What Are the Elements of Negligence?
Most personal injury cases are caused by negligence rather than intentional acts. Negligence is a way of saying that even though the defendant’s actions caused harm to someone else, they were accidental. It is for situations where there is a duty to take reasonable care in order to prevent harm to others. The most common example of negligence lawsuits is motor vehicle accidents.
Types of Negligence Lawsuits
Many different types of lawsuits have negligence at the heart of their claim. It covers any incident that was caused by the carelessness of another party. Common types of negligence claims include:
- Elder abuse
- Workplace accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Premise liability
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
The Legal Elements of Negligence
The plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that the defendant was negligent and that negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In order to do this, the plaintiff must provide evidence to satisfy all of the legal elements of negligence. Legal elements are a bit like a checklist of things that must be present in order to successfully make a claim.
There are four legal elements of negligence:
- Breach of Duty
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and anyone else in the plaintiff’s position. If we look at a motor vehicle accident, for example, all road users have a duty of care to other road users to exercise reasonable care in order to prevent accidents. In order for the defendant to be found negligent, they must have a duty of care to the plaintiff.
The next step is to prove that the defendant breached that duty through either action or a lack of action. This could mean the plaintiff is accusing the defendant of negligence because they made an illegal turn or because they failed to stop at a red light.
By proving the two preceding elements of negligence, the plaintiff has shown that the defendant was negligent. The next step is to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused harm to the plaintiff. In the example of a car accident, this would show that the defendant’s negligence caused the car accident. This is quite simple causation, but in other cases, the causation may not be as immediate as a driver failing to stop at a red light and therefore causing a car accident. It might be a truck driver not securing its load properly and when the driver hit a bump in the road, the wood they were carrying fell and hit the plaintiff’s car.
The final element of negligence is damages. The point of a negligence lawsuit is to claim compensation for the plaintiff’s damages. If there are no damages as a result of the accident, then the defendant cannot be sued for negligence. The plaintiff must present evidence of the damages they sustained, like payslips for a period of lost wages, medical bills, repair bills for the car, and even expert testimony to prove future medical bills.
What Compensation Can I Claim In a Negligence Lawsuit?
There is no simple formula for figuring out how much compensation you may be due in a negligence lawsuit. This is because a number of factors can affect how much you can claim.
Firstly, you will only receive compensation if you can successfully prove negligence and show proof of your damages. That is to say; you need to win the lawsuit in order to get any kind of compensation.
In most cases, you will at least get compensation for any bills you have gotten as a result of the accident. Keep all medical bills, charges for ambulance rides, and repair bills as well as receipts for car rentals while your vehicle is being repaired. If in doubt as to whether you can claim something in a lawsuit, keep the receipt. Your attorney will be able to look through the receipts and tell you what you can and cannot claim. Keep a folder where all these invoices, bills, and receipts are kept. In some cases, you may not receive the full amount of these damages if you were partially at fault for the accident. The court will listen to both parties and assign each party a percentage of fault for the accident. Your percentage of fault will be deducted from your compensation total so that the defendant is only paying for their share of the blame.
In addition to tangible damages (anything you have a receipt for) you may be able to claim additional damages. These are things like pain and suffering (for serious injuries), emotional distress, loss of opportunity, etc. If your injuries will affect you for the rest of your life, you can also claim future medical costs and things like lost capacity of earning if it will impact your ability to work. In negligence claims, it is best to hire a personal injury attorney with experience in cases like yours. They will be able to look at your claim and determine if they can successfully prove negligence and quote you a ballpark figure for what compensation you can claim.
How Long Does a Negligence Claim Take?
It can be stressful to be in hospital or at home recovering from injuries and unable to work to pay for your needs and those medical bills. Unfortunately, a negligence claim can take a while, and you may not see compensation for over a year.
The best thing you can do to speed up your negligence claim is to hire an attorney as soon as possible. They can start the paperwork and begin collecting evidence while it is still fresh. The accident is still clear in the minds of witnesses, and CCTV footage can be recovered easily. Even when you act immediately after an accident, a negligence claim can still drag on. Both sides have time to collect evidence and file motions before a trial, and trial dates are based on court’s availability. This is why the timeline can vary a lot for negligence cases. We have had negligence cases resolved in a manner of months and other ones that have stretched on for well over a year.