Understanding Your Case: The Basic Elements of a Personal Injury Claim

Every legal claim consists of certain components that the plaintiff needs to prove. This includes personal injury cases. If you cannot prove these components, or elements, you will not be successful. Understanding the elements of your case is critical to getting the compensation you need to put your life back together.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Slappey & Sadd can help you build a strong claim. From car accidents to medical practice cases, we work with people who have been injured in the Atlanta area and across the state of Georgia. Call us today at 888-474-9616 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation. 

The Duty of Care

The first element of any personal injury case is the duty of care. To successfully assert a personal injury claim, you have to demonstrate that the party you believe to be at fault had a responsibility to ensure your safety. Typically, this is formulated as an obligation to take steps to reasonably ensure that they do not cause injury to others, although different types of personal injury cases sometimes have different standards of care. For example: 

  • In a car accident, drivers have a duty of care to drive safely and make a reasonable effort to prevent accidents. 
  • In a medical malpractice case, doctors must provide treatment that conforms to the standard of care for that type of treatment. 
  • Property owners have an obligation to make a reasonable effort to keep their property hazard-free for visitors and guests, but not for trespassers. 

Breaching the Duty of Care

The second element of a personal injury case is that there was a breach of the duty of care. In order to prevail, you will need to show that the at-fault party’s actions (or inaction) did not rise to the level required by the level of care. Using the examples above, we could describe the breaches of the respective duties of care as follows: 

  • The at-fault party was texting while driving and not paying attention to other cars on the road. 
  • A surgeon did not follow standard procedures and leaves a sponge inside a patient.
  • A retail property owner does not put out a “wet floor” sign and a customer slips and falls. 

Most personal injury cases are negligence cases, meaning that the deviation from the standard of care was unintentional. However, there are some cases where the injury was the result of an intentional breach. Some cases are judged according to a “strict liability” standard, such as products liability cases – if you can prove the product was defective, you do not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. 


The third element of a personal injury claim is that the at-fault party’s breach of the duty of care caused your injury. This may seem obvious, but it can be difficult to prove in some cases. In a medical malpractice case, for example, you may be able to prove that the doctor breached the duty of care, but not necessarily that the breach caused your injury – they may argue that your injury was the result of a likely side effect unrelated to the doctor’s breach. 


Your damages are the final element of your personal injury claim. Your damages are the losses caused by the accident, and can include the following: 

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering

In short, you have to prove that you were harmed in some way in order to pursue a personal injury claim. If you tripped and fell in a store but weren’t injured, you do not have a personal injury case. 

Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

Proving a personal injury case is much more complicated than you might think. The personal injury attorneys at Slappey & Sadd have decades of experience in helping injured Georgians get the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been injured, we can help – call us at 888-474-9616 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.

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