Assessing Negligence

Before a defendant can be held legally responsible for harm caused by his or her negligence, the plaintiff must prove four elements:

  1. The first is that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal “duty” to follow an accepted standard of care.
  2. Next, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant “breached” that legal duty by acting or failing to act in the way that a “reasonably prudent person” would under similar circumstances.
  3. The third element requires that the plaintiff prove that the defendant’s negligence “caused” his or her injury.
  4. Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that the harm or injury sustained caused calculable and compensable damages. The plaintiff’s attorney must determine if all of these elements apply.

HINT: If a defendant in a negligence case could not have reasonably foreseen that his or her actions would cause injury to the plaintiff, the defendant will not likely be held liable.