What Are the 3 Elements of Standing to Sue?

You can typically pursue compensation for medical bills and other losses if another party’s negligence harmed you. The process of seeking compensation often begins by filing a claim to collect from a negligent party’s insurance.

Ideally, an insurer will offer fair compensation, and the matter can be resolved outside of court. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, an insurer or negligent party will decline to offer an appropriate settlement.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to recover your damages. You may still have the option of filing a lawsuit. However, you must show your case possesses the three elements of standing in order to sue

Courts won’t waste time on frivolous cases; they can “throw out” a lawsuit if a plaintiff does not have these three things:

Injury in Fact

To sue a negligent party, a victim must show that the defendant injured them. In most instances, the plaintiff must have already suffered the injury. An injury can’t be speculative or anticipated. The plaintiff must have endured some concrete harm from the defendant — intentional or unintentional.

However, an injury doesn’t need to consist of actual physical harm to the plaintiff. For example, if someone dies as the result of another party’s negligence, their loved ones can potentially file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Their injury was the loss of their loved one.

Causation

Victims must also prove that the party they’re suing caused their injury. They must allege that they would not have suffered the injury but for the defendant’s conduct.

It’s important to be aware that different states handle contributory negligence differently. Contributory negligence refers to a defendant’s own contributions to their accident or injury. Some states have laws on the books that say you can’t recover compensation if you played any part in causing an accident. Others, like Florida and California, have more relaxed rules – known as comparative negligence. In these states, contributing to an accident won’t be a bar to recovery, but it will affect how much money can be awarded. 

For example, suppose a motorist strikes a pedestrian while driving 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. The pedestrian may be eligible to receive compensation. However, suppose the pedestrian was texting and unaware of their surroundings when the accident occurred.

In this case, the pedestrian’s own negligence played a role in their accident. Due to California’s comparative fault law, they may still have grounds to file a claim or lawsuit against the motorist who struck them. However, a court will reduce their damages to account for their share of fault.

Therefore, you might still be able to sue a negligent party even if you contributed to your accident. Don’t assume you can’t seek compensation simply because you share some blame for your injuries.

Redressability

The court must be able to do something to remedy a plaintiff’s injury. If it can’t, the plaintiff’s harm is not redressable and would not confer standing. In most cases, the court can redress a plaintiff’s injury through money damages.

It’s usually easy to prove redressability in personal injury cases. An injury victim will typically face medical bills, lost wages, and more after their accident. A court can order the at-fault party to compensate for these losses—they are redressable.

Depending on the circumstances, an injury victim might also be able to receive compensation for non-economic losses. Non-economic losses make up for personal, non-financial losses after an injury, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. These losses are still redressable even though they aren’t financial. The court redresses them by awarding compensation for each non-economic loss.

Proving Standing to Sue

The way in which a plaintiff proves the three elements of standing can vary on a case-by-case basis. In general, victims must present sufficient evidence that their injury resulted from another party’s negligence or intentional conduct. 

This process may require conducting an investigation, interviewing witnesses, and more. Victims should strongly consider seeking legal representation before filing a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can help you establish the elements of standing to initiate a lawsuit.