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Defining Negligence

If you were the victim in a car or truck accident, there’s a good chance that the at-fault driver did not act deliberately in causing your injuries, but rather acted carelessly. In the legal world, this is known as acting negligently. Negligence is the basis for many personal injury lawsuits, whether for motor vehicle crashes, negligently-designed products, negligently failing to ensure that a workplace is following all safety regulations, or negligently allowing pools of standing liquid on a restaurant floor that could cause a fall. In order to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney must gather evidence that will prove the elements of negligence to a jury. At Lee Cossell & Feagley, LLP, our attorneys have decades of experience as one of Indianapolis’ most well-regarded personal injury firms. We’ve successfully handled hundreds of negligence cases and would be happy to offer you a free consultation on your personal injury claims.

To win a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove the four major components of negligence:

  • The at-fault party had a duty
    When we’re out and about in the world, we generally have a duty to act in a way that does not cause harm to others, but nothing more. In some contexts, we may have a legal duty, such as the duty of a bus driver to act with reasonable care in transporting their passengers, or the duty of a driver toward other drivers to operate their vehicle safely and responsibly. For the most part, when we have a duty, we’re required to act like a reasonably prudent person would act under the same or similar circumstances.
  • The at-fault party breached that duty
    A breach of duty occurs when an individual fails to uphold their duty to act safely, acting in a way that a reasonably prudent person would not behave under the circumstances. For example, if a reasonably prudent person would not type out a text message while driving through a busy intersection, but the at-fault driver in a crash did so, then that driver breached their duty under the circumstances.
  • The at-fault party’s breach was the cause of your injury
    Breaching a duty alone isn’t enough. The breach has to be the cause of the injured person’s injuries. For example, if a driver three cars in front of you had been drinking before getting behind the wheel, but had been stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended, causing a chain reaction that led you to get hurt, that drunk driver didn’t cause your injuries, even though they breached a duty not to drink and drive. You can also look at causation as requiring that the breaching party acted in a way that they understood could cause someone harm. For example, if someone hung a plant basket from their third-story window, but that basket broke in an unexpected windstorm, causing it to fall and break your windshield, that injury probably wasn’t something the plant owner could foresee, so they likely wouldn’t be liable.
  • You were damaged or injured in some way by the breach
    The final element of a negligence claim requires that the non-breaching person experience an injury that is compensable with money damages. When you’re rear-ended by an inattentive driver and your car sustains damage, then you can prove that the negligent person cost you money that they should pay you. However, if you were a pedestrian crossing the street and someone nearly hit you, but you were looking away at the time and didn’t realize it, the driver may have breached a duty that could have caused you an injury (even if just the shock of almost being run down), but you weren’t injured, and so you do not have a claim for damages.

As you can see, negligence claims can be complex. Make sure you hire an attorney for your Indiana negligence claim who understands the nuances in the law and will fight diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. For assistance with your personal injury claim throughout the Indianapolis area, contact the knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury lawyers at Lee Cossell & Feagley, LLP for a free consultation on your case, at 317-631-5151.

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