When someone fails to exercise reasonable care and that failure results in an injury, the legal term that applies is “negligence.” If another party caused your injuries, they could be financially responsible for your damages. However, Texas tort laws require you to prove that the other party was at fault for the cause of your injury to hold the party liable for damages.
What Are the Legal Elements of a Negligence Claim?
Most personal injury cases are based on claims of general negligence. That includes car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, premises liability claims, and nursing home abuse.
To prove negligence, you must have sufficient evidence to prove each of the following legal elements:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
In a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. That means there is more than a 50% chance that the defendant’s negligent conduct caused your injury. Let’s look at what is involved in proving the elements of negligence.
What Is a Duty of Care?
You must prove that the defendant owed you a legal duty of care. That means the defendant has an obligation established by law or custom to act with reasonable care to avoid causing injury or harm to another person.
For example, a defendant owes a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws to avoid causing an accident. A property owner owes a duty of care to maintain safe premises for guests and invitees. Medical providers owe a duty of care to patients.
The duty of care could differ depending on the case’s facts.
How Does the Defendant Breach the Duty of Care?
A breach of duty means the defendant’s conduct was insufficient to satisfy their duty of care to the plaintiff. How does a jury decide if the defendant’s conduct breached the duty of care?
First, they must decide what level of care the defendant owed to the plaintiff. The level of care depends upon the facts of the case. Jurors use the “reasonable person” standard to judge whether a defendant acted negligently.
The standard of care is not based on what a specific person would do. Instead, it is based on what the jurors believe a person of reasonable prudence would have done given the same situation.
If the defendant’s conduct fell short of the care a reasonably cautious person would have used, the defendant breached the duty of care.
For example, a driver rear-ended another vehicle because they were texting while driving. Jurors would likely find a reasonable person using the appropriate level of caution while driving would not have been texting while driving.
What Is Causation and Why Is It Important?
A defendant’s conduct could be negligent without causing a person’s injury. However, for the defendant to be liable for damages, the defendant must have breached the duty of care, AND the breach must have “caused” the victim’s injuries.
Therefore, causation is the natural and probable series of events that led to your injury. In other words, had it not been for the defendant’s actions, you would not have been injured.
Causation must be direct and proximate. The defendant’s actions must have factually led to your injuries. Also, your injury must have been a foreseeable and natural consequence of the defendant’s actions.
In the above example, a foreseeable and natural consequence of texting while driving is causing a collision because you are distracted. Texting and driving was the factual cause of your accident because the accident would not have occurred but for the driver’s distraction.
Proving You Sustained Damages
Lastly, you must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused you to sustain damages. Damages can include:
- Physical injuries
- Financial losses (economic damages)
- Non-economic damages (pain and suffering)
- Property damage
Economic damages for a personal injury case include any monetary losses you incur. Examples include diminished earning capacity, medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages.
Your non-economic damages represent the suffering caused by the defendant’s conduct. It includes emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, and physical pain. In addition, non-economic damages include permanent impairments, disfigurement, and decreased quality of life.
How Does Texas’ Comparative Negligence Law Impact a Personal Injury Claim?
Texas adopted a modified contributory negligence law. The proportionate responsibility statute states that an injured party cannot recover damages if their percentage of fault for the cause of their injury is 51% or greater.
If your percentage of fault is 50% or less, you can still recover compensation for your damages. However, the court reduces your compensation by your level of fault. Therefore, if the jury finds you were 10% to blame for your car accident, the amount of money you receive for your damages is reduced by 10 percent.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Personal Injury Lawyers
Proving negligence can be difficult. You need solid evidence establishing each legal element. Gathering evidence and sorting out liability can be time-consuming and complicated.
Our personal injury attorneys handle all aspects of your case. We fight to recover compensation for your claim. All you need to do is focus on your recovery.
Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case with our personal injury attorneys.