This requires the injured party to produce evidence showing that the negligent party had a legal obligation or “duty” to act in a certain way toward the injured party. Usually this is met by showing that the negligent party did not act reasonably or in a careful manner. However, there are various nuances to this general definition, and a personal injury attorney can discuss what duty of care is applicable in your particular case. For instance, a driver owes a duty of care to other motorists to operate her car in a reasonably safe manner by obeying traffic laws.
Once it is established that the negligent party owed a duty of care, the injured party must next show that the negligent party did not live up to that standard of care. This can occur through an affirmative act by the negligent party or, in some cases, by a failure to act when necessary.
Sometimes, an injury or accident will speak for itself; that is, the injury will be of such a nature that it could not have occurred without the negligent party breaching the duty of care. Other times, eyewitness statements, expert testimony, or other evidence may be necessary to show how the negligent party breached the duty of care. For instance, using the example above, the driver would breach this duty of care by ignoring traffic laws or driving while intoxicated.
This legal term refers to the requirement that a harm or injury resulted from the breach. There must also be a logical connection between the harm or injury and the negligent party’s action or inaction. Finally, the harm or injury that resulted must also be foreseeable. In other words, the type of harm or injury that resulted must be such that a person of ordinary intelligence should have anticipated the danger that his or her action or inaction would create for others.
For example, a lifeguard who negligently refuses to help a drowning swimmer should anticipate that her failure to act can cause physical injuries and emotional trauma to the swimmer. On the other hand, it may not likely be foreseeable to a lifeguard that her failure to act would cause a passerby to view the struggling swimmer and have a heart attack from the stress of the sight.