Some of the most common personal injury claims all have something in common. From car accidents to medical malpractice to slip and fall cases, the defendant is always being accused of the same thing: negligence.
We often behave negligently in small ways throughout the day. We might neglect to take our laundry out of the dryer, causing it to wrinkle. We might neglect to eat the leftovers in our fridge and have to throw them away when they go bad.
Some acts of negligence, however, can result in serious harm to others. When this occurs, we’re typically looking at grounds for a personal injury case.
What, exactly, does negligence mean in the eyes of the law? When does negligent behavior become a legal issue? Read on to find out.
What Does It Mean in Law to Be Negligent?
Negligence, in the eyes of the law, is the failure to behave or act with reasonable care. The idea is that if the defendant had behaved or acted “reasonably,” they could have prevented the accident that resulted in your injury. The accident was foreseeable and yet, the defendant allowed it to happen, anyways.
If this sounds vague or difficult to prove, that’s because it can be. To make it more clear how negligence is measured in the eyes of the law, let’s take a look at the four elements of negligence you will have the burden of proving in order to fight your case.
Duty of Care
First, you must demonstrate that the defendant owed you the duty of reasonable care. The duty of care is a legal requirement we have in certain scenarios to act in a certain manner (“reasonably”) in order to prevent foreseeable harm. Let’s look at two examples.
In one example, a driver is behind the wheel and operating a vehicle. They are expected to follow driving laws and make other decisions that fulfill their duty of care to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
In another example, a doctor agrees to make an appointment with a patient. During that appointment, the doctor owes the duty of care to the patient. That means that they are required to provide the patient with the best care that is reasonably possible.
Breach of Duty of Care
Next, you must demonstrate that the defendant breached that duty of care. In other words, they behaved or acted in a way that did not prevent foreseeable harm.
Let’s say that a driver on the road is a distracted driver. Perhaps they are texting or paying close attention to their radio. The breach of duty of care is that they are not paying reasonable attention to the road or others around them.
Now, let’s say that a doctor takes an appointment with a patient but ignores their medical history. The doctor comes up with a diagnosis without knowing all of the facts. The breach of duty of care is that they failed to take reasonable steps to reach their best diagnosis.
Negligence can exist without causing you harm. This is where causation comes in. It’s not enough to demonstrate that someone behaved negligently; you have to prove that their negligence caused the accident you endured.
If you see a driver texting while driving but they don’t cause a wreck, there is no causation. However, if the texting driver causes an accident and you sustained injuries as a result, there is causation.
If the negligent doctor’s diagnosis doesn’t have serious implications for the patient, there is no causation. However, if the diagnosis is wrong and your health conditions worsen as a result, there is causation.
Finally, you have to establish damages. How did the negligent behavior that led to your injuries impact you economically? Keep in mind that personal injury claims fall under civil law, which means that you’re fighting for financial justice as opposed to, say, a jail sentence.
Damages often look somewhat the same from one type of personal injury claim to the next. You may seek compensation for:
- medical bills
- property damage
- lost income resulting from the injury
- additional psychological or emotional damages
The better you can establish the first three elements of negligence, the more likely it will be that you will receive compensation in full.
How Can You Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?
Someone’s negligence resulted in your injury and financial strain. What steps do you take to file a successful personal injury case?
The first thing you should do is consult and hire a personal injury lawyer. As we’ve mentioned already, negligence can be a vague concept that is difficult to prove. Personal injury lawyers have a working knowledge of personal injury laws, precedents, and the kind of evidence needed to put together a compelling case.
Together, you and your lawyer will compile a variety of evidence. This can include photo evidence and witness testimony to recreate the scene of the accident. It can also include medical records and bills, expert witness testimony, pay stubs, and more.
When you file a personal injury claim, the defendant will almost always come armed with legal representation. Do yourself a favor and secure legal representation of your own.
Work With Blake and Detchemendy to Prove Negligence
Understanding negligence in the eyes of the law is the first step toward filing a personal injury claim. When you understand what negligence is and how it’s proven, you can better assess the facts of your own case. The next step is finding the right lawyer for the job.
Blake and Detchemendy Law Firm is proud to serve the people of Augusta, GA. Contact us to let us know about the case you’re dealing with and we’ll let you know how we can help.