If you’re here reading this blog post, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has been injured, and now you’re wondering: “Do we have a case?”
While this blog post is no substitute for the analysis we can provide with a free consultation, it helps to get a behind-the-scenes look at how we evaluate cases. If you have a better understanding of what’s required to prove negligence, you’ll have a better idea of which facts and circumstances are most important to recall and share with us.
Without further ado, welcome to our blog on Proving Negligence. In this first installment, we’ll provide an overview of the four elements of a negligence case. In each subsequent installment, we’ll take a closer look at each element and provide some helpful examples from our own past cases, as well as some famous cases you’ve probably seen in the news.
The four elements of a negligence case are: Duty, Breach, Causation, and Damages. Here’s what these elements mean in laymen’s terms:
Duty: Chances are you’re reading this because you think someone else’s negligence is to blame for your injury. If so, the first question to ask is: did that person (or business) owe a duty to me? For instance, consider your local supermarket or shopping center. How many times in your life have you seen that classic yellow “Wet Floor” sign ominously propped in front of a murky indoor puddle? That sign exists because store owners owe a duty to warn their customers when a slippery floor poses a risk of injury. But let’s say your clumsy neighbor and fellow shopper Karen drops and spills a bottle of olive oil all over aisle 4. You’re not going to be suing Karen when you slip on that olive oil. It’s still on the store to hurry over there with a mop and that classic yellow sign.
Breach: This one’s simple. After we establish that someone owed you a duty, we ask whether they fulfilled that duty or breached it. Did the staff know about the spill in aisle 4 but then fail to put out the yellow sign in a reasonable amount of time? That’s a breach.
Causation: Causation sounds self-explanatory right? Pretty much. However, there are some nuances we’ll cover in depth in our fourth installment post. For now, suffice it to say that the question is simply whether your injury would have happened if not for the breach of the duty that was owed to you.
Damages: Last but definitely not least, we ask: how bad is your injury? What happened to you when you slipped on that olive oil? Did you hop right back up with nothing but a broken fingernail? Technically, the store would still be liable to you for damages—you just don’t really have any damages to speak of. If you broke your arm, it’s a much different story. As a rule, the amount of monetary damages you can recover at the end of your case will correspond to the severity of your injuries and necessary treatment. Did you require surgery? If the answer is yes, your case just got a lot bigger. And that makes sense, right? You’ve been through a lot.