In terms of legal claims, the word negligence refers to a person’s failure to use reasonable care that results in damage or injury to another. A court will determine what reasonable care means by comparing the defendant’s actions against those found in similar situations.
Since negligence is one of the primary types of violations found in tort law, cases often involve actions for personal injury claims.
Briefly, the two other main areas of tort law include: intentional torts (i.e., where a defendant acted intentionally to cause a plaintiff’s injuries); and strict liability (i.e., a defendant is found strictly liable based on their actions rather than their intentions).
When an action for negligence arises, the plaintiff is responsible for proving that the defendant was negligent. There are four key factors that a plaintiff must show in order to prove that a defendant was negligent.
How Do You Prove Negligence?
As previously mentioned, negligence is proven by analyzing the following four elements or factors, which includes:
- Duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant had a specific duty that they owed to them. In cases where a professional or business person is the defendant, it will usually involve assessing different standards of professional conduct, duties to ensure customer safety, and so on.
- Breach: After the plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant owed them a duty of reasonable care, they must then prove that the defendant breached that duty that they owed to the plaintiff. This is usually done by analyzing whether the defendant was able to foresee any possible risks that could impact the victim’s safety or health.
- Causation: Under the causation element, the defendant’s breach must be both the actual and immediate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant’s liability may be reduced if there were other factors present that also led to the victim’s injuries.
- Damages: The plaintiff must be able to measure the damages that they suffered, which means that they must be able to quantify them into an actual, verifiable amount. For example, if a plaintiff is injured during a surgery, they must be able to show the amount of damages that will be necessary to fix the injury.
It is also important to remember that a defendant may have various defenses available to them to reduce or preclude a plaintiff’s claim for negligence.
Defenses to negligence frequently involve specific defenses, such as contributory negligence or comparative negligence. This occurs when a defendant’s liability is reduced because the plaintiff was also responsible and contributed to their own injury due to negligence found on their own part.
What Does Gross Negligence Mean?
Negligence may be categorized as gross negligence when a defendant’s actions rise to a level that is more serious than what is found in an ordinary negligence case.
For example, if a person acted in a very dangerous way that they knew would have caused harm to the plaintiff, then they may be held liable for gross negligence.
The difference between negligence and what is considered gross negligence is often an extremely hard distinction to make.
For instance, an action for negligence may result when a defendant is caught speeding in a pedestrian zone. If the defendant was traveling at a rate of 65mph in only a 25mph zone, however, then it could be considered gross negligence due to the excessive rate of speed they were going.
It is not clear when the distinction between negligence and gross negligence might occur. These types of decisions will often vary depending on the facts of a case and also, according to the laws of a specific state or jurisdiction.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Claims Involving Negligence?
As previously discussed, the damages for a negligence case can vary depending on the facts of a case, whether a defendant had any defenses available to them, and according to the laws of each state. Thus, they usually require an in-depth analysis and serious discussion of different legal theories. These are often some of the reasons why negligence cases are so complicated.
Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant to a case involving negligence, you should strongly consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to help with the claims.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to provide further legal advice about your matter, determine whether any defenses are available, predict what damages you could receive or whether they will be reduced, and can act as your legal representative during settlement negotiations or in court if necessary.
Additionally, be sure to hire a personal injury lawyer that is local to your area. This way they should be familiar with the laws relating to your case, will be convenient for you to travel to for meetings about your matter, and so that they will also be able to represent you in the court found in your particular jurisdiction.