At the core of personal injury law is the legal principle of negligence. Negligence must be proved to find that someone is responsible for the damages or injuries caused in an accident, and contains four basic elements:
The first element that must be proved is that the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances of the accident. Legal duties can also be thought of as our civic responsibilities, such as the responsibility of a driver to be sober, alert, and cautious. Another example would be the duty that businesses have to maintain safe walkways for customers and safe working conditions for employees.
The second element is that the defendant failed to perform their duty as a responsible person would. This is known as a “breach of duty” and can be either acting irresponsibly or neglecting to act at all. In the example of a driver on the roads, a breach of duty would be choosing to driving while intoxicated or while distracted.
The third element to prove in court is that the defendant’s breach of duty, their failure to perform as expected by them in their role, was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injury. This means that someone cannot be sued just for driving under the influence by a person who merely watched them get into an accident. Another aspect of this element is that the defendant must have been able to reasonably see that their actions would have caused damages to the plaintiff. A defendant will likely not be found negligent if plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a random and unexpected chain of consequences.
The final element of proving negligence is the existence of damages. It is crucial that the damages caused by the defendant’s breach of duty be real, and that plaintiff can be compensated for these damages. The court will usually rule that for the defendant to pay compensation to the plaintiff for the injuries, but other forms of compensation can also be requested depending on the case.
Though the concept of negligence is simple, its application in the courtroom is far more complicated. Without the assistance of a skilled Dekalb County personal injury attorney, getting the outcome you need can be near impossible. If you find yourself in an accident where you believe another person was negligent, take your case to an experienced attorney and trust in them to put together a solid case, and ensure that you are fully compensated for the negligent actions of others.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch P.C. for their insight into negligence.