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What Is Negligence?

What Is Negligence?

The majority of personal injury cases are based on negligence. In a legal context, to act negligently means failing to act the way a reasonable person would under similar circumstances.

If you were injured in an accident in Houston and someone else was at fault, then you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and other losses through a negligence claim. 

Keep reading to learn more about negligence and the elements you’ll need to prove to win your case. 

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What Is Negligence in Houston, TX?

What Is Negligence in Houston, TX?

Legally speaking, negligence is a type of tort and one of the most common types of personal injury claims. To recover compensation for your injuries in a negligence case, you must prove the following four elements:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care;
  • The defendant breached their duty of care; 
  • You suffered an injury or other loss because of the defendant’s breach of duty; and
  • The defendant’s conduct caused your injuries. 

For example, imagine that you were injured in a car accident when a driver of another vehicle ran a red light and hit your vehicle. To recover compensation against the at-fault driver, you would need to show that their action of running a red light was negligent by proving each of the four elements listed above.

What Is a Duty of Care?

The first element you will need to prove in your negligence case is that the defendant owes you a duty of care. Let’s dig into this element a little more. 

A duty of care is a legal obligation one has to act toward others with a certain level of safety or consideration. Basically, we are expected to act in a way that does not put others at an unreasonable risk of harm. If we do, we may be exposed to legal and financial liability for the harm that we cause. 

In most cases, the default duty of care is to act the way a reasonably prudent person would under the same or similar circumstances. 

Using the example above, you would have to show that the driver of the other car owed you a duty of care. This would be fairly straightforward because when one is driving a vehicle, one owes other drivers and passengers on the road a duty to drive reasonably under the circumstances. This includes following the relevant traffic laws and signs, such as stopping at red lights.

How Is a Duty of Care Breached? 

The second element you’ll have to prove is that the defendant’s actions or inactions failed to satisfy the required duty of care. In most cases, this means showing that their conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances. 

Returning to our example of the car accident, you would need to show that the defendant breached their duty of care when they ran the red light. If you could prove that a reasonable driver would have stopped at the red light, and the defendant did not, then you can probably show that the driver’s action was unreasonable. This amounts to a breach of their duty of care. 

What Are Damages in a Negligence Claim?

The next element you will need to prove is that you suffered an injury or other loss that the law can compensate you for financially. In personal injury and other tort cases, this element is also referred to as damages. They may include the following: 

  • Medical bills
  • Physical injuries
  • Vehicle or other property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished capacity to earn an income
  • Pain and suffering

As you can see, injuries in a negligence case are not limited to physical injuries. Rather, an injury refers more broadly to a negative consequence of the accident. 

Let’s go back to our car accident example. Imagine that the accident caused you to suffer broken bones and miss several weeks of work, as well as totaled your vehicle. Your injuries would include medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost wages, and potentially pain and suffering, to name a few. 

Any of these would satisfy the damages element of your negligence claim. 

What Is Causation in the Context of a Negligence Claim?

The final element you must prove to succeed in your negligence claim is causation. This element has two subparts. You must show that the defendant was the actual (or direct) cause and the proximate (or legal) cause of your injuries.

Actual cause means that your injury would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s conduct. The defendant’s conduct was directly in the chain of events leading to the accident or injury. To illustrate, if the driver in our car accident example had not run the red light, they would not have hit your car, and you would not have been injured.

Legal cause, which is sometimes called proximate cause, means that the plaintiff’s injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s conduct, such that they can be held legally responsible for the injuries

To explain, imagine that when the driver in our car accident example ran the red light and hit your car, you had been transporting a rabid dog in a cage in the back seat. When the accident occurred, the dog got loose from the cage and bit you, causing you to contract rabies. 

In this case, the defendant’s conduct might not be considered the legal cause of your injury, as contracting rabies is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of running a red light.

While this is an unlikely example, it helps to show that any one of these elements can be hotly contested or challenged in ways you may not expect. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can be instrumental in helping you prove your negligence case. 

Contact an Experienced Houston Personal Injury Lawyer To Help With Your Negligence Case

If you were injured in a personal injury accident due to someone else’s carelessness, then you may be able to recover compensation through a negligence claim. In doing so, you will need to prove each element of negligence. 

Our undefeated, experienced Houston personal injury lawyers can help you build your case, work hard to prove each element of your claim, and fight to recover full compensation for your injuries. Contact our attorneys at Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers, office today to schedule a free consultation regarding your case. You can call us at (888) 603-3636.