How to Prove Negligence in a Texas Personal Injury Case
To hold another party responsible for damages in a Texas personal injury case, you must be able to prove their negligence caused your injury and other losses. Negligence refers to a party’s failure to exercise the reasonable care expected of them in a particular situation. Proving negligence requires establishing the following four elements.
Duty of Care
Cases of negligence can only be successful if the defendant (at-fault party) owed the plaintiff (victim) a duty of care when the injury occurred. A duty of care refers to a person’s legal obligation to act reasonably and avoid causing other preventable harm. The defendant’s duty of care will vary depending on the circumstances unique to your case, and what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation.
For example, suppose you are pursuing a car accident lawsuit, and the defendant was another driver who crashed into your car. In this case, the defendant owed a duty of care to others on the road to follow traffic laws, such as stopping at a red light. As another example, suppose you are filing a medical malpractice case. Medical professionals, such as doctors, are held to an even higher duty of care to extend the same degree of skill and care to their patients and possess the same training as other doctors in their community with the same specialty.
Breach of Duty of Care
The second element is a breach of duty of care. This is evidence of the defendant’s failure to demonstrate the reasonable care expected of them in your case. Violating this duty can be a wrongful action taken by the defendant that resulted in injury or a failure to act to prevent injury. Whether the defendant acted “reasonably” is often the most highly contested issue in a personal injury case. Going back to the car accident medical malpractice case examples. A breach of duty of care would be the driver running a red light (e.g., traffic camera footage, witness statements, etc,) or the doctor failing to check your medical history for known allergies before prescribing a medication you are allergic to (e.g., copies of medical records listing the allergy and the prescription).
Causation involves demonstrating that the defendant’s actions or inaction are directly linked to your injury. Another way to look at it is that your injury would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s behavior. If the defendant’s actions could cause foreseeable harm, most courts will find that you have met the burden of proof for causation. For instance, in the car accident case example, there is a risk of crashing into another vehicle when you run a red light. Therefore, the defendant should have known that action could cause foreseeable harm.
As long as you immediately sought medical care after the accident to link your injuries to the collision, causation should be relatively simple to prove. In other cases, it is not as easy. Suppose, in the medical malpractice case example, your allergy to the prescribed medication was not listed in your medical history, but you verbally told the physician. It would be much harder to prove causation since it would be your word against theirs unless there was a witness or record of some kind.
The final element in proving negligence in a Texas personal injury case is damages. There must be evidence that you suffered losses due to the defendant’s negligence, for which you deserve compensation. Whether that is in the form of a physical injury, property damage, psychological harm, etc. Without losses that entitle you to reimbursement, there is no case. Examples of damages include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
For more information on personal injury cases or to schedule a free case review, contact our Waco personal injury attorneys.