Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
October 26, 2020
While it may seem obvious that an injury victim and their skilled Orange County personal injury attorney need to prove negligence in order to recover compensation, this is not as simple of a concept as it may seem. “Negligence” is an entire legal theory and must be proven before a person or company can be held legally responsible for causing harm to somebody else. Proving negligence is required in most personal injury cases, such as vehicle accidents and slip and fall incidents. There are four elements of negligence you need to be aware of.
The first step in these cases is to show that the injury victim (the plaintiff) was owed a duty of care by the alleged negligent party (the defendant). A duty of care will look different depending on the type of relationship there is between the parties involved. For example, a defendant may owe the plaintiff a duty of care to act with reasonable care in a given situation. This is the case when one is expected to operate a vehicle safely and with a certain level of responsible care in order to keep others around them safe. In some cases, a legal duty of care exists between a plaintiff in a defendant, such as if there was a doctor-patient relationship established between the plaintiff and the defendant.
2. Breach of duty
After a duty of care has been established, it needs to be proven that the defendant somehow breached their duty of care by doing something (or by not doing something) that a “reasonably prudent individual” would do under similar circumstances. Generally, the defendant will likely be found negligent if the average person, with the same knowledge the defendant had at the time, would have known that their actions or inaction would have resulted in an injury.
After a breach of duty has been established, it needs to be proven that the actions of the defendant actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Just because someone has acted negligently does not necessarily mean that their negligence caused the injury in the case.
The final element in a negligence case is damages. This requires proving that the plaintiff sustained some type of injury or loss that can be monetarily compensated. This can include medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering damages, lost income, and more.
How Does This Impact a Personal Injury Case?
Put simply, not being able to prove negligence will likely result in the injury victims being unable to recover the compensation they deserve. That is why it is crucial to work with a skilled personal injury lawyer who can help prove the four elements discussed above to an insurance carrier or a jury. These cases often require extensive resources in order to obtain:
- Photographs from the accident
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Video surveillance footage of the incident
- Any past negligence history of the defendant
- Medical records
In the absence of negligence, a personal injury case will likely be dismissed by a judge or jury. An attorney can use the resources to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the case and leave no stone unturned in order to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.