Every single successful personal injury case shares a common factor which is the ability to prove negligence from the other party. Perhaps the most common example of negligence claims is car accidents. 

Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience on it’s own. With the addition of injuries and damages involved, medical care, and the legal aspect, this could easily veer into a larger and more complicated issue. 

Having an experienced car accident attorney by your side after an accident will help you avoid making any costly mistakes and give you ease of mind while you tend to your injuries. 

In order for an attorney to win your case, they must prove negligence. There are four main elements of negligence that must be met to successfully file a claim on your behalf. 

What Is Negligence?

Cornell Law School’s legal information institute defines negligence as:

A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. 

Essentially, negligence is when someone acts in a careless manner and does something that a reasonably careful person would not. Usually causing harm to another party.

What Are The Four Elements of Negligence?

Duty of Care

Duty of Care is a legal obligation on individuals (usually professionals) that requires their adherence to a standard of reasonable care.

In most circumstances, the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant might create a legal duty of care. 

For example, drivers are expected to follow all traffic rules, operate their vehicles in a safe manner, and maintain the safe condition of the car. In other words, they’re expected to operate their vehicle in a way that would avoid causing harm to others. 

According to injury attorney Ron Johnson, just like how business owners owe a duty of care to their patrons, they must ensure that their premises are safe for customers and employees, while making sure their products or services don’t cause any harm to anyone. 

Breach of Duty of Care

The second element of negligence is proving how the at-fault party had breached their duty of care. 

The way the court would look at this is seeing whether the at-fault party breached their duty of care by doing (or not doing) something that a reasonable person would do given the circumstances. 

Essentially, the defendant will be found negligent if it was proven that they deviated from what an average person would do in a similar situation, and had known that someone might be harmed as a result of their actions (or lack thereof).

This is easier said than done. 

In order to prove that the at-fault party was negligent, you or your lawyer must ask the right questions to establish the breach of duty and hold them responsible. 


The third element of negligence is causation. This element requires the plaintiff to actually show a direct causation between the breach of duty and their injuries. 

This is important because someone might be acting negligently but not cause any harm to anyone. The plaintiff can only recover damages if a direct causation was established. 

Many car accident lawyers have long, established relationships with medical professionals to help assess and prove the causes for injuries. 


The physical injury is the final element of a negligence case. After you’ve established who caused your injuries and how, you’ll need to prove the extent of your damages.

There are two main categories that you can include in your injury claim:

  • Special Damages: This is the amount of money you’ve lost and will lose because of the negligence of the other party. This includes medical bills, any additional expenses, and lost wages.
  • General Damages: These are the non-economic damages. This includes emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. 

With the first three elements of negligence, you would work on establishing the negligent party’s fault. On the other hand, the fourth element shows how badly you were hurt, and proves what your claim is worth.