Proof of negligence is the basis of all personal injury claims. In other words, the plaintiff must prove the defendant was negligent in order to recoup damages for the injuries sustained. Negligence is defined as an action or behaviour which falls short of realistic standards for safeguarding someone from probable risks of harm. Generally, four elements compose negligence. They include duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. This article focuses primarily on the duty of care element and how a plaintiff can prove the defendant was neglectful.
Duty of care
The first element is identifying the existence of a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. Generally, people have a responsibility to act in a rational manner toward other people. Every negligence claim begins by establishing this duty. Duty of care arises when there's a relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, and as a result of this association, the defendant is mandated to act in a particular manner toward the petitioner.
Typical illustrations of duty of care
- Drivers have a responsibility to commuters and other motorists to operate their vehicles with reasonable care.
- Retail outlets have a duty to their clients and personnel to keep their floors free of slippery elements and other dangers that may lead to slip and fall accidents.
- Companies owe a duty to their shoppers to ensure their goods are safe for use.
- Doctors owe a duty to patients to treat them within medically accepted standards.
Consider the following example. Milton rides a bus to work each day. One day, Mercy, the driver of the bus runs a red light, and ends up hitting a large vehicle. Milton suffers a dislocated shoulder. Milton decides to sue Mercy for his injuries and files a negligence claim.
To begin with, Milton would need to prove Mercy's duty of care. The fact that Mercy was driving a public service vehicle means she was a common carrier and thus owed a duty to Milton and other passengers to drive carefully. Secondly, Mercy breached or contravened the duty of care by running a red light and hitting another vehicle because of inattention. Thirdly, the dislocated shoulder is proof of injuries which obviously counts as damages. Lastly, Milton would need to prove that the violation of the duty of care resulted in the sustained injuries. Milton wouldn't have been wounded if Mercy had paid close attention to the traffic lights.
When filing a negligent claim, always hire a personal injury attorney to help you prove the duty of care among other elements that combine to form negligence, the basis of any negligence claims.