There are minimum standards of behavior that all adults are required to conform to in order to protect others from injury. When those minimum standards are not met and that failure causes someone else to become injured, personal injury laws give injured persons the opportunity to prove that their injuries were caused by the negligent actions of other people. There are four parts to establishing a valid negligence claim and all four must be proven in order to recover compensation. The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC has been proving negligence in Georgia personal injury cases for more than 20 years. Call 706-450-7071 for a free consultation to discuss what happened to you, and to learn if you have the legal right to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.
What Is Negligence?
As members of society, people are expected to act with reasonable care so that their conduct does not cause harm or injury to others. The law says a person who fails to act with the appropriate level of care has possibly acted with negligence.
The facts and circumstances of a particular situation may indicate behavior in one case is reasonable and the same behavior in another case is unreasonable. Whether actions taken or not taken were reasonable or unreasonable begins with recognition of the appropriate standard to measure the conduct against. Visiting with an experienced personal injury attorney at The Mark Casto Law Firm can help you understand if you have a strong case.
What Are the 4 Elements of Negligence?
Establishing negligence requires identifying an accepted standard of behavior and then showing the negligent party deviated from that standard, which resulted in injury to the victim. Negligence is proven with evidence demonstrating the following four factors:
Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal responsibility the law imposes on people to conduct themselves in ways that do not cause harm to others. The universal duty that someone owes someone else is to act in a reasonable manner. The circumstances of a situation will determine what conduct is reasonable. Actual conduct is compared to that of a ‘reasonable person’ whose conduct sets the standard for appropriate behavior. Duties of care may be expressly imposed by laws or they may be implied from the activities undertaken or the relationships of the people involved. For example, drivers have a duty to exercise caution and care when operating motor vehicles on the roadways. Property owners have a duty to ensure that their premises is free from hazards and dangers. Nursing homes have a duty to care appropriately for their residents. In all of these cases, a person or entity has a legal responsibility to behave in a prudent manner to ensure the safety of others.
Breach of Duty
Once the appropriate duty of care is established, the facts must show that the conduct of the negligent party did not meet the required standard. Breaching the standard of care may be proven by what a person or entity did, or failed to do, that resulted in some sort of injury or loss to the victim.
Proving causation means showing the connection between the negligent party’s conduct and the injuries to the victim. For personal injury cases in Georgia, two causal connections need to be established:
- Actual cause – The victim’s injuries would not have occurred without the actions of the negligent party.
- Proximate cause – The victim’s injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligent party’s conduct.
Damages are the losses caused to the victim by a person’s negligent actions. Damages can include harm to property, physical or mental injuries, or the collateral impact on quality of life. Damages for victims can potentially include actual financial losses, such as medical bills or loss of wages, or can include non-economic losses such as emotional trauma or mental anguish. Evidence of non-economic damages often comes from healthcare providers and other medical experts.
Ordinary Negligence vs. Negligence Per Se
In some types of personal injury cases, proving that a person or entity breached the applicable standard of care is a question to be decided by an interpretation of the facts. In other types of personal injury cases, proving the negligent party acted recklessly or dangerously also proves the defendant acted negligently.
Negligence per se is negligence as a matter of law. A law establishes the duty of care and violating the law breaches the duty. A common application of negligence per se is the violation of traffic statutes and regulations. In Georgia, a driver who violates The Uniform Rules of the Road is negligent as a matter of law. Establishing negligence per se does not relieve a victim from proving causation and damages.
Examples of Breached Duties of Care in Personal Injury Cases
The following are some common examples of situations where the duty of care can be breached in personal injury cases:
- A driver slams into the back of another vehicle while texting. Texting while driving is a violation of law in Georgia. The violation of law is negligence per se.
- A store owner discovers a spill in an aisle but gets distracted doing other things and a customer slips and falls on the spilled liquid. Store owners have a duty to take prompt action to remove hazards that are unknown to customers. The store owner’s failure to clean up the spill when first noticed is likely to be negligence.
- A doctor prescribes a medication to a patient without considering the potential effects of the medication when combined with other medications taken by the patient and the patient becomes ill. The doctor’s conduct is a deviation from the professional care considered appropriate within the medical community and therefore negligent.
Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
When more than one party is found negligent in a personal injury case, a percentage of the fault will be assigned to each liable party. A plaintiff may be assigned some percentage of liability for causing the injuries they are seeking recovery for. In Georgia, a plaintiff can be up to 49% at fault and still recover damages for the percentage of fault attributed to other parties.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Columbus, GA
Negligence is the basis of many personal injury lawsuits. However, negligence is not always obvious or easy to establish. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney with a proven track record handling negligence claims can help you understand all of your legal rights. Contact the experienced Georgia personal injury attorneys at The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC at 706-450-7071 to discuss how negligence is established in personal injury cases, and if you have a legal right to compensation.