In the eyes of the law, every personal injury case, regardless of the circumstances leading to the injury, is a “negligence” case.
“Negligence” is a legal term that means to act with unreasonable carelessness under the circumstances. Whether you were injured on the highway or in a grocery store or in a hospital, you will have to establish these four elements of negligence in order to prevail in your personal injury case:
First you must establish that the defendant (the person or entity you claim is responsible for your injuries) owed you a legal duty of care. This duty arises out of the relationship between you and the defendant.
For example, a driver owes a duty of care to his passengers, to other drivers, and to the pedestrians and cyclists with whom he shares the road. A store owner has a duty to keep his premises clean
and safe for customers. A doctor owes his patients a duty of care based on his superior medical knowledge and training. As a practical matter, the “duty” element usually is easy to establish.
Next, you must establish that the defendant failed to fulfill (or “breached”) his duty of care. In other words, you must show that the defendant failed to act in the way that a reasonably careful person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
Sometimes an accident is just an accident. If, however, the “accident” was the result of the defendant’s breach of the duty of reasonable care, then it is negligence.
Third, you must establish causation. You must show that but for the defendant’s negligence (breach of the duty of care), you would not have been harmed.
Finally, you must establish that you were, in fact, harmed by the defendant’s conduct. In a personal injury case, your legal damages typically will consist of out-of-pocket expenses, including medical expenses; lost wages and benefits; future losses, including anticipated future medical expenses and loss of earning capacity; property loss or damage; and intangible losses, including mental and emotional pain and suffering.