Negligence Explained

Most legal matters involve an act that has been committed or perpetrated. Negligence is unusual by legal standards, in that it relates to an act that has not been committed. Negligence occurs when an individual does not exercise a reasonable amount of care in a given situation that results in injury or death. There are five elements central to all negligence cases: duty, breach of duty, cause in fact, proximate cause and damages.

Duty and Breach of Duty

Duty or duty of care is the reasonable regard and consideration from one individual to another during an event or action that could cause an accident or injury. Simply stated, each individual has a duty to ensure that his or her actions will not cause injury or harm to another person.  In a personal injury case involving negligence, the prosecution must prove that there was a breach of duty, that is that the defendant did not act in a way that took the injured party’s safety into consideration and that the defendant’s actions or disregard for the injured party’s safety resulted in an injury.

Cause in Fact

In order to prosecute someone for negligence, the prosecution must establish cause in fact. Cause in fact is necessary to show that the defendant’s negligence directly contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.

Proximate Cause

The concept of proximate cause takes into account whether or not the plaintiff’s injuries were preventable or foreseeable as they relate to the behavior of the defendant. In order to establish probable cause, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions—or lack thereof—directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.


Damages refer to the amount of money that is awarded in a personal injury case. If a defendant is found guilty of negligence, the law designates that the defendant will be required to pay either compensatory or punitive damages, depending on the details of the case. Compensatory damages are designed to assist the plaintiff in recouping financially. Punitive damages are designed as a form of punishment for the convicted defendant.  

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, it is important that you speak with an experienced attorney in your area right away. A qualified personal injury attorney can help protect your rights and will maximize your chances of having a favorable outcome in your case.