Any personal injury case starts with these four questions:
- Did the person who injured you owe a duty of care to the injured person?
- Did that person breach the duty of care?
- Did that breach cause your injuries?
- Do you have damages?
These four questions will be argued and litigated in each personal injury case. The defendant will try to establish that the answer is no to any one of those four questions. The plaintiff will try to prove that the answer is yes to each and every one of those questions. If any one of those four questions is answered with a no by either the judge or the jury, then the plaintiff cannot win.
PERSONAL INJURY - AN OVERVIEW
In any lawsuit alleging personal injury, the plaintiff must prove:
The plaintiff must prove all four.
Intent is not an element of negligence. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether the defendant intended to harm you. You simply have to prove that the defendant was negligent in his or her conduct. It can by active or passive negligence. This means that if the person did something that was negligent which led to your injury or failed to do something negligently which led to your injury, they may be liable to compensate you. An example of passive negligence would be a store who negligently failed to clean up a spill in an area where customers walk and would not be able to see the spill.
DEGREES OF NEGLIGENCE
There are varying degrees of negligence that a plaintiff may be required to prove depending on the circumstances. The most common type is "ordinary negligence."
Slight negligence is the failure to exercise great care. This is a low standard for the plaintiff to establish. The most common example of when the slight negligence standard is utilized is in carrier cases. For example, if you take a bus, that bus driver owes you the exercise of greatest care in toward you. So, for example, if you are pregnant, the bus driver may be required to help you on and off the bus. If the bus driver fails to render assistance, the company may be liable for injuries you sustain if you are injured getting on or off the bus.
Ordinary negligence is the most common standard required in personal injury cases. Ordinary negligence is the failure to exercise that degree of care, precaution and vigilance which na ordinary prudent person would exercise. It has also been described as conduct which a reasonable and prudent person would know might possibly result in injury to others.
Gross negligence is defined as conduct which a reasonable and prudent man knows would probably and most likely result in injury to another. This standard typically will arise in cases where the conduct evinces a conscious disregard of the consequences.
Culpable negligence is negligence that is sufficient to sustain a conviction for criminal manslaughter. Culpable negligence is usually described as requiring a gross and flagrant character and evincing reckless disregard of human life or as a wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or that reckless indifference to the rights of others which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.