How to Prove Negligence
By Mary Ann Pekara
Negligence may seem like a fuzzy, vague concept. This is partially a result of the nature of a negligence claim, which often accuses a person of failing to act in a particular way.
Legal concepts are tricky enough, but they are even more troublesome when illegal actions are defined by what a person fails to do, as is often the case in negligence cases.
While negligence laws vary widely by state, learning how to prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit requires gaining knowledge of the four basic elements of a negligence claim.
Proving Negligence: Four Basic Elements
Negligence is a theory that may apply in a wide variety of cases, including wrongful death claims or a car accident lawsuit.
When determining how to prove negligence occurred, personal injury attorneys must consider the four basic elements of a negligence case. These include:
- Duty. Most citizens have a duty to treat other people with reasonable care. Yet this duty of reasonable care may vary depending on context. For example, doctors have a duty to treat patients with reasonable care, while drivers have a duty to other drivers and pedestrians to abide by the rules of the road.
- Breach of duty. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached a specific duty. If a doctor delivers care that falls well below professional standards, or if a driver breaches her duty to other drivers by running a red light, then a breach of duty may occur.
- Causation. There must be a causal link between the plaintiff's injury and the defendant's breach of duty. If, for example, a driver runs a red light and strikes a pedestrian walking across a crosswalk, the driver's actions directly caused the walker's injury.
- Injury. In brief, you cannot sue someone for negligence if you have not suffered an injury. Injuries, though, do not have to be physical. Many negligence cases are filed due to psychological, emotional, or economic harm.
Help with Proving Negligence
While the four elements of negligence may seem straight-forward, proving them in a negligence case usually requires a great deal of planning, legal research, and investigative work.
Negligence is usually defined by decisions made in prior court cases. For example, your state likely has hundreds of previously decided medical malpractice lawsuits that provide the foundation for tomorrow's negligence claims against doctors.
Due to the complexity of most negligence claims, many plaintiffs prefer to consult with a local injury attorney before filing their claim.
If you believe you have a valid negligence claim, connect with an injury attorney in your area for a free consultation by filling out the form below: