Most personal injury claims and accidents are based on negligence. A party failed to exercise reasonable care, and that failure caused another person to be harmed.
Negligence is a legal cause of action. To hold the at-fault party liable for your damages, you must prove the legal elements of negligence.
Keep reading to learn how to prove negligence and how a personal injury lawyer can help injured persons recover compensation for damages.
What Are the Four Legal Elements of a Negligence Case?
Negligence occurs when a party’s conduct results in injury or harm to another person. The basic elements of a personal injury case based on negligence claims are:
- Breach of duty;
- Causation; and
As the injured party, you have the burden of proving each of the above elements. If your case goes to trial, you will need to convince a jury by a preponderance of the evidence that your claim is true. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not (over a 50% chance) that what you claim is true.
Let’s discuss these elements in more detail.
What is a Duty of Care?
A “duty” is defined as a requirement under the law to reasonably perform some conduct or act. You must prove that the defendant had a duty to act and owed you that duty. We refer to this as a duty of care.
For example, motorists in Florida have a duty to follow traffic laws. In addition, they owe a duty of care to others using the road to take reasonable steps to avoid causing car accidents.
Jury members decide what would be a reasonable standard or level of care for a specific situation. They base their decision on what a “reasonable person” would have done in similar circumstances. What is reasonable depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
What Does it Mean to Breach the Duty of Care?
After proving the defendant owed you a duty of care, you must show that the defendant is guilty of breach of duty. “Breaching” the duty of care means that the defendant’s actions did not meet the reasonable standard of care the jury determined should have been used in your situation.
In other words, the defendant breached the duty of care by failing to act with a reasonable level of concern and prudence. In some cases, the defendant’s conduct may have been intentional. In other cases, the defendant may have been careless or reckless.
An intentional act, such as assault, occurs when the defendant intended to harm the person. Distracted driving or failing to fix a handrail on a staircase are examples of unintentional acts that could cause harm.
In either case, the defendant did not act with a level of care that a reasonable person would have used, so he breached the duty of care owed to the injured victim.
Proving Causation for a Negligence Claim
It is not sufficient to prove that the defendant acted unreasonably. You must also prove causation. Causation means that the defendant’s actions were a proximate and direct cause of your injuries.
In other words, you would not have been injured but for the defendant’s conduct. Additionally, your injury was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s actions.
For example, a driver texts while driving. It is common knowledge that distracted driving increases the risk of a car crash. Therefore, if the driver had been paying attention to the road, he would not have rear-ended your vehicle at a red light. Therefore, the collision caused by the distracted driver was the direct and proximate cause of your injury.
What Are Damages in a Personal Injury Case?
To recover money for a personal injury claim, you must prove that the defendant’s actions caused damages. Damages may include physical injuries, economic damages, and non-economic damages.
A physical injury includes any health condition directly caused by the accident. Economic damages refer to the monetary losses you incur, such as medical bills, loss of income, property damages, and out-of-pocket expenses.
Non-economic damages encompass the pain and suffering caused by the accident and injury. These damages include physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress. However, they also include decreases in your quality of life caused by your injuries.
If you cannot prove that you sustained damages of some type, you are not entitled to financial compensation from the defendant.
Are There Defenses to Negligence Claims?
Yes, the defendant can raise several defenses to your allegations of negligence. The defense may claim that you contributed to the cause of the crash. Under Florida’s comparative fault law, you would not be entitled to full compensation for all damages if you were partially to blame for the cause of your injuries. Rather, your damages would be proportionally decreased based on your percentage of fault.
The defense may claim that you willingly engaged in an activity you knew could cause injury. Assumption of risk defenses does not excuse intentional acts. The defense has the burden of proving why the defendant should not be financially liable for damages that the defendant caused.
Contact a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
It can be difficult to navigate a claim of negligence on your own, especially if you are dealing with pain and mounting medical bills. A personal injury attorney can help you recover compensation for pain and suffering and monetary losses caused by another person’s negligence.
You deserve fair compensation when another party injures you.