be named in a personal injury suit.
What is Needed to Bring a Strong Case
Certain legal elements with regard to a potential defendant can make it much more likely that you will succeed. In personal injury cases, the following aspects must be established:
- Does the defendant owe a duty to the injured person? For example, all drivers on the road have a duty to operate their vehicles in a responsible manner that does not endanger others.
- Did the defendant breach that duty? For example, if a driver ran a stop sign and hit another vehicle, they would have violated their duty to drive safely.
- Would the injured person be uninjured had it not been for the defendant’s actions? For example, if the defendant had not been driving recklessly, the plaintiff would not have suffered a broken leg.
- Was the injury that was caused proximate, meaning directly related, to the harm caused? For example, it was the car wreck caused by the negligent driver that was directly responsible for the broken leg.
- Was there provable financial loss? Losses can be economic, such as for medical bills, and non-economic, such as for pain and suffering.
- Are you operating within the statute of limitations? In most states, you have only a few years to bring a personal injury suit. In South Carolina, the personal injury statute of limitations is three years.
Is It Likely That Damages Would Be Collectible?
Damages are the financial costs of the injury that are awarded to the injured party. If you won your case, you would want to be able to collect damages owed to you, such as for your medical bills, any property loss, and your pain and suffering. In any personal injury case, you must consider whether the defendant can actually pay a judgment.
The court can tell you that you are entitled to damages, but it cannot help you collect them. Therefore, you must consider whether the defendant will have the ability to pay them. For example, a negligent driver who is unemployed, with few assets, and who does not carry liability insurance is unlikely to be able to pay any significant damages. However, if the bar who sold the negligent driver alcohol over-served them, you might have a case against the bar’s owner. The owner of a business is more likely to have insurance and assets that could be accessed if damages were awarded for injuries.
When it comes to determining at-fault parties, sometimes you must be creative to find out who is truly at fault that also has the ability to pay. For example, suppose a truck driver caused a wreck. In such a case, do you sue the driver, the trucking company, or another party? For example, if the driver is an employee of the trucking company and not an independent operator, the trucking company might be considered responsible as well and could be named.
In another example, if the accident occurred because of brake failure due to poor maintenance, and not because of any negligence on the driver’s part, the defendants could be the trucking company and whoever was responsible for performing the truck’s maintenance. Both the trucking company and the truck’s mechanics or servicing firm would be defendants who likely could pay damages.
If you have suffered from an accident where another person’s negligence was involved, it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney before you decide whether or not you want to bring a suit. It could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Securing justice for hardworking people and families.
Has your family suffered from a preventable injury that you believe was caused by the negligence of another? You may have strong legal grounds to initiate a South Carolina personal injury suit. Whatever the reason for your claim, the lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. We are committed to providing personalized service to you while aggressively pursuing your claim, working hard to protect your rights and gain the best possible outcome. The clock is ticking on your deadline to file a claim, so call the Louthian Law Firm for help today. If you prefer, you can fill out our confidential online contact form.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.