Determining Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

Personal Injury | April 11, 2021

Negligence and Personal Injury Claims

We have all heard the term “negligence,” and we all likely have our own ideas about what this means. However, when we are discussing negligence for a personal injury claim, we can provide a fairly specific definition for the term. Here, we want to discuss the four elements of negligence as well as how negligence is determined for a personal injury claim in Illinois. It is important to understand this, particularly if you or someone you love has been injured due to the negligent actions of somebody else.

The Elements of Negligence

We will find that there are four elements of negligence that must be present in order for a person to be held responsible for causing an injury to someone else. When we look at the Legal Information Institute definition of these elements of negligence (provided by Cornell Law School), we see the following:

  1. Existence of a duty of care. There are various situations where a duty of care is established between a plaintiff and a defendant. For example, a doctor has a duty of care to their patient. All drivers have a duty of care to operate safely owed to others on the roadway around them. A duty of care will look different depending on the cause of a person’s injury or where the injury occurred.
  2. A breach of duty. After a duty of care between the plaintiff and defendant has been established, it will need to be shown that the defendant breached their duty of care in some way. In general, proving a breach of duty of care will involve showing that the defendant was doing something or not doing something that an average person would do or not do in a similar situation.
  3. Causation. The third element of causation requires that the plaintiff show that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused their injuries and losses.
  4. Damages. The final element of establishing negligence is showing that the plaintiff actually suffered some sort of damages. This can include medical expenses, lost income, emotional trauma, and more.

Determining Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

Determining negligence can be challenging. Yes, even though the four elements of negligence may seem fairly simple to understand, actually proving that a person breached their duty of care is the hard part. Often, this means that there must be an extensive investigation into the actual injury incident before liability can be determined.

As we discuss the types of evidence used to determine negligence in a personal injury claim, please understand that no two cases are exactly alike. For example, the types of evidence gathered and used in a car accident claim will certainly look different than the types of evidence gathered and used for an injury caused by a defective escalator.

That said, the types of evidence commonly used to establish negligence in a personal injury claim can include the following:

  • Photographs taken at the scene of the incident
  • Video surveillance from nearby cameras
  • Statements from any eyewitnesses
  • Police or accident reports
  • Company safety records
  • Employee safety records
  • Internal memos and documents
  • Mobile device data
  • Vehicle “black box” data

All of this evidence, and more, can be used to help show that a person breached their duty of care in a particular situation. However, in order to prove damages in these cases, other types of evidence will need to be obtained. This can include a person’s medical bills, proof of lost wages, proof of pain and suffering, and more. A skilled Chicago personal injury lawyer can use their resources and legal experience to handle every aspect of these claims on behalf of their client.