When another person or party causes your injury, that party can be held financially liable under the legal theory of negligence. Most personal injury claims are based on negligence.
Before you can recover money for your injuries and damages, you must prove all four elements of negligence.
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What Does it Mean to Be Negligent?
Negligence refers to a person’s behavior. It is based on reasonableness.
Did the person fail to act in a manner that a person of reasonable prudence would have acted in the same or similar situation? If so, the person may be guilty of negligence. A person could also be negligent if the person fails to do something that results in an injury or harm to another person.
Proving the Four Legal Elements of a Negligence Claim
You must create a chain between each of the four elements of negligence to create liability. If you cannot link all four elements to each other, you cannot prove negligence.
The four “links” in a negligence claim are:
Duty of Care
The first element of negligence is the duty of care. You must show that the person who caused your injury owed you a duty of care.
A legal duty is created between parties based on their relationship with each other. One party is required to exercise reasonable care regarding the other party.
For example, a duty of care exists between property owners and people who come onto their property. The property owner has a duty to maintain the premises to avoid injury or harm to visitors and guests.
Motorists have a duty of care when operating their vehicles. They have a duty to obey traffic laws and operate the vehicle safely to avoid causing a traffic accident. Manufacturers and others in the supply chain have a duty to provide products that are not defective and are safe to use.
Doctors, nurses, dentists, nursing homes, medical facilities, and other medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients. They have a duty to provide treatment and care that meets or exceeds the standard of care given the situation’s circumstances and factors.
Breach of Duty of Care
You must prove that the party breached the duty of care owed to you. A breach of duty means that the party did something or failed to do something based on how a reasonable person would have acted in that situation.
For example, the employees of a restaurant notice that a customer spilled their meal on the floor. They fail to clean up the spill or place a warning sign. If another customer slips and falls, the restaurant could be liable for the injuries because it failed in the duty of care.
If a driver fails to stop for a red light and crashes into a motorcycle, the driver breached the duty of care by running a red light.
It is not enough to prove that a party breached a duty of care. You must “link” the breach to the accident. In a negligence claim, you must have evidence to prove the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the accident or incident that caused your injury.
Being drunk is not proof the truck driver caused the crash. You need to prove that the truck driver failed to yield the right of way, crossed over into your lane, rear-ended your vehicle, or did something else that caused the collision.
The same would be true if you fell at a gas station. If you fell because you were unstable on your feet because you took pain medication, the property owner would not be liable for your injury. However, if you fell because there was a hole in the pavement, the owner might be liable.
The last element of negligence is injury. To recover money for your personal injury claim, you must show that you’ve suffered a bodily injury or damage to property.
Once you’ve identified an injury, you can seek damages from the negligent party.
Damages an include money for:
- Physical injuries, such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries, or brain injuries
- Cost of medical treatment and personal care
- Loss of income, including diminished earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Permanent impairments, scarring, and disabilities
- Loss of quality of life
It is important to remember that you only have a short time to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Waiting too long to seek legal advice regarding an injury claim or accident claim could result in losing your right to demand compensation for your damages. Consulting an attorney as soon after your accident as possible can help protect your legal rights and increase your chance of recovering fair compensation for your injuries and damages.