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Los Angeles Law Blog

By John Kristensen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Personal Injuries on Monday, December 30, 2019.
What Evidence Do You Need to Prove Negligence?

When misfortune befalls us, it’s a natural response to point the finger at something or someone that caused the incident to take place. The sequence of events may be simple – such as a plate being knocked off the counter and breaking – or it may be more complex – such as a minor car problem that goes unnoticed and spirals into many more expensive repairs. No matter the case, it’s important to recognize the difference between an accident versus something that can and should have been preventable. In the former scenario, the unfortunate reality is sometimes bad things happen and there is no tangible blame that can be assigned. In the latter, especially in a legal capacity, it is necessary to determine negligence occurred in order to build a case to recoup damages. So, what evidence do you need to prove negligence?

Duty of Care
The concept of ‘duty of care’ is the basic understanding of when we have a legal obligation to avoid causing someone harm or placing them in a position where harm could come to them. In some sense, we all have a duty of care toward others – whether that occurs while driving and following the rules of the road, or even walking around other individuals on a daily basis. When an accident occurs, this calls into question whether or not there was an expectation that duty of care was owed, and if so, how broad that duty was in regards to the events that took place. In many cases, this can be clearly defined, but this is not always the case. For example, if a customer is injured inside a business, while the owners and employees of that business would be expected to take reasonable precautions, not every accident can be avoided and they may not be found negligent.

Breach of Duty
Establishing the expectation of duty of care between parties for the specific situation is one thing, but determining whether or not that duty was breached – or reasonable expectations were not met – is the next important step when it comes to determining negligence occurred. In a car accident, for example, breach of duty can be very straightforward if a driver runs a red light and causes a car accident. In this case, the actions of that driver put other individuals in harm’s way unnecessarily, and it would be likely a court of law would find them negligent. However in another example, a car involved in a collision may have been driving faster or slower than the posted speed limit, but if driving conditions required them to make adjustments, they may not have breached their duty of care.

Causation
Once it can be demonstrated that a party has breached their duty toward you, then that typically means you have established they are legally responsible for your injuries and/or damages. However, it is also possible for that party to assert that they are not the cause – or at least, not the sole cause – the incident occurred. For example if a child is injured as the result of a faulty handrail, that could be the result of negligence, but it could also come to light the child was using the rail to skateboard, which was not its intended purpose. It may be found that other external factors or other parties are also culpable, which can influence the outcome of the lawsuit.

Damages
Finally, it needs to be determined what the ultimate cost of the incident is to the victimized party. Damages can include physical injury, financial cost and hardship, emotional distress, and a number of other adverse effects that are the direct result of the incident. This step is important, because it is possible for an accident to occur where there are no real damages – for example, someone slipping but sustaining no significant injuries. Damages are going to be the focal point of any lawsuit, so it is important to determine the personal cost associated with the incident once you have gathered all your evidence to prove you are the victim of negligence.