“Can I sue for that?” is one of the most popular legal questions ever. But the real question is, “Should I sue for that”? Because of the time and costs involved, most people don’t sue for minor losses. But if you suffered significant damages and feel you have a case, it might be beneficial to sue.
To give your case a fighting chance though, you’re gonna need elements and a tight complaint. Without those, I wouldn’t sue if I were you.
Proving Your Case with Elements
The first thing to remember before filing a civil lawsuit is that the burden of proof always rests on the plaintiff, the person filing the suit. To be successful, you must establish certain facts to convince the court or a jury that you were harmed by the defendant. For example, in a personal injury negligence case, the plaintiff must prove four things, called elements. They are
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The plaintiff suffered injuries or damages.
- The damages were a direct result of the breach.
These requirements vary depending on the nature of the lawsuit. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must show that the doctor did not act as a reasonably prudent physician would have in a similar situation. If an insurance company fails to pay a claim, you can bring a bad faith case if you can show that the company withheld benefits in a way that was intentional, unreasonable, and inconsistent with the terms of the policy.
To establish a case in a workplace discrimination lawsuit, you would have to show that you are part of a protected class, that you met all employment qualifications, that you suffered an adverse action, and that you were treated differently than similarly qualified employees outside of your class.
Let’s take a closer look at how elements work in real life.
Scenario 1: Premises Liability
Marie was visiting a friend when she tripped on a broken step and fractured her elbow, which caused her to miss work and undergo a costly, invasive surgery. Marie must do four things to build a case against her friend.
- Prove that she was injured.
- Show that her friend controlled the property when the injury occurred.
- Establish that her friend was negligent in her control of the property.
- Prove that her friend’s negligence was the direct cause of the injury.
Scenario 2: Breach of Contract
Vern had a contract to perform a large logging project for a local landowner. When Vern arrived with his workers and equipment, he discovered that the customer had hired someone else to do the job, which resulted in major economic losses. Vern must do four things to prove his case.
- Show that a valid contract existed.
- Prove that he lived up to his side of the agreement.
- Establish that the defendant breached the contract.
- Prove that he suffered damages as a result of the beach.
Tightening Your Complaint
The defendant will likely file a Motion to Dismiss in response to your lawsuit. So to avoid your case being quickly defeated, do the following when writing your complaint:
- Ensure that it includes a valid cause of action. That is, your claim must be supported by a statute in your jurisdiction.
- Identify the responsible party or parties that harmed you.
- File in a court that has personal and subject matter jurisdiction.
- Read the statute on how to properly serve the defendant(s) with the complaint and summons, and follow it religiously
- File your case before the statute of limitations expires.
Can You Sue for That? Yes, No, Maybe
Filing a lawsuit is a major decision, and it’s not an easy one. You don’t want to sue because your family didn’t have a good time at the zoo. Your jurisdiction likely does not give you the right to do so anyway. On the other hand, if you were injured in the parking lot, that could be a yes or maybe. If and when you decide to move forward on a lawsuit, grab those elements, tighten that complaint, and prepare for the battle ahead.
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