What Does Negligence Mean

A Top Personal Injury Lawyer Explains

You have most probably heard of the term negligence being used in personal injury cases and you might be wondering what this word really means. In order to understand negligence better, let’s talk a bit about personal injury law.

Personal injury law generally covers a huge variety of accidental injuries like slip and falls, injuries suffered in car accidents, medical malpractice, faulty products, and so much more. There are, however, two things that bring together all these different fields: negligence and damages.

Damages (at least economic ones) are relatively easy to evaluate, but determining negligence is more complex. First, we have to establish exactly what negligence entails.

Negligence is comprised of five major aspects that your personal injury lawyer needs to prove in order for your negligence claim to be successful:

  • The injured individual must prove that the at-fault party owed them a duty of care;
  • It must be proved that the at-fault party failed to uphold the standard of care;
  • The victim was injured;
  • The defendant’s breach of duty of care caused the injury; and
  • There were damages, such as medical bills and lost wages, incurred in the incident.

Let us now take a more detailed look into these five aspects.

Duty of care

A duty of care is a “legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.” It is the first and most fundamental element that must be established in a personal injury claim.

Good examples of relationships that involve duty of care include consumer and manufacturer, patient and doctor, employee and employer, citizen and government, etc. Drivers have a duty of care to all those that they share the road with, including passengers, fellow drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Standard of care

Once it has been determined that duty of care exists, the next step is to prove that the supposed party at fault failed to uphold that duty. This process involves two aspects: establishment of the nature of the standard of care, and the supposed at-fault party’s failure to uphold this established standard of care.

Examples of standards of care include obeying traffic laws when driving, and abiding by boating rules and regulations. After establishing the standard of care, proof is needed to show that the supposed negligent party fell below these standards; for instance, proving that the driver was speeding prior to the crash.

Causation

After showing a duty of care and proof of violation of the standard of care, the next step is to show that the violation in question indeed caused the damage. At times, causation is obvious but at times hard to prove.

For instance, in medical malpractice, it is at times hard to determine if the underlying medical condition is the cause of the patient’s suffering, if it was a poorly conducted medical procedure which fell below the standards of care, or if the medical practitioner has any liability.

Proximity

The link between the injury and its cause should not be too remote. Courts don’t want lawsuits to succeed where the injury’s cause is quite remote from the final outcome. for example, a pedestrian is hit by a drunk driver making his way home from a bar. Even though the pedestrian has an obvious claim against the car driver, he/she might also pin blame on the owner of the bar for serving the drunk driver.

Damages

The last step is to determine the damages suffered. It should be proven that the supposed negligent person’s behavior that fell below the standard of care caused the victim to suffer real pain. The damages could be physical, psychological, emotional, or even financial.

In case you or your loved one has suffered any injuries due to the negligence of another person, you need to seek legal advice to pursue the compensation you are entitled to for your negligence claim. Hiring a personal injury lawyer would go a long way in getting you a fair settlement offer.

Last Updated: 03-24-2017