There are times when an accident happens and it’s no one’s fault. No one could have foreseen what happened, and the circumstances were out of everyone’s control.
However, most accidents are caused by mistakes and errors. A party failed to use reasonable care, which amounts to negligence.
Proving negligence is essential in most personal injury cases. If your attorney cannot prove that the defendant was negligent, you may be responsible for your lost wages, medical bills, and other damages caused by the defendant’s actions.
Table of Contents
Defining the Four Elements of Negligence
Negligence is failing to act with a reasonable level of care. Because of the failure to act with a specific standard of care, a person was injured and suffered harm.
To recover compensation for a personal injury claim, you must prove the four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care;
- Breach of duty;
- Causation; and
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proving these legal elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The jurors must agree that there is a more than 50% chance that the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant are true.
What is a Duty of Care?
The duty of care is the requirement to act in a specific manner or to perform specific tasks. The duty arises out of a matter of law or because of the relationship between the parties. Generally, we have a duty to act with reasonable care to avoid causing a risk of harm or harm to another person.
For example, motorists have a duty of care to follow traffic laws and use good judgment to avoid a car accident. Other examples include a doctor owing a duty of care to patients and property owners owing a duty of care to visitors to maintain the premises in a safe condition.
What is the Breach of Duty?
A breach of duty is the failure to use the same level of care that a reasonable person would have used had they been in the same situation. In other words, the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care and failed to perform that duty.
An example of a breach of duty is texting and driving. Another example is a doctor failing to order diagnostic tests when a patient exhibits symptoms that a reasonable doctor would investigate further. A property owner failing to replace broken flooring is another example of a breach of duty.
What is Causation?
Causation is the link between the defendant’s conduct and the harm suffered by the injured party. The defendant’s conduct must have been a direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
In other words, the plaintiff would not have been injured had it not been for the defendant’s actions. The injuries were a foreseeable and natural consequence of the defendant’s acts.
Injuries and Damages
The defendant’s negligent conduct must have harmed the plaintiff. Harm includes physical, emotional, and financial losses.
Injuries and damages may include:
- Physical injuries
- Emotional distress
- Property damage
- Mental anguish
- Financial losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses
In most cases, you must sustain bodily injury to recover compensation for damages, including non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. If you cannot prove you sustained injuries and damages, you are not entitled to compensation.
Therefore, a person could be guilty of negligent conduct without being financially liable. There must be damages for the defendant to be held financially liable for negligent acts.
If the defendant breached the duty of care by committing acts of gross negligence or intentional harm, the defendant might be ordered to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages “punish” the defendant for negligence that rises above ordinary negligence.
What Are Some Defenses to Negligence Claims?
The defendant may use one or more defenses to avoid liability for damages and injuries. A common defense is comparative negligence. Georgia’s modified comparative negligence laws divide damages based on the parties’ negligence.
If the plaintiff is partially to blame for the cause of the accident, they are not entitled to full compensation for damages. For example, if the jury finds that the plaintiff is 10% at fault for the cause of a car accident, the plaintiff will only receive 90% of the damages award.
However, Georgia does have a 50% bar for comparative negligence claims. If the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, they cannot receive any damages.
Insurance companies use comparative fault to avoid paying injury claims. It is best to speak with a Georgia personal injury lawyer before talking to a claims adjuster or providing statements. The claims adjuster will try to get information the company can use to shift blame for the cause of your injuries to you.
Another defense to negligence claims is an assumption of risk. The defendant may claim that the plaintiff knowingly assumed the risk, so the plaintiff is responsible for their injuries and damages. While assumption of risk may be a defense in a few cases, it is not a defense in all negligence cases involving risky activities. If a party claims that you signed a document assuming risk or that there was a sign stating you assumed risk by proceeding with an activity, talk with a personal injury lawyer.
Contact a Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If another party caused your accident, you deserve compensation for your damages. However, the other party’s insurance company will generally disagree. Let an experienced personal injury lawyer take on that fight for you. They will know how to prove all elements of negligence and fight against any defenses the opposing party may raise.