Accidents occur daily and in various forms, whether it is a car accident, a slip and fall, a product defect, or even a workplace mishap. Unfortunately many of these accidents also involve some kind of injury; this may mean a physical injury or injury to your property.
Negligence claims help those who have been injured in an accident receive damages to make them whole again. Ultimately, if you think you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, a good question to ask is whether a reasonably prudent person would have acted the same in similar circumstances? If the answer to this question is no, it is likely worth your while to pursue your options with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.
To be able to be compensated for your injuries, plaintiffs (the injured parties) have the burden of proving four elements in a negligence claim – duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Essentially, people are expected to conform to a specific standard of conduct such that we do not expose others to an unreasonable risk of harm. This standard of conduct fosters a legal relationship between persons; this relationship is grounded in foreseeability. For example, when we are driving, we are expected to drive safely and not violate the laws that are in place to keep us and others on the road safe. If you were to drink and drive, or drive recklessly, it would be foreseeable that others on the road may get hurt.
The conduct of the defendant is measured against a reasonable person standard. So in our scenario we would ask whether the defendant acted like a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstance when he drove after drinking? The answer would be no, because a reasonable person would not break the law and drive after drinking.
A breach occurs when the defendant fails to act like a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances. Keeping with our drunk driving example, we have already established that drivers on the road owe a duty to others to drive safely. Driving drunk would be considered a breach of that duty because a reasonably prudent person would not have driven after consuming too much alcohol.
For a plaintiff to recover based on negligence, they must also prove causation and damages as a result of that breach of duty. Causation consists of two sub elements (1) factual causation and (2) proximate causation to determine the connection between the defendants conduct and the plaintiff’s harm.
Factual causation looks to the facts to determine whether the defendants conduct was an actual cause in fact of the plaintiff’s injury. For example, but for the drivers drunk driving, the plaintiff would not have otherwise been injured in a wreck. Meaning that the defendants drunk driving greatly multiplied the chances of the plaintiff being injured in the car wreck.
Proximate causation determines whether it is fair to impose liability on a defendant by looking to whether there was any intervening or superseding causes that contributed to the plaintiff’s injury. Suppose the plaintiff in our drunk driving example was sent to the hospital and while there, a gunman shot and killed the plaintiff, this would be an example of an intervening or superseding act that would relieve the defendant of being charged with wrongful death as it would not be fair to hold the defendant liable for the criminal conduct of another.
The final element of negligence is damages. Damages determine the actual compensation that makes the plaintiff whole. There are two forms of monetary damages, compensatory (the damages that make the plaintiff whole) and punitive (damages that punish egregious behavior in hopes of future deterrence). There are eight damage categories: pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost earning/earning capacity, permanent injury/disability, disfigurement, hedonic damages, loss of consortium, and medical monitoring damages.
If you or someone you know has been injured, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to handle a personal injury claim and address each of these elements.