October 4, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

Suppose you get hurt in a car accident or you fall outside a store. You may wonder, “Do I have a personal injury case?”

At Chain | Cohn | Clark, we look for four things when determining whether you have a case:

  1. Liability: Did someone else’s carelessness cause the accident? Did they violate a traffic law or some other regulation?
  2. Damages: Were you harmed in some way? Did you lose property? Do you have medical bills? Have you missed time from work?
  3. Causation: Was the other person’s carelessness the cause of your injuries?
  4. Collectability: Is the at-fault person someone you can collect money from?

You may have a personal injury case worth pursuing if you answered “Yes” to all four questions.

Four Determining Factors for if You Have a Case: Damages, Causation, Collectibility, and Liability


These four factors aren’t unique to our law firm. As we’ll see in the next section, they stem from a basic concept of personal injury law and simple practicality.

Personal Injury Law and Negligence

Personal injury cases hinge on a basic legal principle: negligence.

According to California law, you’re responsible for your:

  • “Willful acts”—things you do deliberately
  • “Want of ordinary care or skill”—things you do or don’t do because you aren’t reasonably careful

When someone isn’t reasonably careful in what they do, they’re negligent. If their negligence causes an accident that injures you, you have the legal right to pursue a personal injury claim against them. The first three factors above—liability, damages, and causation—are the legal basis for proving negligence:

  1. The other party was not reasonably careful.
  2. You were harmed in some way.
  3. The other party’s lack of reasonable care caused your harm.

For example, suppose a driver ignored a stop sign. They violated a traffic law—demonstrating a lack of reasonable care, or negligence (Factor #1). When they ran the stop sign, they hit your car and injured you. You suffered harm (Factor #2). Their lack of reasonable care caused the accident and, therefore, your injuries (Factor #3).

In this case, you clearly have a basis for filing a personal injury claim—but there’s one more important factor to consider before proceeding.

Collectability: If You Win a Judgment, Can the Other Party Pay?

Sadly, we meet some potential clients who’ve been severely injured in accidents caused by other people’s negligence. But when we review the case, we find that we’re unlikely to be able to collect any compensation from the defendant.

Continuing the above illustration, suppose the driver that ran the stop sign:

  • Doesn’t have car insurance
  • Doesn’t own a home or other significant personal assets
  • Has thousands of dollars in credit card debt

Although the facts of the case are in your favor, you’re unlikely to be able to collect any money awarded by a jury in a lawsuit.

Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer

The illustration we used in this FAQ is very clear, but most personal injury cases are much more nuanced. The Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark have the experience and expertise needed to evaluate your case and help you determine whether you have a personal injury case worth pursuing.

For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us today.