Laws govern our society. Understanding the underpinning of certain legal doctrines is vital for individuals and businesses. One of these, “negligence,” stands out prominently in personal injury law. This article delves into the concept of negligence and sheds light on its elements and applications in Colorado.
Negligence can be described as the failure of an individual or entity to exercise the standard of care expected of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances. Simply put, someone is negligent when they breach a duty to behave responsibly. This breach causes harm to another party.
The Elements of Negligence in Lakewood, CO
Establishing negligence in court requires proving four elements by a preponderance of the evidence. This means you must convince the judge or jury that the facts are more likely true than not. The four elements that must be substantiated are:
Every negligence claim starts by establishing a duty of care. It is important to show that the defendant (the person or entity that caused harm) owed the plaintiff (the person injured) a responsibility to behave in a specific way.
Take a personal injury case from a car accident, for example. Drivers owe a duty to others to operate their vehicles safely. They must also abide by traffic laws. When they do not, they have breached their duty of care.
Once the duty of care is established, the next step requires demonstrating a breach of that duty. A breach occurs when the defendant’s behavior deviates from the standard expected of a reasonably prudent person in a similar scenario.
For example, if a driver chooses to send a text message while behind the wheel, they are in breach of their duty to operate their vehicle safely.
This element ties the defendant’s breach to the harm suffered by the plaintiff. You must show that the defendant’s action (or lack of action) directly caused the plaintiff’s injury. You must also establish proximate cause, which is about making sure it is foreseeable that the defendant’s conduct could lead to the type of harm in question.
For example, a distracted driver crashes into a pedestrian, causing leg and head injuries. This likely establishes both types of causation.
The final element of negligence requires providing the harm or damage the plaintiff suffers. This may be physical, emotional, or financial. Common damages in personal injury cases include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage.
Law firms like The Matos Law Firm, LLC will consult various doctors and experts to substantiate your damages.
You must successfully establish these elements in court for the defendant to be found liable.
Defenses to Negligence
Proving the four elements of negligence does not guarantee you win at trial. The defendant may allege defenses against your claims. These often include:
A common defense tactic, this defense asserts that the plaintiff had a part to play in their damages. For example, in a car accident case, the defense may claim that the plaintiff also drove recklessly.
In Colorado, a plaintiff can recover damages so long as they are not 50 percent or more at fault for their injuries under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-111(1).
Assumption of Risk
This defense relies on showing the plaintiff was aware of potential risks and willingly chose to undertake the activity anyway.
Act of God
This defense is based on the premise that a natural, unpredictable event, rather than the defendant’s actions, caused the injury.
There are other defenses that could be raised. An attorney can help you anticipate them in your case.
Where Does Negligence Occur in Lakewood, CO?
Negligence is the basis of most personal injury claims. Examples of negligence claims in Lakewood, CO, include:
Failing to follow traffic laws that cause an accident can be negligent. Examples include speeding, not yielding the right of way, texting while driving, or driving under the influence and causing an accident.
When healthcare professionals deviate from established medical standards and a patient is injured or their condition worsens, it is deemed medical malpractice. Examples include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, and incorrect medication prescriptions.
This refers to cases where property owners or managers fail to ensure the safety of their premises. This failure commonly results in injuries. Examples include slip-and-fall accidents due to wet floors or accidents caused by poor or irregular maintenance.
Manufacturers and retailers must provide safe products. If a defective product causes harm without sufficient warning to a consumer, it can lead to a product liability negligence case.
These are just some examples of negligence. Consult with an attorney to evaluate the specifics of your claim. An experienced attorney can help you successfully navigate the intricacies of proving negligence.
Navigating the Nuances of Negligence
Despite its seemingly straightforward definition, negligence is a complex legal concept. Determining whether a person or business was negligent requires an analysis of the circumstances and duty involved. Quantifying certain damages, like pain and suffering or lost earnings, can also be subjective. This regularly requires consulting with vocational experts and economists.
Additionally, you must avoid missing legal deadlines. This includes the statute of limitations, or the legal deadline for filing a lawsuit. For example, you generally have three years from the date of a car accident to file a lawsuit in Colorado.
Consult With an Experienced Lakewood Personal Injury Lawyer
Establishing negligence is crucial for determining liabilities and compensation in personal injury cases. While establishing its four elements may seem easy, doing so successfully hinges on many factors.
If you believe that you have suffered due to someone’s negligence, it is beneficial to engage with knowledgeable legal counsel. Experienced Lakewood personal injury attorneys at The Matos Law Firm can help you know what to do after an accident.