Negligence cases come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can have a lawsuit built around the fact that a driver negligently caused an auto accident by texting while driving. In another case, the negligence can come from a company that is manufacturing defective brake lines that lead to fatalities. A third case could involve a “slip and fall” where a landlord has not properly maintained the hand-railing on an apartment stairway leading to a serious fall down the stairs for a tenant. All of these, however, have negligence in common. But what, exactly, does it take to prove negligence in a courtroom? There are actually four main elements that you must prove in order to have a successful negligence claim.
Duty—The first aspect of a negligence case involves whether the defendant owes a duty to the plaintiff. This means that there is some kind of relationship between the two and the defendant is expected, by law, to behave in a specified manner toward the plaintiff. This, for example, can include a landlord who owes a duty to his tenants to maintain his building to ensure that it is safe for all of those who live there. The relationship does not have to be a personal one. For instance, a driver will not know all of the other drivers around him. However, he still owes a duty to those drivers to drive responsibly.
Breach of Duty—Once it is established that a defendant owes a specific duty to the plaintiff, it is also the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove that the duty has been breached. For a negligence case to be successful, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the duty has been violated. For instance, a landlord has a care of duty to ensure the safety of his tenants. Establishing this would be the first point. If the landlord does not properly light all entryways, hallways, and common areas in the apartment complex, then he is not properly providing that security. Therefore, point two has also been established because the care of duty has been breached or violated.
Causation—The next step that must be proven is that the breach of duty from the defendant was the cause of injuries sustained by the plaintiff. If a person were to injure their back, for instance, and then is involved in a car accident, the injury would not be covered because it was not actually caused by the accident. However, if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol and causes a wreck which leaves you with a broken leg or similar injury, then his violation of his duty to not drink and drive has directly caused your injuries.
Damages—The final element that must be shown in a negligence case is damages. If there are no damages in the case, then the plaintiff will not receive any type of compensation. Provable damages can include medical bills, lost wages (due to the inability to work), and property damage (such as the damage to a vehicle or other piece of personal property). In addition, a plaintiff can also sue for lost earning potential, loss of consortium (the inability to continue normal sexual relations), and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of others, it is important that you seek out legal representation as quickly as possible as many states have a time limit or statue of limitations on when suits can be made. If you are unsure if your case meets these qualifications, a skilled attorney will guide your through the process. Contact the lawyers of Wolf & Pravato to ensure that your rights are met.