What Are the Elements of Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim?

Published on Jun 18, 2024 at 7:27 pm in Personal Injury.

What are the elements of negligence in a personal injury claimA lot of personal injury claims can become quite complex early on in the process and one of the main reasons for this is the need to prove negligence. Proving negligence caused an accident can be the deciding factor in the success of some cases, such as in a wrongful death claim, or if the insurance company of the at-fault party doesn’t want to pay out for damages.

But what are the elements of negligence in a personal injury claim? Read on to find out what our legal team at Peterson Law Office has to say about what negligence is and how it can be proven with legal help.

Proving the Four Elements of Negligence

Negligence is best defined as a failure to behave responsibly or reasonably to prevent foreseeable harm to others. In a legal situation, any negligent party whose careless actions cause harm or injury to another person can be held liable for that resulting harm. Proving negligence is necessary for a wide variety of personal injury claims, especially those arising from accidents or injuries.

To prove negligence in your personal injury case, you and your lawyer must have evidence of all four of these elements:

1. Duty of Care

Duty of care is what it sounds like: a duty or a responsibility to maintain or take care of something or someone. In the context of a personal injury claim, it refers to the legal responsibility to keep others around us safe by avoiding actions or behaviors that could lead to the harm of others.

Examples of this would be:

  • An employer: They have a duty to keep their employees safe by providing the necessary safety equipment and keeping up the proper health and safety protocols.
  • Medical professional: A doctor and anyone else on a medical team has a duty to perform the necessary medical procedure and give patients the care that they need.
  • Drivers: Anyone who operates a motor vehicle has the duty to protect others while they are behind the wheel by following road laws and driving safely.

Once this connection or relationship between you and the at-fault party has been proven and that they, therefore, owed you a duty of care, you and your lawyer can move forward to the next element.

2. Breach of Duty of Care

A breach of duty is when an individual or organization fails to uphold the duty of care, resulting in harm to another person or a person’s property. Essentially, it means that the expected standard of care was not met, such as:

To prove that a breach of duty occurred in a negligence claim, your attorney must find proof that the actions of the at-fault party fell below the expected standard of care for the situation. It’s important to understand that the standard is different in every situation.

3. Causation

Proving that the at-fault party’s actions caused your injury is the next element that you and your lawyer will have to prove. This means having the evidence to back up your claim, such as photographs, videos, signed witness statements, cellphone records, etc. Anything that can prove that the way the at-fault party acted directly caused your harm.

Another important aspect of causation is determining if the at-fault party could have reasonably foreseen that their actions would cause harm or injury to someone else. If adverse weather or some other unforeseeable event played a major role in the at-fault party’s actions that led to your accident, the at-fault party may not be held liable.

4. Damages

The final element of negligence is damages, that is, a list of the damages that you, as the victim, have suffered. In most personal injury claims, plaintiffs claim the following:

  • Economic (financial): Generally, these damages are any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of your accident and injuries. Essentially, anything that can be easily quantifiable, such as medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage, etc.
  • Non-Economic (non-financial): Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are those that are usually more difficult to monetize but are still equally as important to your claim. Those could be pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium or companionship, loss of quality of life, etc.
  • Punitive: These damages are more uncommon than the other two and are designed specifically to punish the at-fault party. Punitive damages are generally awarded in cases where the at-fault party’s actions were particularly reckless.

In a successful negligence lawsuit, it’s possible that the plaintiff (you) can potentially recover all three types of damages, depending on the circumstances of your specific claim.

It’s important to remember that all four of these elements must be present and proven for a successful negligence claim. And it is equally as important to understand that Kentucky follows pure comparative negligence laws. This means that even if the other party’s actions caused your accident, you may be held partly at fault, and the compensation you might receive will be lessened by the percentage of fault you have, per Kentucky Statute 411.182.

However, you can still pursue legal action against another party, even if you are found to be partially at fault. A qualified personal injury attorney can answer any questions or go over the details of your case. Here at Peterson Law Office, our initial consultations are free.

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