When you suffer an unexpected injury in a crash, you may hear the term “negligence.” What does negligence mean?

While certain actions from others may cause you an inconvenience or interrupt your day, those actions may not always rise to the level of negligence. The legal meaning of negligence plays an important role in personal injury cases because it helps to determine who may be liable for your injuries and damages.

Understanding negligence can help you deal with the aftermath of a crash and determine your rights under the law. However, you do not have to figure out negligence on your own. A personal injury lawyer can help by evaluating your accident, your injuries, and the parties involved to see whether negligence may be present and gives rise to a valid personal injury claim or lawsuit.

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Does Liability Insurance Cover Negligence?

Motor vehicle drivers, property owners, businesses, doctors, manufacturers, and various other parties carry liability insurance to protect them if a legal dispute occurs and could affect them financially.

Liability insurance is designed to protect an insured’s assets by offering a means for affected parties to collect compensation through a claim against an insurance company. The majority of liability insurance claims relating to injuries stem from negligence. General liability insurance, vehicle insurance, and malpractice insurance cover negligence of a party that causes injury or other damages to a party.

Most negligence cases reach a positive resolution and outcome through a liability insurance claim when the injured party can show that the liable party was negligent and caused harm to them.

What Does Negligence Mean? How Do You Establish It?

Can I Sue for Negligence?Negligence does not describe a particular act by a party but rather depends on the relationship between the parties, the events leading up to the injury, and how the injuries and damages transpire. For a plaintiff to seek compensation through an insurance claim or damages through a court, he or she usulally has to establish negligence based on the facts of your case.

A plaintiff must prove all four elements of negligence through evidence.

What Are the Four Elements Needed to Prove Negligence?

It is one thing to say or believe a defendant acted negligently because of their reckless or careless actions. However, for an insurance company to pay out a claim or for a court to find in favor of a plaintiff for damages, the plaintiff must show how the facts and evidence support each element of negligence.

A Duty of Care

Depending on the type of injury case involved, the element establishing a duty of care can vary. Different relationships and roles of a defendant can create a duty of care they may owe to a plaintiff.

For example, when a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they owe a duty of care to others on the roads, including other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, etc. to drive reasonably and to follow the traffic laws.

The duty of care element is relatively straightforward to establish: one party owes a duty to avoid causing injury or harm to another.

A Breach of the Duty of Care

Once a plaintiff establishes the defendant’s duty of care based on their relationship or interactions, they must then prove that the defendant breached that duty of care.  This is the second element of negligence. A plaintiff, or claimant, can show a breach of the duty of care through the defendant’s actions or through a lack of action when the defendant should have acted.

Causation of Harm

A plaintiff must next show that the defendant’s actions when breaching the duty of care caused the plaintiff harm. It is not enough just that a defendant breached the duty of care. You must show how that breach contributed to the injuries and harm.

Damages to the Plaintiff

The final element necessary to establish negligence in a personal injury case is that you suffered damage or harm. For example, if you trip on a loose wire at a business but do not suffer any injury, then you have no actual damages or harm to show. If there are no damages, there is nothing to file a claim or lawsuit for. Therefore, when determining whether you have a negligence case, you must show how you suffered a loss.

What Are Some Examples of Negligence?

Being such a broad term, it is impossible to identify every scenario in which negligence might occur. However, if you suffer harm that you believe is due to another party’s actions, you may be eligible for compensation under the law.

Examples of personal injury negligence cases include:

  • Motor vehicle crashes;
  • Truck crashes;
  • Motorcycle collisions;
  • Slips or trips and falls;
  • Bicycle or pedestrian collisions;
  • Animal bites;
  • Injuries from dangers conditions of property;
  • Workplace injuries;
  • Construction injuries;
  • Defective products;
  • Wrongful death.

Can I Sue for Negligence?

If you meet the elements necessary to show negligence, you can take legal action based on the facts of your case. A lawsuit is a potential avenue for plaintiffs to recover compensation for harm caused by another’s negligence.

Due to the availability of liability insurance, a plaintiff can first attempt to resolve their claim for damages through an insurance claim with the help of a personal injury attorney before filing a lawsuit.

