Negligence is a term that you will commonly see in personal injury cases. Negligence is defined as, “Conduct that falls below the acceptable standard of what a reasonable person would do to protect another from an unreasonable risk of harm.” In order to prove a case of negligence, the plaintiff has to prove that the other party’s action or inaction rises to the level of negligence. This is done through meeting certain elements. Each element of negligence must be met in order to succeed in a cause of action. The elements of negligence are: duty breach, causation, and damages.
A person in the general public owes everyone a duty to act like a reasonable person. This element is easy to fulfill since everyone owes everyone else a minimal duty. Some individuals owe others a special duty. For example, doctors owe patients a higher level of duty since they hold a special amount of power and control over their health. Lawyers owe their clients a heightened sense of duty as well.
You can breach your duty by acting not in a reasonable manner. For example, if you are driving your car, you owe other people on the road a duty to not drive dangerously. However, if you are drunk and driving recklessly, you have breached that duty.
In addition to breaching the duty, you must prove that the breach is the cause of your damages. There are two types of duty that must be met: actual and proximate. This is a complicated area of negligence. Your attorney can explain to you the differences between actual and proximate cause, and how it relates to your injury case.
In order to prove a case of negligence, you need to have sustained damages. Damages can be either be physical or emotional injuries, property damage, or both. Cases that rely solely on emotional or hard-to-calculate damages may be more difficult to prove. However, all that is required is that damages did occur.