Negligence is defined as, “the failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care that puts another person at risk”. Negligence is a foundational part of most personal injury cases because oftentimes the injury resulted from another’s negligence.
Negligence can occur in cases involving car accidents, injuries caused in a place of business, workplace injury, and more. Negligence cases involve four basic elements that prove whether or not a person acted negligently:
- Duty: Did the defendant have a legal duty to prevent the action that led to the injury?
- Breach: Did the defendant breach that duty by failing to act in a certain way?
- Causation: Did the defendant’s actions actually cause the injury?
- Damages: Was the injury victim harmed as a result of the defendant’s actions?
Each of these elements must be proven before a case can be settled. Ultimately, your attorney must prove the defendant was at fault before you will see any compensation from your case. This step often requires extensive fact-gathering and evidence discovery regarding every moment during the original accident.
There are also two different types of negligence: criminal negligence and civil negligence. While negligence is usually not a crime, it can be considered criminal negligence under the right circumstances.
The circumstances that prove criminal negligence are similar to the circumstances that determine civil negligence, except the deviation from the standard of care is far greater than in civil cases- essentially, the defendant must have exhibited a gross deviation from the standard of care.
For example, in an auto accident, civil negligence may result from a car accident involving two drivers who tried and failed to maintain control of the vehicle- if a driver was distracted and rear-ended the person in front of them, that could be considered civil negligence because they failed to maintain a reasonable standard of care. However, an auto accident injury case could involve criminal negligence if the driver at fault was intoxicated and seriously harmed the other driver.
Civil negligence claims are made by the injured person, while criminal negligence cases are issued by the government. Civil negligence is more common than criminal, but criminal negligence is much more severe and generally has much more damaging consequences.
If you can’t prove fault or negligence in your personal injury case, you will not recover monetary damages, and you will be responsible for your medical expenses without financial assistance from the person that injured you. Negligence can be a slippery term because it relies on such qualitative factors like a “gross deviation from a standard of care” - there isn’t always a framework in place to identify the parameters around a reasonable standard of care, which is why negligence cases can be complicated, costly, and uncertain.
The injured person’s attorney’s job is to prove the defendant was negligent. While this often happens prior to trial, some cases go to a jury trial because there is a question as to whether the defendant was negligent. Experienced personal injury attorneys are not afraid of taking a negligence disagreement in front of a jury. They don’t walk away from the battle.