What is Negligence?

Negligence is an unintentional tort, as opposed to an intentional tort, such as assault or battery.  A tort, in layman’s terms, is the basis for holding someone legally responsible (liable) due to their wrongful act that causes you to suffer a loss or harm.  The purpose of a personal injury claim based upon a negligence private (civil) claim aimed to recover damages (most commonly money) for the harm you’ve been caused.  Contrast this with criminal law, where the State accuses citizens of criminal acts and seeks to punish their wrongdoings.

Negligence claims take many forms:

  • Auto Accident
  • Truck Accident
  • Slip and Fall
  • Dog Bite
  • Wrongful Death
  • Product Liability (defective product)

Elements of a Negligence Claim

In order to prevail in a negligence lawsuit, the Plaintiff (injured party) must prove the following 4 elements in order to establish that the Defendant (person who committed the wrongful act) is responsible for the loss or harm:

  • DUTY: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff.

First, the court looks to whether or not the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care.   In some circumstances this may be established based upon the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant — for instance, a doctor owes a patient a legal duty to provide him or her with competent medical care. Or, the defendant may owe the plaintiff a legal duty to act with reasonable care in a certain situation — such as when operating a motor vehicle or after discovering a known danger.

  • BREACH: The defendant breached their legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way.

Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to uphold their duty of care.  This is examined objectively – meaning the court will analyze the defendant’s actions (or failure to act) through the lens of a “reasonable, prudent person” under the same circumstances.  To put differently, the defendant breaches their duty of care when their actions differ from those of an average person under the same circumstances.

  • CAUSATION: It was the defendant’s actions (or failure to act) that caused the plaintiff’s damages.

Third, the plaintiff has to prove that it was the defendant’s actions (or inaction) that caused their injury, as opposed to something or someone else beyond the defendant’s control.  This has two sub-elements: Direct and Proximate cause.  Direct cause means that the plaintiff’s injuries or loss would not have happened, but for the defendant’s actions or inactions.  Proximate cause means that the defendant must be able to reasonable foresee that their actions or inactions might cause the plaintiff’s injuries.  Rather than from a serious of random, unrelated or unexpected natural events.

  • DAMAGES: The plaintiff has suffered a quantifiable harm or loss as a result of the defendant’s actions.

Finally, the court must be able to compensate the plaintiff for their injury or loss.  This is usually accomplished through monetary compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, repair bill and pain and suffering.

The Attorneys at Sieben & Cotter Can Help You with your Negligence Claim

If you or a loved one was injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a claim worth pursuing.  We can help you receive the just compensation that you deserve.  At Sieben & Cotter, we will provide your case with our full personal attention.

Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.