Proving liability in a negligence case involves four steps: (1) Proving the existence of a duty; (2) Proving a breach of that duty; (3) Proving the breach of duty caused an injury; and (4) Proving damages naturally flowing from the injury. This post provides a brief overview of how each of these elements can be proven in a typical negligence case.
Existence of Duty
“Duty” is a legal term meaning obligation. For example, every driver of a motor vehicle has an obligation, or duty, to follow the rules of the road and practice safe driving habits. Sometimes, proving the existence of a duty is more complicated and requires the use of specialized professionals. After a tractor trailer crash, a duty to practice safe hiring procedures might be shown by a safety professional testifying about checking an employee’s driving record. In a premises liability action, a duty could be shown by comparing industry standards for stacking merchandise or inspecting customer walkways.
Breach of Duty
Breaching a duty means failing to comply with an obligation. Proving a breach usually involves a combination of telling the story of the injury causing event, and then incorporating the facts into specialized professional testimony. It could be as simple as having a police officer explain that motorists are required to maintain a safe stopping distance to avoid rear end collisions or as complicated as having a surgeon explain the standard of care in a medical malpractice case.
In proving causation, the dots must be connected between the incident and the injury. This is often simply a matter of discussing an injured person’s medical history and having his doctor explain that he wasn’t hurting before the collision and was hurting after the collision, so the most likely reason for his pain and injury is the collision. This area is sometimes tricky, but an experienced trial lawyer knows how to successfully navigate these waters.
Finally, in order to get a money judgment, it must be shown that damages flow from the injury causing incident. These damages could be monetary, such as medical expenses or lost wages, or they could be non-economic damages such as pain, disability, or loss of life enjoyment.
By hiring the right Houston car accident lawyer, an injured person can have confidence their case is handled in a way that touches all the bases and proves liability against the negligent party. At The Daspit Law Firm, we have the experience and knowledge you need.