When someone’s conduct falls below the generally accepted standard of care, it’s called negligence. In personal injury cases, where negligence must be proven in order to win the case, one’s negligence must be tied to a subsequent injury.
To prove negligence, 3 elements must be present:
- A duty of care
- A breach of that duty of care
- That damages occurred as a result of this breach of duty of care
Duty of Care
The duty of care is an obligation to look out for others. So, for example, when motorists get behind the wheel, they have a duty of care to be mindful of other people. This includes:
- Passengers in their own vehicle
- Other motorists
- Passengers in other cars
- People in nearby buildings
Similarly, when someone owns a retail business or a restaurant, they have a duty of care to keep the parking lot in safe condition. Sinkholes must be filled, and uneven pavement must be fixed or, at the very minimum, clearly marked.
A Breach of the Duty of Care
A breach in the duty of care occurs when someone doesn’t live up to what’s expected of them. Say that a motorist is so engrossed in reading email while driving that he fails to notice a stoplight has turned red, this is considered a breach in the duty of care the driver owes to others. If the owner of a business fails to put up warning signs and block off a hole in the parking lot, this too could be considered a breach in the duty of care.
“Damages” is a legal term that covers costs associated with the breach of the duty of care. If someone is hit by a driver who runs a red light, damages may include:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering and
- Property damage
Imagine that the person who was hit is taken to the hospital by ambulance, treated in the ER, and then admitted to the hospital for several days. These costs fall under the legal umbrella of damages.
Now, imagine that while in the hospital, the victim’s doctor discovers a small group of precancerous skin cells and performs a procedure to remove them. These precancerous cells were not the direct result of the accident, nor was the accident the proximate cause of the skin cells becoming precancerous. As such, the procedure would not be included in the damages caused by the driver’s negligence.
Why Understanding Negligence Is Critical
Understanding the legal concept of “negligence” is critical when evaluating the strength of a personal injury case. When one or more of the three elements of negligence is missing, or when the facts aren’t clear, the case may be too weak to win. Consequently, it is critical to have an attorney well versed in personal injury law, as well as the nuances of negligence, review the facts surrounding the case.
At Zimmet & Zimmet, we pride ourselves in providing personalized attention to each of our clients. We work hard to get results that put our clients in the best position to heal and move forward. Contact us today at (386) 255-6400 today for a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.