To prove a responsible party legally liable for a personal injury, you have to prove that he or she was negligent. Because negligence is fundamental to a personal injury claim, it is essential that you understand what it means. Most people understand negligence to mean doing something without taking proper care. The legal definition is similar but much more specific. Breaking down the four elements of negligence that you must prove in your personal injury case may help you to understand it in a legal sense.

1. Damages

To have a valid personal injury case, you have to prove that you were hurt by the actions of the responsible party. The losses that you suffered must be significant to justify the time and expense involved in prosecuting a lawsuit.

2. Duty of Care

A duty of care is a responsibility to act in a way that will not do harm to another person. The party responsible for your accident may have owed you a duty of care because of the situation. For example, if you were injured in a motor vehicle collision, the other driver had a responsibility to observe traffic rules and operate the automobile safely. The relationship between you and the responsible party can also confer a duty of care, e.g., a doctor’s responsibility to his or her patients.

3. Breach of Duty

The success of your personal injury case requires you to demonstrate not only that a duty of care existed but that the other party failed to fulfill it. Sometimes the breach of duty is deliberate, such as if you were injured in an automobile accident with a reckless driver. However, a breach of duty can occur even without any willful intent to cause harm.

4. Causation

Negligent behavior doesn’t always result in an injury to someone else. To win your personal injury case, you have to demonstrate that the injury happened as a result of the other party’s breach of duty, and if the other party had not been negligent, the injury would never have happened. You do not have a viable personal injury case if negligent behavior was present but not the cause of your injury. There is also a question of whether the responsible party knew, or should have known, that his or her actions could cause harm to someone else.

Attorneys, like a personal injury lawyer in Washington, DC from Cohen & Cohen, can determine whether you have grounds to claim negligence on the part of the responsible party. Schedule a consultation by calling our office.