Real trial lawyers with a
passion for helping people
50+ years combined experience No fees unless we recover for you
Request free consultation

What are the Elements of Negligence?

request free consultation
Posted By Legal Team | June 25 2024 | Personal Injury

When an individual, company, government entity, or any other third party causes harm to someone else, victims are often able to recover compensation for their losses by filing an injury claim. However, injury victims have to prove that the alleged negligent party did indeed cause the injury, and doing this involves establishing four separate elements of negligence.

Duty of Care – Who Owes Who What?

The first element of negligence is the duty of care. This duty of care requires individuals to act reasonably to avoid harming others in a given situation. The standard of care is measured by what a reasonable individual would do in similar situations, but can vary depending on the relationship between the parties and the context of the situation.

For example:

  • Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely, in accordance with traffic laws, to protect other road users and avoid a serious car accident.
  • Doctors have a duty to provide adequate medical care to patients that meets established professional standards.
  • Property owners must ensure their premises are safe for anyone who has the right to be there.

In some cases, the duty of care is defined by specific laws or regulations. For instance, building codes establish safety standards that property owners must follow.

Breach of Duty – How Did Things Go Wrong?

Once the duty of care is established, the injury victim and their St. Petersburg personal injury attorney must show that the defendant breached this duty. A breach occurs when the defendant’s actions fall below the standard of care expected in the situation. This can involve either doing something that a reasonably prudent person wouldn’t do or failing to perform an action that a reasonably prudent person would do.

Examples of breach of duty include:

  • A driver running a red light, thereby endangering other drivers and pedestrians.
  • A doctor misdiagnosing a condition due to negligence, leading to improper treatment and a medical malpractice case.
  • A store owner failing to clean up a spill, causing a patron to slip and fall.

To prove a breach of duty, the plaintiff often relies on evidence such as eyewitness testimony, expert opinions, and documentation of the incident.

Causation – Did the Breach Cause the Injuries?

The third element of negligence is causation, which links the negligent party’s breach of duty to the plaintiff’s injuries. There are two types of causation that must be proven: actual cause and proximate cause.

  • Actual cause, sometimes called the “but-for” causation, means that the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions.
  • Proximate cause addresses whether the defendant’s actions are closely related enough to the harm to hold them legally responsible. This often involves assessing whether the harm was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.

For instance, if a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian, causing injury, the driver’s action is both the actual and proximate cause of the pedestrian’s injuries. However, if an unforeseeable event intervenes and causes the harm, the defendant may not be liable.

Damages – What Are The Proven Losses?

The final element in a negligence claim is damages. The plaintiff must show that they suffered harm or injury as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. Compensatory damages can be economic, such as medical expenses and lost wages, or non-economic, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Types of damages include:

  • Medical expenses. Costs for treatment, medication, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages. Income lost due to the inability to work as a result of the injury.
  • Property damage. Costs to repair or replace damaged property.
  • Pain and suffering. Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress.

Free Consultation

  • *required fields
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.