Perhaps you may have heard of negligence as a term generally used in day-to-day life, but what exactly does negligence mean in law? It is a term that is used to mean failure of a person or party to take reasonable care that result in injuries or damages to a person to whom the defendant owed a duty of care. In law, negligence is provided for to allow plaintiffs claim damages because of carelessness of another person. In order for a person (plaintiff) to prove that another person or party (defendant) was liable for his or her injuries, certain things must be proven.

For example, the plaintiff must show beyond doubt that he or she suffered damages or injuries or loss. This means that even if you can prove that the defendant was negligent, you do not stand to receive any compensation until you demonstrate that indeed the action or inaction caused you damages. Juries are always guided by certain elements in law to help them in making a determination as to whether there is a case to warrant compensation. Some of the things that the jury must do are to compare the facts of the case, testimonies and the evidence adduced before them.

Negligence explained: Here are some of the elements that need to be considered


The question that one asks is whether the defendant owed the plaintiff any duty. Duty arises when the law clearly appreciates the relationship between the two parties and that the defendant is expected to act in a particular way towards the plaintiff. The judge is concerned with determining if the defendant owed the plaintiff the duty of care. Where an average person finds that there exists a duty under certain circumstances, then the judge will conclude that such a duty indeed exists.

For example, if the a person was walking along the road and a dog bites him or her, the question that the court will want to resolve is whether there was a relationship between the owner of the dog and the person who was bitten. Clearly, the owner of the court ought to have exercised reasonable care by caging his or her dog to avoid such cases. Therefore, the court will most likely find that the owner ought to pay for the damages due to the dog bite.

Breach of Duty

One will be liable for negligence is he or she breaches the duty that is owed to the plaintiff. Where a defendant breaches such a duty by failing to exercise reasonable care, he or she will be required to pay for the damages arising out of negligence. Here, the jury will have to determine the existence of a breach as a question of fact. Like in the above case, the judges will be deciding whether the owner of the dog exercised reasonable care in protecting by passers from his dog.

Cause in Fact

Traditionally, the plaintiff must prove that the action of failure to act by the defendant caused him or her injuries. This is commonly known as “but-for” causation. This means that were it not for the defendant’s action or inaction, he plaintiff would not have sustained the injuries. Like in the case above, the plaintiff would have to prove that had the owner carefully handled the dog he or she would not have sustained the injury.

Proximate Cause

It concerns it self with the extent of the defendant’s responsibility in a case involving negligence. A defendant is only liable for the damages or losses that he or she could have foreseen as a result of his or her action. What this means is that if the loss suffered is outside the scope of the foreseen risks, then the plaintiff will have no reason to say that the actions of the defendant were proximate cause of his injuries.

Where you are confident that you have suffered a loss or damages because of clear negligence, you can file a lawsuit for damages. Since the process of proving negligence and determining the amount of compensation is lengthy and cumbersome, it is advisable to contact your personal injury lawyer for help.