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What are the Elements of a Negligence Claim?

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If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you usually have the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent. There are specific elements that you must establish, or the court can dismiss your case. The required elements of negligence are most generally stated as a duty, a breach of that duty, a causal relationship between the breach and the accident, and a resulting injury.

Though the elements may be the same in each case, whether a person’s actions are deemed negligent under them will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. An experienced personal injury lawyer from Rutter Mills can explain how the elements apply to your situation and assess the strength of them.

Understanding the elements of negligence

As the case progresses, the plaintiff must be able to point to evidence in support of each allegation, or the defendant may win the case without even going to trial. With these elements being so crucial to a case, personal injury lawyers plan litigation steps around them.

  • Duty. A duty is an obligation to act or refrain from acting in a certain way. Whether a defendant had a duty is a question of law, which means a judge can decide it. A duty may be explicitly defined by a statute such as a safety-related traffic law or a general duty to use ordinary care to prevent harm to others.
  • Breach of duty. The defendant must have breached the legal duty, which usually means that they failed to act the way an ordinary reasonable person would have acted under the circumstances. This is a question of fact, so a jury decides whether the action in question was a breach of duty.
  • Causation. The breach of duty must be both a cause in fact (“but for” the breach, it would not have happened) and a proximate (logically related) cause of the accident.
  • Damages. To have an actionable case based on negligence, a plaintiff must have suffered actual harm. The injury, pain, suffering, emotional toll, and financial losses like medical expenses and lost income are common damages asserted in accident lawsuits.

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Negligence can look different in each case because the care that would be deemed reasonable by a jury depends on the circumstances. Personal injury lawyers rely on their legal knowledge and experience to gauge the likely liability of potential parties in a given situation.

If you have been injured in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, or another part of eastern Virginia, call Rutter Mills today to discuss your case for free. Our team is dedicated to helping personal injury victims obtain complete compensation.

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