What Are the 3 Elements of Standing to Sue?
Bill Allen | December 20, 2021 | Personal Injury
You are required to prove standing to sue before you can bring a personal injury lawsuit before a court. Without standing, a court can refuse to hear your case.
Standing is required by both the U.S. Constitution and state laws. The doctrine of standing is a limitation on a court’s powers because it prevents a court from exercising its judgment in certain cases.
Standing Limits a Court’s Powers
Courts can resolve specific problems related to the parties of a lawsuit. However, courts are not supposed to handle general grievances that impact society at large.
For example, many taxpayers have attempted to sue the government for mismanaging the spending of taxpayer dollars. Courts have consistently found a lack of standing in these cases, finding that these taxpayers should instead bring their concerns to elected representatives in Congress.
The concept of standing limits a court to hearing matters that meet three requirements: 1) injury in fact; 2) causation; and 3) redressability.
Injury in Fact
The first element of standing a plaintiff must show is “injury in fact.” This requires an actual injury that can be either economic or non-economic. A typical personal injury case that involves physical injuries, medical bills, and property damage would satisfy this element.
You won’t have standing for hypothetical injuries that haven’t happened yet. You also won’t satisfy the standing requirement if another party suffered injuries that weren’t related to you in any way.
Victims of data breaches often have to address the issue of showing an actual injury. Their personal information may have been stolen or exposed to third parties. However, they may not be able to show an injury in fact if the data has not yet been used for improper purposes.
Your injuries must be connected to the actions of the defendant to have standing. If your injuries were caused by someone who’s not before the court, the court may determine that you don’t have standing to sue.
If your actions also contributed to the accident, you can meet the causation requirements if the other party was also partially at fault. However, Florida’s pure comparative fault laws would limit the amount of damages you could recover.
The court’s remedies must be sufficient to redress the plaintiff’s injuries. If the court’s judgment won’t redress the injuries, then the court will refuse to hear the case for lack of standing.
In a personal injury case, redressability is often shown when economic damages are claimed for the plaintiffs losses, which can include:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Property Damage
- Pain and suffering
A court has the power to award financial compensation for these types of damages, which would satisfy the redressability requirement.
Keep in mind that even if you meet the requirements for standing, you’ll also need to prove all the elements of your claim once you go to trial. You also need to bring your case within the Florida statute of limitations, which is generally four years for negligence lawsuits.
Examples of Standing
Let’s explore some examples of standing to hammer home the concept.
Suppose you were in a car accident caused by a negligent driver who was texting and driving. You sustained whiplash, and you lost income due to missing work during your recovery.
In this case, you would generally meet the standing requirement. You have actual injuries that are specific to you as an individual and caused by the other driver’s negligence. A court has the power to redress your injuries with financial compensation.
Suppose you have medical injuries due to poor air quality in your town. You may want to sue a large corporation that causes significant air pollution in your town.
A court may find a lack of standing in this case because your injuries are shared with the general public. Moreover, it may be difficult to show that the corporation’s actions directly caused (causation) your medical issues.
Suppose you and a friend are sitting on a balcony at a hotel. Suppose the railing is faulty, and your friend falls off the balcony after leaning on the rail. They fall and break multiple bones, incurring extensive medical bills.
You would likely not have standing to sue on your behalf or your friend’s. Your friend suffered injuries, not you. Although you may have experienced emotional distress, your friend is the one with redressable injuries.
These examples provide only few explorations of standing. There are more concrete ways to determine whether you have standing to sue.
How to Decide Whether You Have Standing to Sue
A personal injury lawyer will examine many factors to determine whether you have standing to sue.
They may ask you several questions related to standing, such as:
- What specific injuries form the basis of your lawsuit?
- What specific actions by the defendant caused your injuries?
- Is your injury shared by many members of the general public?
- Can the court adequately fix the issue or compensate you for your losses?
Standing is one of the first issues that you should evaluate before filing a lawsuit.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
We have two convenient locations in North Central Florida: