What Does Negligence Really Encompass?

Negligence is among the most essential concepts used in personal injury cases. In fact, it is so crucial that most of the effort put forth by lawyers in personal injury lawsuits involves verifying that the defendant’s behavior was a case of negligence. If a plaintiff and his or her attorney fail to prove that negligence occurred, their personal injury case will not succeed. So, what does negligence really encompass in an injury claim, and how do lawyers establish its existence? This article will discuss the legal definition of negligence and the basic elements that an attorney needs to provide to show that a defendant acted negligently.

The Legal Definition of Negligence

The US legal system defines negligence as the failure to exercise the degree of care that a person of ordinary good sense would have exercised in the same or a similar situation. Negligent behavior most often consists of an action, but can also consist of an omission when a person has a duty to act, for instance, to help victims of the person’s earlier conduct, as when a driver flees the scene of an accident where someone was injured, instead of trying to help the victim.

The Five Components of Negligence

In order to hold another individual accountable for their negligent behavior, a plaintiff in a personal injury case has to prove that the following five components of negligence were present:

  • Duty of care: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care so as not to cause harm to the plaintiff or other people
  • Breach of duty: the defendant’s violation of such care caused injury to the plaintiff or to a family member
  • Cause in fact: a connection exists between the negligent or harmful action that occurred and the negative outcome that the plaintiff suffered
  • Proximate cause: a direct link exists between the defendant’s negligent action and the injury that that action caused
  • Harm: the plaintiff suffered injury, loss, or other expenses due to the defendant’s negligence.

Understanding these five elements will provide clarity in the case as the plaintiff proceeds with filing and pursuing a civil action against the defendant.

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