Proving the Four Elements of Negligence
Under Connecticut Law, people who are hurt by the legal negligence of others may recover compensation for their injuries. A negligence claim requires that the person bringing the claim (the plaintiff) establish four distinct elements. The material below describes these elements in more detail. If you have questions about whether you may be able to bring a claim, you should call our office today to schedule a free consultation with a New London personal injury lawyer.
Duty of Care
The first element that a plaintiff needs to establish is that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care. Typically, this means that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care, but states can modify this standard of care by statute for particular relationships (for example, a doctor-patient relationship). Typically, a person owes another a duty of reasonable care if he or she can reasonably foresee that his or her actions could harm others. For example, a driver owes everyone else on the road a duty of care, and a shopkeeper owes his or her customers a duty of care. Duty of care is very rarely contested in personal injury cases.
If the plaintiff can establish that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care, the next issue to address is whether the defendant breached that duty. A breach occurs when a person fails to act with the degree of care that would ordinarily be exercised by a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances. For example, a reasonable person would not speed or drive drunk. As a result, a driver who did either would have breached his or her duty of care to others.
Next, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant’s breach was the cause of his or her injury. That is, but for the plaintiff’s actions, the injury would not have occurred. In addition, the breach must be the proximate cause of the injury, which is to say that the law recognizes the breach as sufficiently related to the injury to assign legal culpability to the defendant.
Finally, the plaintiff must be able to establish damages. Without damages, lawyers and judges refer to negligence as negligence in the air. For example, a driver who speeds may be criminally liable to the state, but cannot be held liable by other drivers, as his or her breach did not cause any injury. Some examples damages plaintiffs often pursue in personal injury cases include medical expenses, lost income, property damage, lost quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Remember, the Vast Majority of Cases Settle
If you’re worried about a long, drawn-out court battle over your case, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of cases settle out of court. In most cases involving preventable accidents, the at-fault party concedes liability, which means that you (and your lawyer) don’t actually need to prove negligence. The only thing that you’ll need to present evidence of is your amount of damages—which you lawyer will do. That said, there is always a possibility that your case will go to court, so always seek out an attorney with a track record of success and courtroom experience.
Injured in an Accident? Call Polito & Harrington, LLC, Today to Discuss Your Case with a New London Personal Injury Lawyer
A preventable accident can turn your and your family’s life upside down in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, if the accident in which you were involved was the result of someone else’s negligence, you will likely be able to recover compensation under Connecticut Law. To schedule a free case evaluation with an injury attorney in New London, call out office today at (860) 447-3300 or contact us online.