Negligence Lawsuit

Knowing the elements of a negligence lawsuit will help you determine whether your case will be a success.

A negligence lawsuit involves many components which need to be considered before the success of the case can be determined. Proving negligence is far more complicated than it may seem.

When considering a negligence lawsuit there are four primary elements which need to be viewed and covered thoroughly: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.

The duty element is the legal requirement that the person being sued for negligence must adhere to a standard of conduct in protecting others from unreasonable risk of harm. It really is the legal obligation we have in our relationships with others. Different duties apply to different people. A parent has a duty to care for her children. A landlord has a duty to her tenants and so on. Each duty is applicable to the pertinent responsibility at hand.

Breaching that duty is the second element to a negligence lawsuit. The question to be asked is, would a reasonable person in a similar situation have done the same thing as the person being sued? To come to that conclusion both an objective and subjective standards need to be considered.

The objective standard of breach of duty only considers a hypothetical person and what her or his reasonable behavior might be. The subjective standard considers the actual person being sued and if she or he thinks they acted reasonably in the matter at hand.

Professionals are held to a higher standard of care than the average person in society. These people take oaths in their professions and need to maintain that in their lives.

The causation of negligence is the third critical element of the lawsuit. Both actual cause and proximate cause are considered. Actual cause asks the question of whether the person being sued, the defendant, was the actual cause of injuries sustained by the person initiating the lawsuit, the plaintiff. Proximate cause looks at the issue of foreseeability. When considering the event that has happened, it is asked whether or not the injuries sustained were foreseeable or too remotely connected to the incident to even consider.

The final element of a negligence lawsuit is the damages being sought. Damages are what the plaintiff is seeking in recovering for the incident resulting from the negligent act. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for actual costs incurred. Of those, there are general and special damages. General damages are those like monetary compensation for the injury sustained. Special damages involve extra items such as material possessions lost from the negligent act. Nominal damages can also be awarded when negligence can be proven but not an actual loss as a result of it. And finally, punitive damages are those with the intent to punish the defendant. The hope is that awarding punitive damages will deter similar actions in the future.

When the negligence lawsuit goes to trial, the judge will determine what the defendant's duty was to the plaintiff. If it is questionable what a reasonable person would do, a jury will consider the facts and render a decision.

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