Often, an attorney negotiating a settlement on your behalf can result in a good offer. When you reach a fair settlement with the insurance company, you will not need to file a lawsuit.

However, settlements are not guaranteed in every case and may not be possible for everyone. There are situations in which the facts of the case and circumstances warrant filing a lawsuit against the other liable party (in California, you cannot directly sue the insurance carrier). If your attorney deems it in your interest, you may need to file a lawsuit to make a fair recovery.

What Must a Plaintiff Prove to Win a Negligence Case?

To prove negligence in your case, you must gather the evidence necessary to meet each of the elements of negligence as part of your injury claim. Insurance companies will independently determine negligence based on the evidence before them.

Fault may be apportioned to one or multiple parties who might be responsible for the crash or harm. While an insurer must consider the evidence before it when making fault determinations, it will not help a plaintiff prove his or her claim. Therefore, you can benefit from the help of a personal injury lawyer with the resources and understanding of evidence to track down the best evidence to prove your case.

You must not only prove who you believe is at fault for the negligence but you must also prove the nature and extent of your damages. It is not enough to say or claim you suffered harm. You must also demonstrate the extent of this harm through evidence. Your evidence of damages influences your ultimate compensation.

Evidence that can help a plaintiff prove negligence and damages in an injury case includes:

  • Police reports;
  • Property incident reports;
  • Witness statements;
  • Photographs;
  • Videos of the scene of the collision or loss;
  • Expert testimony or reenactments;
  • Medical records;
  • Employment records;
  • Medical bills, repair estimates, and other costs;
  • Your testimony;
  • Other supporting evidence.

What Compensation Might I Be Eligible for in a Negligence Claim?

When you sustain losses due to another’s negligence, you want to recover as many of your losses as possible through your claim. The amount of compensation available to a plaintiff in a negligence claim or lawsuit will vary depending on factors such as the severity of the injuries, the type of injuries sustained, apportionment of fault and any other losses incurred because of the injury-causing event.

A personal injury lawyer can help you maximize your damages by reviewing your losses and calculating your damages with you. Damage calculations are an important tool and resource as you proceed with your insurance claim.

Once you know the extent of your losses, you can better consider and review settlement offers from the insurance company. Although your calculation of damages may not be the same as your ultimate compensation, it can help frame what to expect.

Damages in a negligence case can include:

  • Medical costs. The medical bills you accumulate due to injuries you sustain can be a part of your damage calculations. In addition, you may add future medical costs you expect if your injuries cause long-term issues requiring ongoing medical care.
  • Income losses. Your loss of income following an injury is recoverable in a negligence claim. Additionally, suppose you sustain injuries that leave you unable to work for an extended time or cause disabilities that prevent you from working entirely. In that case, you can include those losses and future losses in your claim.
  • Pain and suffering. The suffering and pain you endure as a result of your experience and injuries are recoverable as compensation in a negligence personal injury case. You can also seek compensation for the mental and emotional distress and impacts caused by your negligence event.
  • Property damage. If your vehicle sustains damage in addition to your injuries, your lawyer can include the repair costs or the loss of the vehicle’s value as part of your claim.

The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases Arising From Negligence

The laws of the state where the injury causing event occurs will determine how much time you have to file a lawsuit for damages. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases varies greatly from one state to another. Some states give plaintiffs many years to take legal action if necessary, while others give a plaintiff only one year to determine whether a lawsuit is necessary. In California, plaintiffs have two years to file their lawsuit unless it is against a public entity (then it is 6 months).

A personal injury attorney can help you understand the statute of limitations that applies in your jurisdiction and where you stand within that time frame based on the facts of your case.

Do You Need a Lawyer if You Suffer an Injury Due to Negligence?

Lawyer, Ram Fletcher

Personal Injury Lawyer, Ram Fletcher

Establishing a negligence case and proving its elements and your damages is a complex process. Insurance companies have their own legal team and vast resources to use when processing claims and determining the money they might make available to an injured party.

Hire a lawyer to represent your rights and interests in a negligence case. Personal injury lawyers have the experience, knowledge, and understanding of the law to guide you to the strongest outcome for your case. If you believe negligence caused your injury, contact a personal injury attorney today for a free case review.