What is negligence and how do I know if someone acted negligently?

In most cases, an action premised on torts or accidents is based off of the negligence of another. Negligence can also be referred to simply as carelessness. To have a successful lawsuit under a negligence action, you must be able to prove four things:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach of Duty
  3. Causation, and
  4. Damages.

To illustrate how these four prongs of a negligence action is proven, we will use a common example of acts that give rise to a negligence claim. Phil, a pedestrian, is walking across the street, and the traffic signal is telling him he is able to do so. As he is crossing, Dan drives through a red light and hits Phil with his car. Unfortunately, Phil broke his leg from the preventable accident.

First, Phil must establish that Dan had a duty. Here, Dan certainly owed Phil a duty as well as anyone else on the road that he would drive reasonably and obey traffic signals and patterns, including stopping at a red light.

Once a duty is established, Phil must then show that Dan failed to live up to his duty. In this illustration, Dan disregarded the red light and proceeded to strike Phil with his vehicle. Therefore, Dan certainly breached his duty owed to Phil.

Next, causation must be proven. While issues of causation can at times be tricky, causation more or less means that it was the defendant who caused the accident and injuries to the plaintiff. Here, it was certainly Dan’s careless and negligent acts of going through the light, and not Phil’s lawful crossing of the street, that caused Phil to break his leg.

Finally, damages must be established. While among other things, damages can be shown by economic or emotional suffering, a physical injury clearly constitutes a showing of damages. Therefore, in this case, Phil can prove damages because of his broken leg. Because duty, breach of duty, causation and damages are all established, Phil would have a valid legal claim against Dan.

While there are a countless number of more complicated situations that may constitute negligence, we hope this basic illustration is helpful as a basic understanding of a negligence action. If you believe that you have been injured as a result of someone failing to live up to his/her responsibilities owed to you, you may want to speak with an attorney. The Philadelphia Trial Lawyers at Villari, Lentz and Lynam have the experience, skill and tenacity to get you the just retribution you deserve.

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