How to Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim
May 18, 2017
An injury caused by another’s negligence can impose a serious burden on your life by building up expensive medical bills and causing disruption to your daily activities.
In order to pursue legal action against the at-fault individual for compensation for your loss and suffering, you will need to prove his or her negligence caused your injury.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is a term used to define a person or party’s disregard for the safety and well-being of others by acting carelessly or recklessly.
This is an important factor in establishing a legal case against a party who has caused others a great deal of pain and suffering, such as in a medical malpractice or car accident claim.
There are four elements that must be present in order for a victim (plaintiff) to prove the at-fault party’s (defendant) liability in a personal injury claim.
When bringing a negligence claim, the first step you must take is to determine whether the defendant owed you a legal duty of care.
In claims involving negligence, the defendant has a legal obligation to ensure your safety and the well-being of others.
This could refer to a legal obligation that a motorist would have to drive safely and within the state’s traffic laws. A motorist’s duty is to ensure the safety of all others sharing the roadway and to refrain from behavior that would cause a traffic collision.
The defendant’s duty could also be a professional obligation that he or she had to the plaintiff, such as a doctor-patient relationship.
In a medical malpractice claim, the doctor’s duty would have been to provide the patient with competent and high-quality care that reflects the standards held by the medical community.
Breach of Duty
Once you establish the defendant had an obligation to ensure your safety, you must prove that he or she breached this duty.
A breach of duty is considered any action that does not reflect the behavior or decisions a reasonably prudent person would make under similar circumstances.
A reasonably prudent person is a legal term that refers to an individual who acts responsibly and with regard for the safety of others.
Proving that the defendant breached his or her duty would require you to show that a reasonable person, given what the defendant knew at the time, would have behaved differently and reached an outcome that would not have caused your injury.
A motorist, for instance, has an obligation to drive in a manner that would ensure the safety of everyone sharing the roadway. The motorist can breach this duty by driving recklessly like being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In a negligence claim, it is not enough to show that the defendant breached his or her duty to ensure the safety of others. You must definitively prove that your injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence.
Proving causation will require you to produce evidence that shows the defendant’s actions or inactions caused your injury. In civil claims, there are two types of causations:
Cause in Fact
A cause, in fact, occurs if the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred had the defendant’s actions not caused it.
This means the defendant’s actions were a direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A scenario in which a cause in fact injury occurs would be when a motorist runs a stop sign and strikes a cyclist crossing the street.
The defendant’s actions directly injured the cyclist, who would have remained unharmed had the defendant stopped.
Proximate cause occurs when the plaintiff’s injury was an obvious and foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions leading up to the accident.
Proximate cause is also referred to as “but for causation” because it means that although a particular breach may not have directly caused your injury, it would not have occurred had the defendant not breached his or her duty.
An example of proximate causation can occur when a property owner neglects to fix a broken sidewalk and a pedestrian trips and falls on the pavement.
Although the property owner did not cause the pedestrian to trip and fall, he or she would not have been injured had the property owner not breached his or her duty of maintaining the sidewalk.
In the final step for proving negligence, you must show that the defendant’s breach of duty resulted in you suffering actual damages.
Actual damages include any expenses directly related to the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care. This can include medical expenses from treating your injury or damages to your personal property, such as vehicle repair costs.
In order to file a personal injury claim, you must be able to list a monetary value the court can use to compensate your physical injury or financial loss. Because of this, you will need to prove the defendant’s negligence caused you to suffer financial despair.
Proving negligence is not always straightforward and can become complicated when you attempt to build a case that supports your claim.
Our Phoenix personal injury attorneys have decades of combined experience in representing victims of negligence and understand the fundamentals needed to successfully represent your claim.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation so we can review your claim and determine if you are able to proceed with legal action. We provide all of our services for no upfront cost. The only time we require payment is if we recover damages for your claim.
Call 1-800-706-3000 if you were injured because of another’s negligence.
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