What Constitutes a Personal Injury Claim?

Grounds for a personal injury claim require more than simply suffering an injury. In order to recover any sort of damages or compensation, the personal injury process requires that victims first must be able to prove that the four elements of negligence exist.  Victims who are unsure if their case meets all four elements should consult a Northeast Philadelphia personal injury lawyer before moving forward with the personal injury claim.

Duty of Care

The first element that must be established in an injury claim is duty of care. Put simply, this means that the defendant owed a civil duty to the victim, one that required the defendant to act or behave in such a way that would keep the victim safe from harm. Duty is rooted in law and recognizes some sort of relationship and obligation that exists between the defendant and the victim.

Some examples of duty of care:

  • Drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists on the road to abide by traffic laws and drive safely while operating a vehicle.
  • Employers owe a duty to their employees to provide a safe working environment that is free of hazards.
  • Daycare providers owe a duty to the children in their care to provide and tend to their needs.


Duty is the foundation on which all personal injury claims are built. Without it, the personal injury process cannot proceed.

Breach of Duty

Once duty of care has been established, it must be shown that the defendant failed to abide by, or breeched, that duty; that he or she failed to meet the established obligation between him or herself and the victim.

Often, breach of duty can be determined from the question of “standard of reasonable care” for that action, which asks, “How would a reasonable person in the same situation have acted or behaved?” If the defendant failed to act the way a reasonable person would have in the same circumstances, it can be established that he or she breached a duty of care.

For example, if a defendant failed to stop at a red light, causing an accident and injuring another driver, it can likely be determined that the defendant breached the duty of care, as a reasonable person would have stopped at the light and prevented the accident from occurring.


After establishing duty and breach of duty, it must be proven that the victim suffered actual damages either physical or financial:

  • broken bones;
  • cuts;
  • bruises;
  • property damage;
  • lost wages;
  • medical bills; or
  • emotional (pain, suffering, anguish).


Evidence is necessary to prove these damages exist. For physical injuries, medical records are often sufficient to show damages occurred. Repair estimates, pay stubs, and other documents or pieces of evidence can help establish other damages.


Causation is one of the most important parts of a personal injury claim, as it establishes a direct correlation between the defendant’s breach of duty and the victim’s injury. In doing this, the “but-for” method is often used. For example, “But for the defendant’s actions and breach of duty, the damages and injuries suffered by the victim would not have happened.”

Causation can be difficult to prove. For victims in Northeast Philadelphia, a personal injury lawyer at Cordisco & Saile LLC can help gather and present evidence to prove causation.

Getting Started with a Personal Injury Claim

According to the Department of Transportation, nearly 88,000 Pennsylvania residents were injured in car accidents in 2010. To learn more about or to begin the personal injury process, contact a Northeast Philadelphia personal injury lawyer at Cordisco & Saile LLC. Your attorney can help determine if a viable claim exists, and then provide legal representation throughout the personal injury claim process.