What Does It Mean?
Negligence is the cause of action, or legal basis, that attorneys use to sue somebody who is liable for a car accident. There are four things that must be proven for a negligence cause of action to succeed. If the person suing the driver who is at fault for the accident does not prove all four of these elements, she will not win her case.
How Do I Know if There Was Negligence?
The four criteria to a negligence cause of action are:
1. The defendant had a duty of reasonable care;
2. The defendant breached his or her duty in some way;
3. The defendant’s breach of his duty proximately caused the accident; and
4. The accident caused damages to the plaintiff.
Let’s Take a Closer
1. Duty of Reasonable Care.
As a driver on the roadway, you have a duty to drive your vehicle like a reasonably prudent, or sensible, person under the same or similar circumstances. This means watching where you are going, driving at reasonable speeds, obeying traffic signals, etc. This element is established when the defendant begins driving the car.
2. Defendant Breaches his Duty.
This just means that you did something a reasonably prudent person would not have done. This can be something like running a red light or texting while driving.
3. The Breach Proximately Caused the Accident.
Say a driver runs a red light. He gets lucky and does not hit anybody else. Did he breach his duty to act as a reasonably careful person? Yes. Can he be successfully sued for negligence? No. Since the breach of his duty did not result in an accident, a lawsuit for negligence would fail. (By the way, ‘proximate” just means the accident wouldn’t have occurred if the other driver hadn’t breached his duty to use reasonable care.)
This is the element that potential clients who call our firm often do not know about or understand. Many times, people will call us with a case that easily passes the first three elements discussed above – the potential defendant had a duty, he breached that duty, and the breach directly caused the accident. What is sometimes missing, however, is that the accident caused harm or damages to the potential client. Usually this is a minimal impact situation. If there are no damages, then there is nothing to sue over. Please do not make the mistake of thinking this means there are never any damages in low impact collisions. This is simply not true. But if there is low impact and the potential client did not seek any medical treatment after the accident, then it is difficult to argue that the wreck caused any damages.
Wrapping It Up
That’s it! So, if you were in an accident and you have duty, breach, causation,and damages, then you should have a good idea of whether you have a winnable case of negligence in Texas. If you find you have any questions about whether one or more of these elements were met, then you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney so that they can evaluate your case.