The Anatomy of a Lawsuit

The main goal of personal injury lawsuit is to make people whole after an injury caused someone’s negligence. This compensation is usually broken down into three parts: medical expenses, lost earning capacity (lost wages), and pain & suffering. However, many people don’t realize that there’s a lot more to proving a case in front of a jury.

If you suffered harm due to the action, or failure to act, by another person, group of persons, or business, you may have a personal injury lawsuit. In law books, the technical term is commonly known as a “cause of action.” A cause of action is a set of facts under which one person sues another person, business, or organization.

A cause of action can arise in a variety of ways. First, it can occur due to either an act or even a failure to act.  This means that some cases happen because someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Others arise because someone did something improperly. A cause of action can also arise on account of a breach of duty, or a violation of the law. This means that there is a law or other regulation that requires someone to act a certain way, and then that person or entity doesn’t meet those requirements. Obviously, the circumstances of the facts of your case will have an impact on your cause of action.

These facts supporting your cause of action support your “claim,” where you detail what the Defendant did wrong, and the injuries you suffered. For example, compensation might include coverage of your medical bills and future medical care, lost wages and potential future lost wages due to your injury. 

If your case ends up going to trial or arbitration, you’ll have to prove basic elements: (1) duty of care; (2) breach of duty; (e) causation; and (4) damage or injury. This is true whether the trial is in front of a jury or simply the judge. To help illustrate these elements, let’s use the example of a slip and fall injury at a supermarket.

Duty of Care

This refers to the responsibility one person or business has for the safety of another person. This duty can be created by law or may also fall under a reasonable care standard. In the supermarket example, the owners  have a duty to offer a safe place – free of hazards – to buy your groceries. If the store owner invites customers into its facility in the hopes of selling products, it is responsible for making sure that there are no dangerous conditions that could injure customers. Everyone agrees that it is reasonable to expect you’ll be safe and free of hazards while buying groceries. 

Breach of Duty

After establishing a duty existed, you must show that there was a “breach” of that duty. In other words, the supermarket owners did not uphold their responsibility to keep their store free of hazards. As with duty, sometimes breach of duty is defined by law. In other cases, it is common sense and reasonable care, such as making sure there is no standing water or dangerous slick surfaces in a supermarket.


You must be able to show that the breach of duty was the cause of your injuries. You need to prove that whatever happened to is the cause of your condition. Going back to the supermarket, this means that you must be able to link the supermarket owners’ unsafe and slick floors as the reason you slipped, fell, and hurt your back or broke your arm.

Damage or Injury

This is when you get to your injuries. This is typically established by your medical treatment following the accident. The injury can be either physical (broken bones, etc.) or psychological trauma like PTSD. It’s very common for some people to have both physical and psychological injuries.

If your lawyer successfully proves a cause of action, the other side is considered liable for monetary compensation for things such as medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by your injury. In order to receive full compensation for your injuries, you should seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

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