Negligence is a legal theory that frequently arises when one party to a case is unintentionally harmed by the other party. Common examples include car wrecks, dog bites, slip and falls, and defective product manufacturing. In order to win a negligence case, the person injured must prove the four elements to show that the person allegedly at fault acted negligently. These elements consist of duty, breach, causation, and actual harm.
The first step is to look to see whether or not the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of care. In some circumstances, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant might create a legal duty, such as a doctor attending to a patient. Or, the defendant may owe the plaintiff a legal duty to act with reasonable care in a certain situation, as a driver would to the passengers in their car.
Next, the court will look to see whether the defendant breached this duty by doing (or not doing something) that a “reasonably prudent person” would do under similar circumstances. The term “reasonably prudent person” refers to a legal standard that represents how the average person would responsibly act in a certain situation. Stated simply, the defendant likely will be found negligent if the average person, knowing what the defendant knew at the time, would have known that someone might have been injured as a result of his or her actions — and would have acted differently than the defendant did in that situation.
The third element requires that the plaintiff show that the defendant’s negligence actually caused the plaintiff’s injury. While someone might be acting negligently, the plaintiff can only recover if their negligence is the driving factor responsible for the plaintiff’s injury. Another aspect of this element looks at whether the defendant could “reasonably have foreseen” that his or her actions might cause an injury. If the defendant’s actions somehow caused the plaintiff injury through a random, unexpected act of nature, the injury would most likely be unforeseeable — and the defendant will not likely be found liable.
The final element of a negligence case is “damages.” This element requires that the court be able to compensate the plaintiff for his or her injury — usually through monetary compensation for expenses such as medical care or property repair.
King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you have a potential negligence claim or one is being brought against you, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.