Mitchell Lattof | March 16, 2021 | Personal Injury
The standing to sue is a legal principle. In basic terms, it is the right to file a lawsuit against another party. Standing does not have anything to do with the disputed issues or the facts of the case. It is merely a determination of who has the right to file a lawsuit in court.
If a party does not have standing to file a lawsuit, it cannot proceed with an action against the other party. If you cannot establish the three legal elements for standing, the court dismisses your lawsuit for lack of standing.
What Are the Three Elements of Standing for a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Alabama uses the same three legal elements for standing as outlined in The United States Supreme Court Case of Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife.
The three-prong test includes:
Injury in Fact
You must have suffered an actual injury to have standing to sue. The injury could be a physical injury caused by a car accident or a slip and fall accident. It can also include economic losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, or property damage.
The injury must have already occurred before the lawsuit is filed. The injury cannot be something that could happen in the future or a hypothetical claim.
The second element requires that the injured party proves that the party being sued caused their injury. In other words, the injured party would not have sustained the injuries, but for the other party’s action or inaction. The injury must be fairly traceable to the other party’s actions.
If the injured party cannot establish a link between the at-fault party’s actions or omissions and the injured party’s injuries, the injured party does not have the standing to file the lawsuit.
Redressability is the final element to prove standing. The injured party must prove that the court will be able to do something to undo the harm to the victim or make up for what the defendant has done.
In personal injury cases, the court cannot undo the physical injuries or turn back time to stop the accident from happening. However, the court can force the liable party to compensate the victim for injuries and damages caused by the accident.
Damages in a personal injury claim can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of income and benefits
- Medical expenses and bills
- Permanent impairment and scarring
- Deceases in earning potential
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Courts require standing to ensure that they hear cases based on facts. The facts may be disputed, but there are facts. Requiring standing prevents the court from hearing cases that might not be ready to be heard yet, or involve complex legal questions or public policy issues that have not yet caused injury to someone.
How Can I Know if I Have Standing to Bring a Lawsuit?
If another party’s actions or omissions directly caused your accident and injuries, you likely have the standing to file a lawsuit. You can meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case in detail.
The lawyer analyzes the facts of the case to determine if he can link your injuries to causation to redressability. If so, then a judge should find that you have the standing to bring your lawsuit.
Individuals Who May Not Have Standing Even Though They Have a Case
Some individuals may not have the standing to file a lawsuit, even though they meet all three legal elements for standing.
For example, minors do not have the standing to file lawsuits. That is why most statutes of limitations do not begin until a minor reaches 18 years of age. At 18 years, the minor becomes an adult and has legal standing to file a lawsuit on their own behalf.
If a lawsuit is filed while the victim is still a minor, the parents may file a lawsuit for the child. The court could also appoint someone to file the lawsuit for the child.
The same applies in cases in which an adult is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. If they appointed a durable power of attorney before the incapacitation, the power of attorney might have the standing to file the lawsuit for the other person. The court could also appoint a conservator to file the lawsuit for the incapacitated person.
Standing is an essential part of a personal injury case. If you have questions, you can consult with an attorney. However, do not wait too long.
You could lose your right to file a lawsuit even though you have standing. Suppose the deadline in the statute of limitations passes. In that case, standing does not matter any longer because the defendant can use the statute of limitation as a defense to have the lawsuit dismissed.