How Is Negligence Determined in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Negligence is a legal term that applies whenever a person fails to comply with his or her duty of care and, as such, the determination of negligence is a critical part of most personal injury lawsuits. In order for an injured party to obtain compensation in a personal injury lawsuit or a medical malpractice lawsuit, he or she must first prove that the defendant is liable as a result of his or her negligence.

Liability is established by proving negligence through the following three factors:

  • The defendant has a duty of care to the plaintiff;
  • The defendant deviated from the appropriate standard of care; and
  • The plaintiff was injured as a direct result of the lack of care.

It is important to remember that lack of “best practices” alone is not necessarily enough to establish negligence. For instance, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is not enough to show that a different doctor would have provided different medical treatment; rather, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s medical care deviated from minimally accepted standards of care.

Moreover, in order to be negligent, the defendant must have a duty of care to the plaintiff in the first place. For instance, motorists have a duty of care with respect to other motorists. But the issue of whether a duty of care exists can become more complex in other situations. For example, a property owner may have a duty of care with respect to guests and customers, but that duty of care may not extend to trespassers.

Although most personal injury lawsuits involve negligence, some accident claims involve a different legal standard. For instance, if a person is injured by a defective product, a legal standard of strict liability will likely apply. Strict liability holds manufacturers responsible for any injuries caused by their products whether they knew of the defect or not.

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the plaintiff’s actions may also be evaluated against the negligence standard, as well. Many jurisdictions, including Illinois, limit the amount that a plaintiff may recover in a personal injury lawsuit to the extent that he or she was negligent. For instance, if the plaintiff was deemed to be negligent and 30 percent responsible for an auto accident, his or her financial recovery will be reduced by 30 percent. A few states, however, bar a plaintiff from recovering any compensation if he or she was negligent.

Contact an Accident and Injury Lawyer

Negligence is a complicated legal issue involved with most personal injury claims. The Chicago accident and injury lawyers at Cogan & Power, P.C. focus on helping the victims of personal injury accidents pursue legal claims for their injuries and damages. As such, they have the skill and experience to deftly handle complex issues regarding negligence and liability. If you or a loved one has been the victim of negligence or medical error, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to learn more about negligence and its impact on a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit.