Proving Fault or Claim of Negligence

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

Most personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence. This means that you, the injured person, must prove that the defendant (an individual or company) caused your injuries and you suffered as a result.

There are three steps in proving a claim of negligence:

  1. Duty

    You must show that the defendant had a duty to you. For example, Dr. Louis was Alicia's doctor. Alicia is a model. A doctor always has a duty of care to his or her patients.
  2. Breach of Duty and Causation

    You must show that that a breach of duty caused your injuries. For example, when operating on Alicia, Dr. Louis cut off her left leg, instead of taking out her appendix.
  3. Legal Damages

    You must prove that you suffered legally recoverable injuries. For example, Alicia has suffered recoverable damages because of the unnecessary loss of a limb. Alicia will be entitled to financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, etc.
    • The court may deem Dr. Louis's actions to be especially egregious. In that case, Alicia will also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish.
    • Alicia's loved ones may recover for loss of consortium.

Not All Personal Injury Cases Are Negligence Cases

Most personal injury cases are, indeed, negligence cases; however, not all cases are. Some PI cases are based upon the legal theory of strict liability cases because there was inherent danger present.

In strict liability cases, there is no need to prove negligence (i.e. fault) and the 3 steps (or prongs) of negligence don't apply.

  • For example, if the American Blasting Company is imploding the old football stadium and Janel is injured by the blast, strict liability would apply. Blasting is an inherently dangerous activity.
  • For example, if Jared's wolves escape their cages and eat Michael, strict liability would apply. Owning wolves is inherently dangerous.

The injured person would need to prove:

  1. The tort occurred.
    • Janel was injured by the blast.
    • Michael was eaten by the wolves.
  2. The defendant (individual or company) was responsible.
    • American Blasting Company did the blasting.
    • Jared owned the wolves that escaped.

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