What is Negligence?

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on August 10, 2017  in Personal Injury News. Updated on February 24, 2022

legal paperwork and gavelVirtually every personal injury lawsuit requires proving that someone else was legally at fault for your injuries and damages. Often this requires showing that the individual or entity was negligent.

Negligence is generally synonymous with carelessness. It occurs when someone fails to act as a reasonable person would in similar circumstances.
For example, negligence often arises in the context of failing to follow basic traffic laws, such as adhering to stop signs and driving the speed limit. A reasonable person would follow the necessary traffic laws, and thus, likely would not cause an accident.

Unfortunately, negligence is not always clear-cut. Our qualified New Jersey personal injury attorneys can guide you through the following four elements of negligence and help build a case on your behalf.

The Four Elements of Negligence

Proving negligence requires that you provide evidence of these four required elements:

1. Duty of Care

You must demonstrate that the wrongdoer had a duty to act with reasonable care to avoid injuries to other people. While the responsibilities of this obligation may depend on the situation, the result is the same—preventing harm to others.

For example, all motorists have a responsibility to avoid hitting other vehicles every time they get in the car. This legal obligation includes following traffic signals and basic rules of the road.

The duty of care extends beyond simply driving, however. It also includes your relationship with virtually everyone. It may include ensuring a property is safe for visitors, making sure a worker carries out his or her duties, or fulfilling specific standards based on the requirements of the medical community.

The duty of care can arise in a broad range of circumstances.

2. A Breach of Duty of Care

Once you show that the wrongdoer had a duty of care to avoid causing you harm, you must next prove that the duty was breached.

In the driving context, you not only must prove that the driver had a duty to stop at the stop sign, but also that they did not stop. In a premises liability case, you would have to show not only that the property owner had a duty to maintain the property, but that he or she did not properly carry out this responsibility.

This “breach” is critical to show that negligence occurred.

3. Causation

You must also show that the violation of the duty of care caused some injury or damage. Someone may have run a stop sign, but if that action did not actually cause any harm, then the wrongdoer cannot be liable.

This requirement is sometimes a high hurdle, depending on the type of injury. For example, imagine that you have a chronic back condition and get into a car accident. The accident seems to have made your back injury worse, and you have to have surgery. Your doctor will have to indicate that it was your car accident and not your previous back injury that caused the need for the operation.

4. Injury and Damages

Lastly, you must show that some injury and damage occurred. The purpose of a personal injury case is to put you back in the place where you were before the accident took place, whether that involves paying medical bills or providing lost wages.

However, if you have no measurable losses, there is nothing to compensate. You must have some kind of injury, whether physical or financial, to have a viable claim for negligence.

Getting Legal Help

Proving negligence can be tricky, but it is absolutely vital to your personal injury claim. Having an attorney on your side to help you develop your case can help you obtain compensation for your losses.

We can also help protect you against allegations of comparative negligence, which could limit your compensation award.

Schedule an appointment with a member of our team today to discuss your legal options after an accident. We work on contingency and will not charge any fees unless we obtain compensation for you.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation form today.

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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