Generally speaking, cases involving negligence issues will often cover a wide range of conduct and activities that can potentially cause a person to suffer economic loss or sustain serious injuries. In other words, the theory of negligence is intended to protect persons from violations or harm that are the result of unintentional conduct, as opposed to intentional behaviors like first-degree murder.
When proving a claim for negligence, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate the following four elements:
- Duty: The plaintiff first must show that the defendant owed them a certain standard of care. In some cases, the level of care that a defendant owed a plaintiff may depend on the relationship between the parties. For instance, a doctor owes a patient a higher standard of care than two friends who were simply playing a game with one another when one of them got injured.
- Breach: The plaintiff will then need to demonstrate that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to them. For example, the plaintiff could submit evidence that a surgeon left medical equipment inside their leg when they underwent knee surgery.
- Causation: The third element that a plaintiff must show in a negligence case is that the defendant was the proximate and actual cause of their injuries or losses. The evidence for this element will be discussed in further detail below.
- Damages: Finally, the plaintiff will have to prove that they suffered some amount of quantifiable damages. For instance, if the defendant broke their arm, then the plaintiff could submit the hospital bill they received when they went to get their arm reset and put into a cast.
Some examples of the types of situations that may lead to a case involving a claim for negligence include the following:
- Injuries from a slip and fall incident;
- Property damage to a motor vehicle involved in an accident;
- Injuries sustained from defective products or warning labels;
- Disputes over medical malpractice issues; and
- Various other harms that can potentially lead to a personal injury lawsuit.
To learn more about negligence claims and the requirements for bringing a personal injury lawsuit in your state, you should speak to a local personal injury attorney for further legal advice.
What are Some Considerations Regarding Evidence in a Negligence Case?
The evidence used to support a claim for negligence may be easier to understand when it is classified in accordance with the four elements of proof for negligence. As such, the evidence can be defined by reviewing the following four categories that were discussed in the previous section:
- Duty: The element of duty requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant owed them a reasonable duty of care. Thus, in many cases, this kind of evidence will usually involve showing the experience and background of a defendant. This helps the plaintiff to determine how much knowledge or education the defendant possessed, which in turn, will dictate the standard of care that they should be held to.
- For instance, in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a particular doctor, the plaintiff could provide evidence of the defendant’s medical license, their medical practice history, and how much experience they had with the plaintiff’s medical condition.
- Breach: The evidence to support the second element of breach in a negligence case can sometimes be difficult to find. Basically, the plaintiff would need to prove that the defendant failed to uphold the standard of care required under the circumstances in the case. This may include eyewitness testimony, depositions, and various statements made by hired expert or professional witnesses. In some cases, the evidence to show breach may also include video footage and/or images.
- Causation: In order to prove the element of causation, the plaintiff would need to submit evidence that the defendant caused them to suffer actual injuries or financial losses. This kind of evidence may be found in the form of any medical reports associated with treatment or doctors’ visits.
- It can also be shown by diagnoses or any other legal documents that would clearly demonstrate the chain of events, such as how an injury happened or how the plaintiff’s property became damaged.
- Damages: To prove the final element of damages, the plaintiff would need to find evidence that contains the exact dollar amounts for how much the injuries or losses inflicted by the defendant cost them financially. This type of evidence typically requires gathering financial documents, such as receipts, hospital bills, the cost of medical treatment, property damage assessments, pay stubs for lost wages, and so forth.
- In other words, this evidence usually consists of any kind of paperwork that would show how much the plaintiff was charged to either fix, replace, or repair the damages done to themselves and/or their property.
As may be clear from the information provided in the above list, the evidence in a negligence case tends to correspond with the elements of proof for negligence. In some situations, the elements of proof for negligence may be more apparent than it is in others. In such cases, the more apparent elements of proof will be easier to support since this will likely make it obvious to the plaintiff what types of evidence they will need to find and submit to the court for proof.
For instance, some elements of proof in negligence cases may already be established at the beginning of trial. This often occurs when a defendant admits or takes blame for causing any of the elements. In such a scenario, the remainder of proof that a plaintiff will need to focus on finding will involve any of the elements that a defendant did not admit to or are not as obvious as the others. Thus, they would focus on gathering evidence for the elements lacking support.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Finding Evidence in a Negligence Case?
In general, it is very important that you collect enough evidence to support a claim for negligence. The evidence that you gather will not only help to prove each of the elements in a negligence case, but will also likely dictate the outcome of your overall lawsuit. Thus, if you are involved in a dispute over a negligence issue, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced personal injury attorney can assist you in finding enough evidence to support your claim for negligence and can even provide advice on the types of evidence that you should collect in order to build a strong case. Your attorney can also help you resolve any evidence-related issues, such as if there is a dispute over the evidence being used in your negligence case.
In addition, your attorney will be able to offer a number of other essential legal services like drafting legal documents that are necessary for your case, conducting legal research about the negligence facts and legal issues in your claim, and preparing the evidence in the manner that is considered proper for the purposes of going to trial. Most importantly, your attorney can provide legal representation in court and can negotiate settlement agreements on your behalf.
As discussed above, the rules of evidence tend to vary widely from state to state. This can be extremely frustrating to figure out without getting further legal guidance from a personal injury attorney in your area who will certainly be able to inform you of the state and local evidence requirements implemented in the county where you reside.
At the very least, your attorney can serve as an invaluable resource if you need information or have questions and concerns regarding evidence-related issues that may affect the outcome of your negligence case.