The elements of negligence are essential in any Florida personal injury case. To receive compensation, you must prove your case.
A personal injury case consists of parts or steps a person must take to win their case. When bringing a claim, a victim must prove every part or element of a case.
Our Pensacola personal injury attorneys at Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers are well-versed in preparing claims and lawsuits that can fulfill the elements of negligence in Florida. Contact us to discuss your case with a free consultation.
What are the four elements of negligence in a Florida personal injury case?
The four elements of negligence in a Florida personal injury case are:
- Duty of care: The defendant had a duty of care towards the victim
- Breach of duty: The defendant failed to live up to their duty of care
- Causation: The breach of the duty of care caused the accident, at least in part
- Damages: Damages resulted, including physical injury
To win a case, the victim must prove each element.
Understanding the Four Elements of a Personal Injury Case
Duty is the obligation that a person has to act carefully in society. When people are careless, they can hurt each other. For this reason, society imposes a duty to act with reasonable care and caution in situations where a person’s actions may create a danger for others.
For example, drivers on the road have a duty to operate with reasonable care and caution. Product manufacturers have a duty to make and sell products that are safe. Property owners have a duty to keep their property safe.
There is not a duty of care in all cases. Simply because someone else is involved in an accident that causes an injury doesn’t necessarily mean that person had a duty of care. For example, product defect laws exempt a manufacturer from providing reasonable instructions and warnings when a danger is obvious or known, given the purpose of a product. Grieco v. Daiho Sangyo, Inc., 344 So. 3d 11 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Likewise, when a danger on someone’s property is obvious and open when ordinary senses are used, the property owner has no duty to warn a guest of the danger. Dudowicz v. The Pearl on 63 Main, 326 So. 3d 715 (1st DCA 2021).
Proving the existence of a duty of care is not something to take for granted. While it exists in many cases, a victim should still identify the legal duty and prove that it was present in their case.
Breach of Duty
Once there is a legal duty to act reasonably and cautiously, the next question is whether the defendant lived up to that duty. Sometimes, accidents happen, even when everyone involved acts with sufficient care and caution. It is when a party is negligent, that there is legal liability. What is the standard for breach of duty? It is the failure to act like a reasonable person would in the same situation.
The breach of duty is specific to the situation. The standard is whether the person behaved at least up to the standards of a reasonable, ordinary person in that situation. For example, most people agree that a driver should stop at a stop sign. The average person of ordinary prudence follows traffic laws. The jury decides whether a breach of duty occurred. If it did, the defendant may be liable to pay damages. Paterson v. Deeb, 472 So.2d 1210, 1214 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).
Having established a breach of duty, the plaintiff must next prove that the breach of duty is the cause of their harm. It is not enough for the defendant to have acted negligently if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Negligence must be the cause of the harm that resulted to the victim. The elements of Florida personal injury law follow the old saying: no harm, no foul. If the defendant’s negligent conduct does not hurt someone, there can be no compensation.
The defendant’s negligence is the legal cause of injury or damage if the natural and continuous sequence of conduct produces or contributes substantially to the victim’s damages. It can be said that, but for negligence, the loss or damage would not have occurred. Negligence may operate in combination with another act or cause if it contributes substantially to producing the loss or damage. (See Florida Civil Jury Instructions, 401.12 Legal Cause).
Damages are the losses that a person can claim when they have a personal injury. Once legal liability to pay has been established by the other three elements, damages is the element that determines how much the defendant should pay.
Generally, damages are the losses that a person has when they are injured. However, damages are not the same in every case. Some issues and questions may arise. For example, does a car accident claim meet the threshold to claim pain and suffering and emotional anguish damages? Is comparative negligence a question? How are damages assessed if there are multiple defendants, each having liability? Can a collateral source impact the appropriate amount of damages? Should punitive damages be awarded?
Getting the appropriate award for damages is not as simple as just stating the amount that you deserve. You must prove the amount with evidence and address any relevant legal questions. (See Florida Civil Jury Instructions, Section 500 – Damages).
If I prove the elements of negligence, do I automatically win my case?
Proving the elements of negligence is an excellent start toward being awarded compensation, but it doesn’t automatically mean that you win your case. The defense may claim that you are at fault for comparative negligence. In other words, they can say that the personal injury was partially your fault. The defense may raise various other issues. For example, they may say that it is a situation where you assumed the risk.
As you prepare your claim, you should also prepare to respond to issues raised by the defense. Our experienced lawyers represent you through all the necessary tasks in your claim, including responding to any defenses once you have proven the elements of negligence.
Get the Compensation You Deserve
Call or message us now to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Pensacola. We can help prove the elements of negligence in your Florida personal injury case. Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers works to protect your right to compensation. Contact us now to talk about your case.