What is Negligence in Personal Injury Cases?

What is Negligence in Personal Injury Cases?

If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you may wonder what kind of compensation you are entitled to. In most cases, the answer to this question depends on whether or not the other party can be held liable for your injuries. Courts use a legal concept called negligence to determine whether or not someone can be held liable for another person’s injuries.

The Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers with Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. have a proven track record of success in helping clients obtain the maximum compensation possible for injuries they have suffered due to the negligence of others.

Our firm has consistently demonstrated we have the expertise needed to help our clients see that justice is served. We have the resources needed to conduct thorough investigations of all the circumstances contributing to a motor vehicle accident, gathering the evidence to establish negligence and other types of liability. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Negligence: The Basics

Negligence is defined as “the failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the same or similar circumstances.” This means that if someone does something that a reasonable person would not do in the same circumstances, which results in injury to another person, then the first person may be liable for negligence.

This basic definition is known as ordinary negligence and is the most common type of negligence present in personal injury claims. A common example of ordinary negligence would be if a driver was distracted and rear-ended another car. In these cases, the at-fault party (the defendant) fails to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is a higher standard of carelessness than ordinary negligence. It occurs when the person who caused the accident knew that their actions were likely to cause injury or death, but they still chose to act in a way that was careless and reckless. 

Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence

Two types of negligence can impact a personal injury case: contributory and comparative.

Comparative Negligence

dangerous distracted driving situation

In some states, the doctrine of comparative negligence is used. This allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are partially at fault for their injuries. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident, their damages will be reduced by 20 percent.

Pure Comparative Negligence

A few states follow the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. This allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are more than 50 percent at fault for their injuries.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Some states follow the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. This allows plaintiffs to recover damages if they are less than 50 percent at fault for their injuries. If a plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, they will not be able to recover any damages.

Contributory Negligence

Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and a few other states use the contributory negligence doctrine. This means that if a plaintiff is even partially at fault for their injuries, they will not be able to recover any damages.

However, in 2020, Washington, D.C. enacted the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Act. Under this law, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other “vulnerable users” of the roadway are entitled to extra legal protection if they are injured in an accident caused by a car driver’s negligence.

For example, if a bicyclist is injured in an auto accident, they are entitled to 100% of their damages from the car driver unless they are determined to be more than 50% negligent. 

Examples of Negligence

There are countless examples of negligence that can lead to personal injury. Some common examples of negligent conduct include:

If you have been injured in an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if the negligence act played a role in your case. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law.

The Four Elements of Negligence

For someone to be held liable for negligence, the following four elements must be present:

slip and fall in a work environment

Duty of Care

The first step of a proving negligence claim is determining whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty. A duty of care is a legal obligation to avoid causing injury or harm to another person. This duty is based on the relationship between the two parties. Common examples of duty include:

  • A driver’s duty to other drivers on the road
  • A property owner’s duty to guests on their property
  • A doctor’s duty to their patients

Breach of Duty

The second element of negligence is a breach of duty. This occurs when the defendant fails to meet the standard of care owed to the plaintiff. The standard of care is based on what a reasonable person would do in the same or similar circumstances.

For example, a driver that drives recklessly has breached their duty to other drivers on the road. An attorney will often use expert testimony to prove that a defendant breached their duty. An expert witness can testify to the standard of care in a particular situation and whether the defendant breached that standard.

Causation

The third element of negligence is causation. This means that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the plaintiff would not have been injured if the defendant didn’t act negligently.

Damages

The fourth and final element of negligence is damages. The plaintiff must have suffered some injury or harm due to the defendant’s breach of duty. Some examples of damages include:

What Evidence Can I Use to Prove Negligence?

Many different types of evidence can be used to prove negligence. Some common examples include:

  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Videos of the accident scene
  • Police findings 

If you have been injured in an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you gather and preserve evidence to build a strong case.

Compensation in Personal Injury Cases

injury victim meeting with a personal injury lawyer

You may be entitled to compensation if the defendant is found liable for your injuries. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand what types of compensation you may be entitled to and can fight for your rights throughout the legal process.

How Much Money Can I Recover in an Injury Claim?

The amount of money you can recover in an injury claim will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether you were partially at fault for the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand what types of compensation you may be entitled to and can fight for your rights throughout the legal process.

For more than 50 years, the Washington DC personal injury lawyers of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. have successfully represented individuals and families who have been injured or lost loved ones due to someone else’s negligence.  Here is a small sample of some of our successful verdicts and settlements: 

  • $15 million for a woman who was permanently paralyzed from the neck down as a result of being struck by a stray bullet.
  • $6 million on behalf of a man who suffered a brain injury due to a rear-end collision.
  • $5 million medical malpractice settlement on behalf of a 14-year-old client who suffered a severe brain injury as a result of a doctor’s inappropriate use of a chemical product.
  • $4.8 million on behalf of a severely injured man when his motorcycle struck a trailer being pulled by a minivan.
  • $4.5 million for a woman who was seriously injured in a pedestrian accident after being struck from behind by a transit bus in a crosswalk.

See additional examples of our case victories and settlements on our “Case Results” page.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Washington, D.C. For a Free Consultation

If you are looking for the highest level of representation available for your personal injury case, turn to Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Our firm has helped clients recover more than $500 million in compensation, and we have more than 100 years of combined experience. All of our partners are recognized by Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®, and our firm includes three past presidents of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

We work to help our clients obtain fair settlement offers to compensate them for the injuries they’ve suffered, but our attorneys are extremely well-equipped to go to trial if needed. Call (202) 659-8600  or contact us online to get the proven legal representation you deserve.

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