Elements Of Negligence In Personal Injury Cases
Negligence is failing to act with a level of care that a reasonable person would have taken in the same or similar circumstances. However, this definition is not as straightforward as it might seem. In personal injury cases, in order for a victim to win a lawsuit for negligence, he or she must prove that all of the elements of negligence were present in the incident that caused the injury. If you are planning to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering what those elements are and how an attorney can assist in proving the existence of those elements. At the Mark Casto Law Firm, PC, we work closely with clients to help them navigate the legal system and obtain the compensation they deserve. Consider reaching out to us at (706) 940-4030 to schedule a consultation and learn how we may be able to assist you with a personal injury case.
Types of Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24.8 million people visited physician offices for unintentional injuries and 97.9 million people ended up in emergency departments for unintentional injuries in 2018. In some cases, these injuries may have been the result of negligence. Some examples of personal injury cases that may be the result of negligence include:
- Vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Accidents in the workplace
- Injuries due to defective products
- Premises liability
- Dog bites
- Elder abuse or neglect
In order to prove negligence, the victim or his or her lawyer must demonstrate that a personal injury claim meets the elements of negligence, which are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
The first of the elements of negligence is duty. Simply put, the element of duty requires that the accused party owed a legal duty to the victim. There are two kinds of duty that a responsible party may owe to an accident victim. These are:
- Duty of care—In this kind of duty, a person must conduct himself or herself as any reasonable person would in the same situation. If the accused met that duty, then he or she will not be deemed negligent. If, however, the accused party's behavior did not reflect that of a reasonable person, he or she will have breached the duty of care
- Special duty—This special duty may exist in addition to or in place of the duty of care as the result of a specific statute or state law. For example, if a law requires that all homeowners shovel snow from the sidewalks in front of their houses and a passerby is injured because one homeowner does not shovel his or her walkways, that homeowner may have breached that special duty
Some of the factors that may be considered when determining duty include the foreseeability of harm to the victim, the connection between the accused party's actions and any injury or damage to the victim, and the requirement to prevent such injuries or damages. If you have questions about whether someone may have failed to meet his or her duty in your personal injury case, it may be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney at the Mark Casto Law Firm, PC.
Breach of Duty
Duty is just the first of the elements of negligence. After duty is determined to exist, it must be followed by what is referred to as a breach of duty. To prove that a person owed duty is not enough. The victim or the victim's attorney must also demonstrate that the accused party then breached his or her duty. Examples of breach of duty include the following:
- A driver who is speeding and causes an accident
- A business owner who fails to clean up a spill that then causes a customer to fall
- A doctor who fails to follow correct sanitary precautions before a medical procedure, which leads to an infection in the patient
In these scenarios, a reasonable person would be aware that his or her actions might cause an injury to another person or people and would have likely done things differently than what the accused party did.
The third of the elements of negligence is causation. Causation shows that the breach of duty directly led to the victim's injuries and losses. For a successful personal injury claim, it must be clear that, if it had not been for the accused party's breach of duty, the victim would not have been injured. For example, in the case of the speeding driver who caused an accident, it must be clear that the victim who suffered injuries from the accident would not have been injured if the driver had not been speeding. In the case of the business owner failing to clean up a spill, if a customer falls and breaks his or her leg, the victim or a personal injury attorney representing the victim must demonstrate that the victim would not have suffered an injury if the business owner had cleaned up the spill within a reasonable time.
The final of the elements of negligence is damages. Damages refers to the monetary loss that the victim has suffered and is often in dispute because the accused party in a personal injury claim may argue that the victim only suffered minor injuries and, therefore, had little damages. Some examples of damages include:
- Physical injury—these are injuries for which the victim must be able to produce evidence through medical bills, hospital treatment records, or other documents
- Property damage—when personal property is damaged or destroyed in an accident, the victim must provide evidence of the cost of replacement
- Emotional distress—these damages are difficult to measure and often include pain and suffering
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have recently suffered an injury or injuries due to someone else's negligence and have questions about whether your case meets all of the elements of negligence, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance. Lawyers work closely with their clients to assist them in obtaining the compensation they are owed for damages they have suffered as a result of someone else's negligence. Consider contacting the compassionate counsel at the Mark Casto Law Firm, PC, by calling (706) 940-4030 to schedule a consultation.