Proving Fault: Defining Negligence

Proving Fault : What is Negligence?

Negligence is the basis of most accident or injury claim. The person or party who is negligent is considered to be at fault. Negligence refers to behavior that is generally careless and is the cause of the accident or has contributed to the accident. The negligent person will be liable for any resultant injuries or damages.

The issue of negligence will come up during informal settlement negotiations as well as during a personal injury or accident lawsuit. Negligence requires that four elements be present :

  1. There was a duty of reasonable care;
  2. Breach  of the the duty;
  3. Injury;  and
  4. A connection between the breach of the duty and the injury.

The plaintiff in an accident or injury case based in negligence must prove the existence of the four elements. The following example will help you understand the four elements better. Let us assume that John who is driving an SUV ignores a red light and as a result smashes into a car driven by Pauline who has the green light and therefore the right of way. If Pauline files a claim or lawsuit against John, Pauline must prove that:

  • John had a legal duty to others on the road – i.e. to drive safely and to observe the traffic rules which includes stopping when the traffic light is red.
  • John breach that duty by ignoring the red light.
  • Because John breached that duty, his SUV smashed into Pauline’s car.
  • Because of the collision, Pauline suffered injury or property damage.

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