Legal Terms Explained – What is Negligence?

–By John Merrick–

If you have any questions about a case, call accident lawyer John Merrick at 804-464-7719

At first it may sound simple, but if you think you have a negligence claim it is best to discuss the case with a personal injury lawyer – the sooner the better, so that evidence is preserved and you do not do anything to jeopardize your claim. Having worked for plaintiffs and defendants, John Merrick and Les Brock have extensive experience on “both sides” of this issue, which gives them a unique perspective.

Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care. Negligence becomes a legal claim when the failure to use ordinary care causes an injury. Almost all personal injury cases involve a negligence claim, such as auto accidents, slips and falls, and medical malpractice.

Negligence claims always require a duty by the at fault party to use reasonable care. Whether a duty exists is typically clear, but occasionally disputed. A negligence claim also requires proof that the defendant failed to use ordinary care (breach of duty) and proof that the breach caused an injury or other damages. This is clear, for example, when a crash causes a broken bone, but much less clear if a crash causes nagging sprains and strains or aggravates a pre-existing condition.

Proof of “causation” often requires an expert – like an orthopedic doctor – to opine that an event caused an injury. It is not uncommon for there to be experts on both sides, offering different opinions about the cause of an injury.

Finally, a negligence claim requires proof that the treatment and costs of medical care were reasonable and necessary to treat the injury caused by the event. Again, this element often requires an expert opinion and can be hotly contested by the defense.

This is simply an overview of negligence. In practice, the elements of a negligence claim can be very complicated. Duty, breach, causation, and damages can all be contested, and there are countless defenses available to deny compensation for an injured person. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

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