What Determines Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?

The basis of any personal injury claim is proof of negligence. Before you begin negotiating your claim, you must understand how to prove all of the combined elements that form negligence. Although it exists in many forms, the definition remains the same: “conduct which falls short of reasonable standards for protecting a person from foreseeable risks of harm.”

Understanding and proving exactly how the negligence of the party at fault caused your injuries is essential to winning your personal injury claim. Once the elements of your case have been put together, it will be much easier to confidently present the facts to the insurance company’s claims adjuster, a judge, or a jury if the case is elevated beyond initial negotiations.

  1. The four basic elements when considering negligence in a personal injury claim are:

    The first element is establishing the presence of a duty owed by one person to another. People have a duty to act in a reasonable manner toward others in both public and private settings. Each unique personal injury claim starts with identifying this claim to duty of care. In some circumstances, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant might create a legal duty, such as how a doctor owes a patient a legal duty to provide him or her with competent medical care.

    Some examples of duty of care might include drivers who have a duty to their passengers and other drivers to operate their vehicle carefully. Doctors also have a duty to their patients to treat them in a medically-appropriate manner sensitive to the individual’s needs. Companies have a duty to their customers to make sure their products are safe, especially retail stores who have a duty to their many customers and employees with keeping their floors clear of slippery substances and other potential hazards.

  2. Proving Someone Breached Their Duty

    The second element is a breach of the duty owed by one person to another. A person breaches their duty by failing to act in a reasonable manner toward another person.

Some examples where a breach of the duty of care may include a reckless driver who causes an auto accident or a company that manufactures a defective product that injures a customer, or even a doctor who prescribes the wrong medication where the patient is later hospitalized as a result.

  1. Proving The Breach Directly Caused Injuries

    The third element is when the breach of duty becomes the direct cause of another person’s injuries. The type and severity of injuries must be related with a failure to act in a reasonable way. The source of the breach could be a person, business, organization, or other entity. The term ‘proximate cause’ is somewhat misleading because, as a legal concept, it has little to do with proximity or causation. Instead, proximate cause is moreso related to fairness and justice, in that at some point it becomes unfair to hold a defendant responsible for the results of his negligence.

    A few examples of a direct injury as the result of a breach of duty of care may include a speeding driver who causes an auto accident and someone is injured, where the act of speeding is the direct cause of the injuries. A company that manufactures a defective product where a customer is injured while using it is a breach wherein the product directly caused the injury. A homeowner who fails to clean up a spill from the floor before a guest slips and is injured is also a breach where the failure to clean up the spill is the direct cause of the injury. Likewise, a patient’s condition that worsens because of a prescription error proves the doctor’s action in prescribing the wrong medication is the direct cause and may be liable for any personal injury.

  2. Proving Any Monetary Losses

    The fourth element is tied to the first three, so that when a duty exists, and a breach of that duty directly causes an injury, the injured person is responsible for proving the nature and extent of his injuries. Documented evidence of the injuries and related expenses is vital for recovering any settlement or court judgment against the at-fault party. Without documentation, the person claiming injuries will have a very difficult, if not impossible time negotiating their claim. The first three elements of negligence do not confirm the nature and extent of injuries, nor the financial costs related to those injuries; they must be separately proven.

Some examples of proven monetary losses may include:

  • Hospital treatment records and corresponding medical bills
  • Doctors’ diagnosis and prognosis of the injury
  • Physical therapy and chiropractic records and bills
  • Receipts for out-of-pocket costs related to the injury such as medications, crutches, bandages, hospital parking fees, etc.

Once you understand the elements of negligence, then you can begin matching them to the facts of your case in order to see if it is eligible for a personal injury claim. Your primary goal is to convince the claims adjuster to approve your settlement demand, and in order to do that, you must prove their insured party was negligent. Proving your case should not be complicated. You must simply gather all of the information that supports your claim and then use it to show how the facts of the accident come together to form negligence.

If you or a loved one have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, a potential legal claim may be worth pursuing, especially if you’ve incurred costly medical bills and missed income from work. You may want to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your claim. Fortunately, you can have a local attorney do a free evaluation of your case at Gordon & Gordon Law Firm. Give us a call today at (318) 716 – HELP.