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  • Gabriel White

What is Negligence? Understanding Its Role in Personal Injury Law

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

When an injured person seeks justice, they make a claim for negligence. In fact, out of all the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed in the United States every year, a huge number of those will be complaints alleging that someone was negligent, and as a result, the plaintiff suffered an injury. It is important therefore to understand what is negligence, and how does it impact the Plaintiff’s search for justice?

Negligence is a fundamental concept in personal injury law, encompassing four critical elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

· Duty refers to the obligation one has to act with a certain level of care towards others; for instance, a doctor has a duty to provide standard medical care to their patients.

· A breach occurs when this duty is violated, such as when a healthcare professional fails to diagnose a condition that should have been identified under normal circumstances.

· Causation links this breach of duty to the damages suffered; it's about proving that the breach directly caused the injury or harm.

· The final element, damages, refers to the actual losses or harm suffered by the victim, which can be physical, emotional, or financial.

But how do we determine if someone has breached their duty of care? This is where the law introduces a very important concept - the reasonable person standard. Central to the notions of duty, breach, causation, and damages in negligence cases, this standard acts as a legal yardstick to ascertain what constitutes a breach of duty. It hinges on the actions of an average, prudent person in similar circumstances. The reasonable person is not a real individual but a hypothetical construct, embodying the societal norms of responsible and cautious behavior. By comparing actual actions to those of this reasonable person, the law strives to uphold a balance of safety and fairness within society. It ensures that individuals are held to a standard of conduct that considers the safety and wellbeing of others. This benchmark is crucial in negligence cases as it defines responsible behavior and plays an instrumental role in fostering a just and secure community environment.

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