If you or a loved one have been injured at the hands of or by the negligence of another person, you may be feeling overwhelmed. With treatment, medical bills, pain, suffering, and your occupational future hanging in the balance, a personal injury can help you get the justice you deserve and hold others accountable for their actions. A cornerstone to any successful personal injury case is proving that another person’s negligence resulted in your injury. And, like most legal principles, there are certain steps that must be taken in order to successfully prove that the other party was negligent. Without proof of negligence, a personal injury case cannot succeed. The experienced, compassionate team at Territorial Law Attorneys is well-prepared to help you establish this negligence and get you the best possible result.

negligence definition

What is Negligence?

Negligence is one of those terms that most people understand by life experience and common sense, but that holds a different, specific (and possibly confusing) meaning when it comes to the law. Commonly, negligence refers to someone failing to take proper care in doing something. However, legally speaking, the definition of negligence isn’t quite so broad. A cornerstone of an area of law called torts, the legal system defines negligence as “the failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” While the legal definition has similar principles to the general definition, it also sets forth specific elements that must be met and standards that a person must have failed to meet in order for their actions to constitute negligence.

You may also note that the legal definition of negligence discusses “someone of ordinary prudence”. This is just a complicated way to refer to the average person. The definition essentially states that, in order for conduct to be negligent, it must be below the level of care that the average person would consider reasonable.  

How Do You Prove Negligence?

There are four quintessential steps to showing negligence in a court of law: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

A duty of care, or standard of care, refers to the obligation that people have to one another. While people aren’t necessarily responsible for everyone around them, everybody has the duty to act with a certain degree of reasonable caution and good judgement. This element isn’t particularly hard to prove because most of our laws already establish a duty of care. Take traffic laws, for example. If a person violates basic traffic laws, they aren’t meeting their duty of care to the people around them.

A breach of one’s duty of care is the second element that must be proven to show negligence. Once the duty of care has been established, you must also show that the person failed to meet that duty. This would involve, to follow the same example, someone breaking a traffic law, like failing to stop for a crosswalk.

Causation is the third element, and requires that you provide a cause-and-effect link between the person breaching their duty of care and the injury you have suffered as a result. Causation involves proving that by acting in a way that violated their duty of care, a person’s actions was the direct cause of your injury. And this cause cannot be loosely related, it must be fairly direct. To re-visit the example once again, if a person breached their duty to follow basic traffic laws and failed to stop for a crosswalk and thus hit you with their car, and that contact resulted in an injury, you have causation.

Damages are the final element that must be established to successfully prove negligence. Once you have shown that a duty was breached and that caused an injury, you need to show that the injury caused you harm and translate that harm into monetary damages. You will need to show the different types of harm you have suffered (medical bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, pain and suffering, etc.) and how much each harm is valued at. To finish out that previous example, you and your attorney will need to show that your injury may have amounted in $10,000 in medical bills, $5,000 in lost wages, and $5,000 in pain and suffering, allowing creating convincing case that you should be awarded $20,000 for the person’s negligence.

An Established Law Firm Advocating for the Injured in Yuma, San Luiz, Somerton, and Beyond for Over 60 Years.

Having been in practice since 1983 and with over $26 million awarded to our clients, the team Territorial Law has a deep, thorough understanding of negligence and is well prepared to meet all your personal injury case needs. We practice client-centered legal services and our skilled, experienced team of attorneys will guide you through every step of your case, helping you achieve the best possible result. Let us start fighting for you today. Your first consultation is free and, as always, confidential!