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In personal injury cases, the plaintiff tries to prove that the defendant is responsible for causing the injuries. To do this, it must be proven that the defendant was negligent. If you are in the process of beginning a personal injury lawsuit, you should always hire a lawyer. Your attorney will be able to answer all your questions. This simple guide, however, will go over the basics of negligence to give you a good initial idea of whether or not you have a case.
What Makes an Action Negligent?
Essentially, there are two key attributes that determine whether or not any action is negligent. First, the action must fall short of what is considered reasonable. This is a subjective concept, which is what makes it difficult to prove. Basically, it needs to be shown that an average person would expect someone not to act in the way the defendant acted.
Second, the action needs to have caused harm to be legally negligent. Unreasonable actions that do not cause harm directly are not considered negligent. You may be thinking that this is much easier to prove. It is objective that an injury was sustained, right? It may be objective that someone was injured, but it may be more subjective that the injury was the direct result of the defendant’s action or inaction.
The Four Components of Negligence
That is the basics of negligence, but the law uses four components to define negligence that are a little more detailed than that. Legally, an action is only negligent if it involves:
- Duty – The defendant must have some duty to take or not take some action. Employers are duty-bound to create a safe working environment. Citizens are duty-bound not to drive drunk. Even if inaction caused an injury, the defendant must have some duty to take that action.
- Breach – This component is closely tied to the first. Breach is essentially the defendant failing to meet his or her duty. Drinking drunk is a breach of the duty not to drive drunk. It really is that simple.
- Causation – The breach of duty must be shown to be the causation of the injury. Even if the defendant breached his or her duty, if it is unrelated to the injury, then there was no negligence.
- Damage – The victim must have sustained some form of damage from the breach of duty. Even if a breach of duty caused an injury, if no medical treatment was needed and there was no loss of ability and there were no other forms of damage, then the action was not negligent.