What is negligence?
If another person's negligent actions led to an accident that resulted in you being injured, you may be eager to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to pursue compensation for your injuries. However, before you start daydreaming about how you'll spend your settlement, you should determine whether your case—and the defendant's conduct—meets the legal definition of negligence. In order for a judge or jury to agree with your assessment that the defendant was negligent, you must be able to prove the following elements of negligence: that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached that duty in a way that resulted in you being seriously injured.
Duty of Care
Before a defendant's actions can be considered negligent, you must be able to show that the defendant owed you a “duty of care.” First, the court must recognize that a relationship exists between the two parties and that, because of that relationship, the defendant had a duty to behave a certain way toward the plaintiff. In a personal injury case, this might mean that the defendant had a duty to ensure that conditions were reasonably safe for the plaintiff. For example, all motorists owe each other a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely. Other examples of duty of care include manufacturers who have a duty of care to ensure that their products are safe for their customers, and retail stores owners who have a duty of care to maintain their property for their customers' safety.
Breach of Duty
Once you've established that a duty of care exists between yourself and the defendant, the next step is proving that said duty of care was breached by the defendant. Duty of care is breached when a defendant fails to behave reasonably, endangering the plaintiff. Examples of breached duty of care include manufacturers who sell dangerously defective products, reckless drivers who cause motor vehicle accidents, and property owners who fail to maintain their flooring or clean up spills in a reasonably timely manner—causing tenants, visitors, or customers to slip and fall.
When trying to prove negligence in personal injury cases, it's not enough to show that a duty of care existed and that said duty of care was breached. In order to be eligible to pursue compensation for your injuries, you and your legal counsel must also show that the breach of duty of care is what caused your injuries. There are two types of causation that can apply here: proximate cause and actual cause. Proximate cause means that your injuries are reasonably related to the defendant's breached duty of care, while actual cause means that, were it not for the breach of duty of care, you would not have been injured.
This particular element of negligence is extremely important in personal injury cases. Even if a defendant was negligent, the plaintiff will not receive compensation unless that negligence caused real and verifiable injuries. It's up to the plaintiff and attorney to prove the type and extent of their injuries, usually with well-documented evidence, such as medical records and bills, repair estimates for property damage, and receipts for other out-of-pocket costs. A lack of documented evidence will make negotiating a settlement extremely difficult, if not impossible. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise clients on what types of documents and evidence will be most effective in their case.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in an accident that you believe was caused by another person's careless or negligent actions, you may be able to pursue compensation for damages if you can legally prove that the defendant's negligent behavior caused your injuries. Financial awards can help personal injury victims begin rebuilding their lives after an accident. Victims can seek a financial award to compensate them for past, current, and future medical treatment for their accident-related injuries, as well as any related property damages, lost wages and more. The Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Call us today to schedule a free initial case consultation.