The Law Dictionary

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What Is a Negligence Lawsuit?

A negligence lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that filed against a person or a legal party that failed to use reasonable caution and caused damage to a victim while providing care or services.  Negligence cases are usually brought against certain category of professionals, such as medical professional, therapists and attorneys, but can be brought against any person if his/her actions has been proven to be a negligence. It is essential to the outcome of a negligence lawsuit for the victim to prove that harm was caused by the standard of service she or he received.

Each negligence case has 4 main elements such as duty, breach of duty, causation and damages that are required to be proved in order to file a negligence lawsuit.

The duty element is required for a negligence lawsuit. The duty element means that the person who caused negligence must have a legal obligation to protect others from unreasonable risk of harm. Each person has different duties. For instance, a doctor is required to provide a treatment to his patients.

Thus, the second element to a negligence lawsuit is breaching the duty. To meet this element, it is required to determine if a reasonable person would have done the same thing in a similar situation as the person being sued. To determine, if the breaching of duty has taken place objective and subjective standards are taken into consideration.

The objective standard of breach of duty only takes into account a hypothetical person and what he or she would have done in a similar situation. On the other hand, the subjective standard considers the actual person that being sued and if this person thinks that he or she acted reasonably in the situation that caused damages to a victim. It is of note that professionals such as doctors are expected to perform a higher standard of care than just the average person.

The third important element of each negligence lawsuit is the causation of negligence. Both actual cause and proximate cause are essential in determining the cause of negligence. The actual cause of negligence means that the defendant was the actual cause of injuries sustained by the plaintiff, the person who filed the lawsuit. However, proximate cause of negligence considers the event that has happened and if the injuries sustained were foreseeable or remotely connected to the incident to consider negligence.

The damage element is the final element of a negligence lawsuit. The plaintiff needs to prove that it has been actual damages resulted from the defendant’s negligence.  Damages can be compensatory, punitive and nominal.  Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for actual costs incurred as the result of negligence.  Compensatory damages can be general and special. General damages usually contain the monetary compensation for injuries. Special damages might consist compensations to replace material possessions lost as the result of the negligent act. Nominal damages are awarded when the negligence has been proven, but the actual loss as a result of it has not occurred. Lastly, punitive damages intent to punish the defendant for his or her negligence act.

In some cases, it is possible for a third party to start a negligence lawsuit on behalf of the victim, for instance, in negligence cases that involve elderly people. Sometimes, it is also possible to file a lawsuit even after the victim’s death.

During the negligence trial, the judge will need to determine what the defendant’s duty was to the plaintiff.

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This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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