Understanding Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

As the victim of a personal injury accident, it may be difficult to understand whether or not you have a legal case. The law often relies on the concept of negligence in determining whether or not someone else is at fault for your injuries. Therefore, understanding negligence is crucial to your personal injury case. So what exactly is negligence?

A useful definition of negligence is found in Florida’s Standard Jury Instructions:

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. Negligence is doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under like circumstances.

What Must I Prove in a Negligence Case?

In a Florida personal injury case based in negligence, the injured person must prove:

  1. That another person had a duty to exercise care toward the injured person;
  2. That another person violated the duty of care by acting negligently;
  3. That as a result of the other person’s negligence, the injured person suffered injuries or other losses. In other words, the negligence must have been a cause of the injuries; and
  4. The specific nature of the injuries and other losses, which are referred to as damages.

Who Has Duty of Care in Relation to Other People?

Generally speaking, anyone whose carelessness may be foreseen to harm others has a duty to those other people to act with reasonable care. Examples of situations in which people have been found to have duties to others include the following:

  • Drivers have a duty to pedestrians and other drivers near them to exercise reasonable care in the way they drive.
  • Physicians have a duty to their patients to exercise reasonable care.
  • Business owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect their customers from dangers, such as slippery floors.

How Does a Person Violate a Duty of Care?

Generally, a person violates a duty of care by being negligent. As explained in the jury instruction quoted above, a person can be negligent by taking an action that a reasonably careful person would not take. Someone can also be negligent by failing to take an action that a reasonably careful person would take, under similar circumstances.  In other words, a person is negligent when he is careless.

Determinations of whether a person has acted negligently generally are made by a jury in cases that are tried to a jury (as opposed to a judge). In most cases, there is vigorous argument between the lawyers for opposing parties regarding whether a particular party was negligent.

What is Causation?

In personal injury cases, the victim must prove that the other party’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries or other losses.  It is not enough that injuries or losses merely occur after the negligence; the injuries or losses must be a result or consequence of the negligence.  The Florida Standard Jury Instructions explain the concept of causation this way:

Negligence is a legal cause of loss, injury or damage if it directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such damage, so that it can reasonably be said that, but for the negligence, the damage would not have occurred.

Negligence may be a legal cause of damage even in combination with some natural cause (or some other cause) if the negligence contributes substantially to producing the damage. Negligence may also be a legal cause of loss, injury or damage in combination with the act of another person after the initial act of negligence. In this type of situation, the other cause should be reasonably foreseeable and the negligence should contribute substantially to producing such loss, injury or damage. Alternatively, the resulting loss, injury or damage could be a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligence with the negligence substantially contributing to the loss, injury or damage.

What are Injuries and Damages?

Injuries can be physical or emotional. Often serious physical injuries or traumatic events result in emotional injuries such as depression or post-traumatic stress.

Damages is a legal term for what a negligent party can be ordered to pay a victim because of its negligence that resulted in injuries. Typical examples of damages include medical bills paid in the past and / or future medical bills that are a result of the negligence. Other examples include past or future lost wages.  Negligent parties also can be required to pay damages that are less-easily calculated such as compensation for physical disability caused by negligence and pain and suffering sustained by a victim.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help prove your case and seek damages.

Are you the victim of a personal injury accident? Contact Glober Law Firm today to discuss your case.

Glober Law Firm is a Jacksonville personal injury law firm representing victims of auto accidents, bicycle accidents, dog bites and attacks, head and spinal cord injuries, motorcycle accidents, negligent hiring, negligent security, pedestrian accidents, physical assaults, premises liability, slip and fall accidents and wrongful death.


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