When seeking a financial recovery relating to injuries suffered in an accident, plaintiffs generally have to prove that the at-fault party was negligent, and that the negligence was what caused his or her injuries. In order to establish that negligence occurred, the plaintiff must show that a number of factors were present. Two of the most important factors relate to the notions of “duty” and “breach of duty.”
As for duty, the defendant might have owed a legal duty of care to the plaintiff — as a doctor, lawyer or other professional owes to his or her clients. The defendant might have owed the duty to act in a reasonably careful way given the situation — as a driver needs to watch the roadway, refrain from texting-while-driving and refrain from drinking and driving in order to avoid a crash.
As for breach of duty, this occurs when the defendant failed to act in a way that a reasonably cautious person would have given the circumstances. In the simplest of terms, a breach of duty happens when the defendant should have known that his or her actions (or failures to act) would result in harm to the plaintiff, but nevertheless failed to act in a way that would prevent that harm.
Let’s consider the example of a nearsighted person who is driving his automobile without wearing the corrective glasses he requires to see clearly. This person would likely be considered negligent because a reasonable person would don the glasses required to avoid getting into an accident and hurting others. A reasonable person would not have driven without glasses; therefore, the driver who did not wear glasses was negligent.
The more one thinks about negligence and the many factors at play, the more complicated the matter becomes. Defendants will try to show that they were not negligent in response to a plaintiff’s claims. Therefore, plaintiffs may want to enlist the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney to create the most appropriate legal strategy to prove that negligence occurred in their particular cases.
Source: FindLaw, “Proving Fault: What is Negligence?,” accessed Jan. 26, 2016