Negligence In Civil Lawsuits
If you've been injured or harmed and are asking yourself whether you need a personal injury lawyer, you may have come across the word “negligence” in your search. A significant amount of personal injury lawsuits come down to the issue of negligence, or whether or not the driver, business manager, or person that harmed you was “negligent” in causing your injury. While we all know the common or everyday meaning of the word, this article is intended to help you understand exactly what negligence means in the legal sense.
Perhaps the most straightforward, layman's-terms definition is: not doing what you're supposed to do. However, as you consider whether to contact a personal injury law firm, you should be aware that the legal definition is a bit more mechanical, and it is generally comprised of four parts: (1) Duty; (2) Breach; (3) Causation; and (4) Damages.
Duty & Breach
Depending on where and how you were hurt, the defendant in your case will owe a different type of duty. Generally, the duty owed is to exercise the ordinary care of a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstances. So, for example, if another driver causes a car crash that injures you, you will need to show they did not exercise the ordinary care of a reasonably prudent driver. If you are in an 18-wheeler wreck (also known as a truck wreck, a semi-truck wreck, or an eighteen-wheeler wreck), that driver also owed you the duty of a reasonably prudent truck driver under the same or similar circumstances. Or consider the context of a slip and fall at a restaurant or an injury resulting from a trip over an unsafe hazard inside a store. In these instances there are numerous other theories under which you might bring a lawsuit; but under the negligence theory, that restaurant or business would be held to the standard of a reasonably prudent business owner in determining whether or not they negligently allowed or created an unreasonably unsafe condition. These conditions can include uneven stairways, unreasonably cracked sidewalks, unsafe walkways, slick and slippery surfaces, and others.
Breach occurs when a person falls short of their duty. For example, if another driver causes an accident while texting and driving, then they have breached their duty to drive with the ordinary care of the reasonably prudent driver. Using a cell phone while driving is a leading cause of car accidents. Or in the example of an injury caused by slipping or tripping on a wet floor or uneven ground, if the owner has not kept their premises in the condition of a reasonably prudent business operator, they may be found liable for breaching the duty they owe to their business invitees.
Causation & Damages
Once duty and breach are shown, you will need to show causation. In the context of a civil lawsuit, you not only need to show that the defendant breached a duty, but that their breach is what actually caused you harm. So, if you want to pursue a case against your apartment complex for a dangerous condition that caused you to fall and break your arm, you need to show that it was actually the dangerous condition that caused your broken arm. And, finally, you have to show that you actually have damages—that you are, in fact, injured. Of course, if you have no injuries you wouldn't be looking for a lawyer, but it is worth mentioning that you'll have to specifically prove your injuries through the use of medical records, photos, your own testimony and that of others, and other similar evidence.
Contact Us For A Free Consult
If you have suffered or if you are continuing to suffer from a personal injury that you believe was caused by the negligent actions (or lack of action) taken by another person or organization, we would be happy to talk with you and provide a free legal analysis of your case. You can reach us by phone at (817) 424-5999, or you can fill out our online form on this web page. We understand that navigating legal complexities like negligence can be intimidating, and we would be honored to help you understand your options.