When one person has been unfairly injured by another person or organization, the victim can sometimes seek repayment through the civil courts. These legal actions are known as personal injury claims. In most of these claims, the plaintiff (the person seeking compensation) accuses the defendant (the person who is accused of the wrongdoing) of being negligent.
In ordinary English, the word negligent can be used in many different ways. However, in civil law, this term has a very specific meaning. Four conditions must be met before a person can be found legally negligent.These conditions are outlined below:
1. Duty – The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care. This duty will vary depending on the relationship between the two parties. For example, a doctor has the responsibility of caring for patients in accordance with modern professional standards. In broader terms, we all have the duty to avoid inflicting harm on others when we reasonably can.
2. Breach of duty – Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to meet the required level of care. This typically involves showing that the defendant could have reasonably predicted and prevented the victim’s injuries, but deliberately decided not to do so.
3. Harm – In order to have a case, the victim needs evidence that he or she was injured in some way. This harm can be physical or financial. In some cases, it can even be psychological. However, cases in which the victim only suffered emotionally, with no other types of losses, are often unsuccessful.
4. Direct causation – Finally, the plaintiff needs evidence that his or her injuries were directly caused by the other party’s actions. If other factors contributed to the injuries, the plaintiff may be less successful in seeking repayment.
Without evidence of all four of these components, a victim seeking compensation is highly unlikely to win his or her case. Additionally, a defendant may win the case by attacking the claim of negligence at any of these four points. This is why gathering precise evidence is a very important part of the legal process.