What Is Negligence In A Personal Injury Case?

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Negligence is a critical component of every personal injury case. If you’ve been injured, whether you hire an attorney or handle the claim on your own, negligence will have to be proven in your claim. So, how do we prove negligence?

The Four Elements in Proving Negligence

Under the law, Negligence is a failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. There are Four elements in proving Negligence:

  • that there was a duty of care;
  • the duty was breached;
  • there is evident harm or damages; and
  • that negligent action(s) caused the damages

Occasionally, attorneys will look into a proximate cause, which some describe as the fifth element of negligence. This comes in to play often when there is some debate about whether or not the defendant acted negligently. We’ve gone ahead and included this information below, but in most cases, we’re looking at the first four elements.

Duty

The outcomes of some negligence cases depend on whether the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff.  An example would be a defendant who, in loading bags of grain onto a truck, sent one flying in the wrong direction, which struck a child standing nearby, injuring him.
If the loading dock were near a public place, such as a public sidewalk, and the child was merely passing by, then it may be more likely to be found that the defendant owed a duty of Care to the child. On the other hand, if the child were trespassing on private property and the defendant did not know that the child was present at the time of the accident, then it may be less likely to be found that the defendant owed a duty.

Breach

A defendant is liable for negligence when the defendant breaches the duty that the defendant owes to the plaintiff.  In the example above, a jury would decide whether the defendant exercised reasonable care in handling the bags of grain near the child.

Damages (Injuries)

A plaintiff in a negligence case must prove a legally recognized harm, usually in the form of physical injury to a person or to property. It is not enough that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care. The failure to exercise reasonable care must result in actual damages to a person to whom the defendant owed a duty of care.

Causation

Under traditional rules in negligence cases, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions actually caused the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, but for the defendant’s actions or inaction, the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred. The child injured by the defendant who tossed a bag of grain could prove this element by showing that but for the defendant’s negligent act of errantly tossing the grain, the child would not have suffered harm.

Proximate Cause

A defendant in a negligence case is only responsible for those harms that the defendant could have foreseen through his or her actions. If a defendant has caused damages that are outside of the scope of the risks that the defendant could have foreseen, then the plaintiff cannot prove that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
In the example described above, the child injured by the bag of grain would prove proximate cause by showing that the defendant could have foreseen the harm that would have resulted from the bag striking another human being. Conversely, if the harm is something more remote to the defendant’s act, then the plaintiff would be less likely to prove this element.
Assuming these five elements can be proved, a plaintiff will likely have a successful negligence case.

Injured Due to Negligence?

If you’ve been injured on someone’s property or in a car accident, and you believe it is due to the negligent actions of another, we recommend you at least talk to a personal injury attorney. At Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers, our lawyers have seen numerous types of cases and are experienced in dealing with situations of negligence. Call us at 314.444.4444 anytime.

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