Negligence can cause lasting damage to a person’s life and even take it. Medical errors alone due to negligence cause anywhere from 250,000 to 440,000 deaths each year in the United States. It’s also a leading cause of other types of accidents, especially those involving motorists. If you’re a victim of negligence and are seeking compensation, it can be hard to prove negligence. However, it is possible to do so if you take the right steps to build your case.
What is Negligence?
The legal definition of negligence is somewhat open-ended, but covers the duty of someone to take sufficient and reasonable precautions to prevent harm to another. Included in this definition is the concept of duty to act and to sufficiently warn a plaintiff of a danger to them. Negligence has four conditions that must be fulfilled to qualify as such:
- A defendant has a legal duty to a plaintiff
- A defendant breaches this duty
- The plaintiff suffers damages as a result
- This damage is the result of the defendant failing to fulfill their duty
Negligence and malice can lead to injuries (source). When this happens, the injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation for their damages. In order to do this, you must prove negligence on the part of the at-fault party. However, one thing you must do is demonstrate that they did not take precautions that a “reasonable person” would have.
What is a “Reasonable Person?”
A “reasonable person” is a purposefully subjective construct that allows for interpretation by a third party, such as a jury, for each particular case. Industry standards provide a common metric by which to judge the actions of a defendant. In some instances juries will default to common sense to determine what a reasonable course of action by a defendant would look like. If a person did not behave reasonably, they may have been in breach of their duty to the plaintiff.
What is a Breach of Duty?
Breaches of duty in cases of negligence are determined by an application of Hand’s Formula, which is B < PL. In this formula, each letter means the following:
- B is the defendant’s burden and what it would take to take sufficient precautions to safeguard the plaintiff’s welfare
- P is the probability the plaintiff will suffer a loss should they engage in the action in question
- L is the loss that the plaintiff suffers
The defendant can be found guilty of negligence if the burden of taking precautions to protect the plaintiff were less than the loss suffered by the plaintiff multiplied by its likelihood. This implies that in some situations with a minimal risk and where the plaintiff suffers enormous damages, the defendant may not be guilty of negligence.
What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Negligence?
For plaintiffs, the good news is that you don’t necessarily need a large burden of proof that you have collected to prove that you suffered a loss due to negligence.
Courts abide by a legal doctrine known as res ipsa loquitur, or “the thing speaks for itself.” This allows a court to look at the available evidence and make a determination as to the cause of the loss is obvious. This can occur even in cases where the available evidence is highly circumstantial and with no individual clearly culpable for an action that led to the injury.
While negligence cases can be relatively simple to prove in some instances, many will be fought in court. Securing legal representation now can put you in the best position to fight for your rights and the compensation you are entitled to.