A personal injury claim seeks compensation from the party who was responsible for your accident. In some cases – such as those involving assault and battery – the defendant’s intentional conduct causes the injuries.
However, in most personal injury cases, you seek compensation based on the legal theory of negligence – that is, the defendant did not intend to cause your injuries, but their carelessness caused you harm.
A personal injury lawyer from The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd can explain this legal concept and how an attorney can help
What Is Negligence?
Negligence occurs when someone’s actions (or inactions) fall below a reasonable standard, causing someone else to get hurt. It has a close meaning to “carelessness.”
Why Does Negligence Matter in a Personal Injury Case?
Your ability to recover compensation after an accident like a car accident or bicycle accident depends on being able to prove negligence. As the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you have the burden of proof. This means you are responsible for proving the case. To meet your burden of proof, you must be able to show four elements of negligence by proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
A preponderance of the evidence means that the facts are more likely than not as you assert them. If you are unable to meet this burden, you will be unable to secure compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
What Are the Four Legal Elements of Negligence?
The four legal elements of negligence are as follows:
- Breach of duty
Here is more information on these legal elements and what you must prove.
What Is a Duty of Care and When Does Someone Have It?
The first legal element you must prove is that the defendant had a duty of care. This duty could be based on the relationship between the defendant and plaintiff, such as a doctor-patient relationship. It could be based on the law. For example, all motorists are required to follow traffic laws to avoid causing injuries. Sometimes, contracts lay out the duties of the parties.
If there is no specific duty based on a particular relationship, law, or contract, the duty of care is generally to act with the same level of care someone with ordinary prudence would act under the same circumstances.
When Does Someone Breach Their Duty?
The next legal element you must show is that the defendant breached their duty of care. This requires showing the defendant did something or failed to do something that violates the duty of care they owed you.
Here are some common examples that may indicate a breach of duty:
- A motorist was texting and driving and didn’t notice the vehicle in front of them until they rear-ended them
- An employer negligently hired an employee who causes harm
- A truck driver violated the hours of service rules and caused a crash because they were fatigued
- A doctor failed to order tests that would have allowed a proper diagnosis that another healthcare provider in the same area would have ordered under the circumstances, leading to a delayed diagnosis
- A property owner failed to keep their property in a safe condition, resulting in a visitor being injured while on the property
An experienced lawyer can review your case and determine how the defendant breached their duty of care.
How Do I Prove the Breach of Duty Caused My Injuries?
The next legal element you must prove is causation. You must show not only that the defendant breached the applicable duty of care but that the breach caused your injuries. This is one of the most difficult elements of negligence to prove. There are two types of causation to prove in this context: factual and proximate.
It may require evidence such as:
- Police or accident reports
- Photos or videos of the accident
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Reports from accident reconstruction records
- Electronic records, cell phone records, or black box data
An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your case and determine the evidence that will establish your claim and work to preserve and collect it.
What Are Damages in a Negligence Case?
Damages are the losses you experienced in the accident. Texas recognizes economic damages, non-economic damages, an, in rare cases, punitive damages. Economic damages include those losses that can be more readily quantified, such as:
- Physical damage to your property
- Medical expenses you incurred for emergency and follow-up treatment
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future loss of earnings
Non-economic damages provide you with compensation for other losses you experience that may be more difficult to quantify, such as:
- PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders brought on or triggered by the accident
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
An experienced Texas personal injury lawyer can review your case and determine the potential compensation that is available to you.
A Friendswood Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Negligence
Now that you understand all of the legal elements that are involved in a negligence claim, you probably have a better sense of how challenging it might be to prove.
An experienced Friendswood personal injury lawyer can use their knowledge of the law to establish the duty owed under the circumstances and how the defendant’s breach caused your injury. They can also collect valuable evidence to establish causation and damages. Reach out to an experienced lawyer for help today for a free consultation.