What Are the Elements of Negligence?

Each year, people are hurt by the negligence of others. These claims are for individuals who were injured as a result of an accident. These accidents could have been avoided. A negligence lawsuit is a legal action that seeks to recover money for the victim and punish the responsible party.


A person cannot recover damages for negligence if the defendant has not shown a duty to care for the victim. This duty in many cases is to act as a reasonably prudent, similarly situated person. This is a legal standard. It means that defendants are expected to behave as an average person would in similar circumstances. Drivers of vehicles are responsible for following traffic laws and acting reasonably.

Other cases may result in duty due to special circumstances. A relationship between plaintiff and defendant may create a duty. Parents have a duty of care for their children, and teachers have a duty of care for their students. Doctors are required to provide the best care for their patients.

Some states have laws that establish certain obligations for landowners depending on the type and status of the visitor. Invitees are usually allowed to enter land for the economic benefit. They are responsible for the highest standard of care. This includes checking for possible defects and promptly fixing them. Licensees can be granted access to the land in order to benefit the landowner, or for their own personal benefit. These licensees are responsible for warning them about any dangers. Trespassers do not have to set traps that could cause harm.

A judge usually decides whether the defendant owes a duty to the plaintiff. There may be statutes or case laws in states that specify the factors to consider when determining if a duty of care exists. These include the foreseeability and proximity of the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury. Public policy and the burden placed on the defendant to avoid such injury.

Breach of duty

After establishing the duty of care, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant has breached it. A driver might speed up and cause an accident. An owner of a business may not clean up after a customer has fallen in a spill. An unreliable doctor might not have run the necessary tests to diagnose a condition quicker.


The plaintiff must have suffered injuries directly or proximately because of the defendant’s breach. The plaintiff would not have suffered harm if the defendant had not acted in such a way. The cause of the action must not be so distant from the injury that defendant is immune from liability.

A defendant could have caused injury to the plaintiff in a number of ways, including driving drunk and injuring him. A customer may be injured by a defective product.

Sometimes, the defendant can successfully challenge this element by proving that there was an adequate intervening/superseding cause that relieves the defendant from liability. If such an act is unusual or not reasonable to occur, it is not foreseeable.


Damages are the final element in a negligence case. The plaintiff must be able show the extent of his or her injuries as a result of the accident. A plaintiff might have sustained a physical injury. This type of case requires that the plaintiff can provide documentation of medical bills, hospital treatment records, prognosis, physical therapy records, and records from a chiropractor.

Property damage is another source of damages. Some cases allow plaintiffs to seek compensation for emotional distress. Another basis for recovery could be pain and suffering.

It is rare that nominal damage can be brought to court. The injury must also be actual and not speculative. Even if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner, the plaintiff will not be able to recover if the plaintiff cannot show that the defendant caused the plaintiff harm. In general, defendants are only responsible for damages that were reasonably foreseeable.

Updated 01/19/22