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What is Negligence: A Brief Overview

  • By:John Vitola

Negligence is a word used outside of its legal context frequently. Some people might say their friend negligently arrived late for work and got in trouble. Others might say that a quarterback was negligent in throwing a pass to a receiver who was in double coverage and getting intercepted. While these common uses of negligence carry the same essence as the legal usage of the word, they are still very different. Negligence invokes an established legal doctrine that is one of the first things an attorney learns in law school. It consists of a variety of elements that will each have their own dedicated blog post. However, I will explain each one of them quickly here.

The four elements of negligence are:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation, which has two sub-elements
    • Actual Causation
    • Proximate Causation
  • Damages

A duty is a standard of conduct that the defendant is expected to conform to for the protection of others around them. A duty to drive at or below the speed limit is such a standard that the defendant is expected to follow.

A breach occurs when the defendant violates this duty. One of the ways a defendant would violate this duty is by driving 10 mph above the speed limit.

Causation is when a causal connection exists between the defendant’s breach of duty (speeding) and the injury or damage for which the plaintiff is seeking relief. In our example, a defendant is said to have caused the plaintiff’s injury if the defendant’s speeding led to the defendant losing control of their vehicle and hitting the plaintiff.

Damages is proven by the fact that plaintiff has sustained injuries in some form. In the same example, if the plaintiff’s leg was broken by getting hit by the defendant’s car, that injury would serve as the damages received from defendant’s conduct.

If a defendant’s actions demonstrates each of these four elements, then they are likely negligent.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, call John today at 352-796-1390.

Posted in: Personal Injury Law

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