Held to a Standard
Negligence plays a significant role in insurance claims, as the negligent party could be the one who is found liable for compensating the wronged party. To understand how negligence plays a role in insurance claims, let's first take a look at the legal definition.
Negligence is the failure to act in a way that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances and conditions. We have a duty to act in a way that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. In “slip and fall” cases, the duty may be for a store owner to clean up spilled liquids so the customers don't slip. In auto accident claims, this duty is to drive with the proper level of care and precaution that a reasonable person would under the same circumstances. For example, we owe a duty to other drivers to drive with extra precaution during adverse weather. A person who failed to act with that standard of precaution could be seen as negligent. And if that person caused an auto accident or otherwise injured someone, that negligence could mean he or she has to pay for the damages.
A Look at Variables
It's important to understand that determining negligence involves a somewhat subjective variable: the reasonable person. In the aftermath of an accident where it's not clear who was at fault, it's easy to question just what a “reasonable” person would have done under similar circumstances. When the roads are icy, we can assume a reasonable person would take extra precaution and slow down. If a person did not slow down in icy roads, that person could be found negligent.
The Elements of Negligence
Unfortunately, it's not enough to point the finger at someone who caused an accident and claim he or she was negligent. Negligence is compromised of certain legal elements that must be established. If the following elements are satisfied, a legal claim of negligence may stand.
- Under the circumstances, the person had a duty to take care. (This is the duty to care)
- The behavior of the defendant did not meet the standard of care a reasonable person would have met under the circumstances. (Breach of care)
- The plaintiff suffered a loss or an injury that, under the circumstances, a reasonable person would have been expected to foresee. (Damages incurred)
- The damage was caused by the breach of care. (Causation)
Without establishing these elements, the defendant would not be responsible for the losses the plaintiff suffered. Consider this example as an illustration: The defendant was gardening in his other private garden in a fenced yard. The defendant left a water hose out as he or she went to retrieve a tool from a shed in the back of the property. A solicitor came onto the property and tripped on the hose while approaching the front door. The solicitor suffered a broken leg and claimed the defendant was negligent. Because the defendant did not have a duty to clean up the hose before walking to the shed, he or she did not have a duty to care. He or she had no reason to expect solicitor would come on the property and so did not take precaution. The property owner (the defendant) would not be found negligent.
In some cases, proving negligence is difficult. If you have been injured and want to seek compensation, speak with a California personal injury attorney. It's vital you involve an attorney early on, especially if liability is disputed. Some forms of evidence can perish and must be preserved immediately. For example, witnesses are often powerful sources of testimony in cases where it's not clear who was at fault. But memories fade quickly, so witnesses much be questioned as soon as possible. Consult with an attorney to discuss the circumstances and facts of your case. An attorney can help you prove negligence, if necessary, and establish liability and thus your right to compensation. From there, your attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Do you need help getting the compensation you deserve? Fresno area personal injury attorney Christopher Martens can help you protect your interests and rights while settling your claim. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide knowledgeable personal injury claim guidance. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.