Negligence in Texas
This blog sets out the basics that a Dallas personal injury lawyer will tell you about negligence, one of the possible claims you may have if someone else has injured you. From a lawyer’s perspective, the totality of your claims (or causes of action, as we call them) will likely include negligence, products liability, or perhaps, if you have been injured on someone else’s property, premises liability. Products liability and premises liability, however, are complex topics that deserve their own separate blogs; so for now, we will focus only on negligence.
Everyone hears the term negligence, but not everyone knows what it really means legally. In Texas, and in most other states, negligence in personal injury cases has four basic elements: (1) a duty of care; (2) a breach of that duty of care; (3) the breach causes an injury; (4) and the damages that result. To prove a negligence case, all four of these elements have to be met.
This is oversimplified, but the duty element simply acknowledges that we, as citizens of our communities, have an obligation to act in a reasonable and prudent manner, so as not to cause injury or damage to others. The breach element then asks whether someone acted as a reasonable and prudent person would have acted. If not, then there is a breach of the duty of care.
The causation element is usually straightforward, but it can get complicated sometimes. If a person runs a stop sign and hits another car, then it is easy to say that that person caused the wreck. But what if someone clips a light pole with his or her car, which causes the pole to bend and loosens it from the ground, and then later a strong wind causes the pole to fall on an unwitting person walking by? Did the wind cause the accident or the car? These sorts of issues generally must be analyzed in terms of what was a foreseeable result of the first event – in this case, the car clipping the pole.
The injury and damages elements seem simple, but they too can get complicated. If an accident breaks a bone, then the injury element is easily met, but the damages that arise from that can be more involved. If the person was a surgeon and his or her hand was broken, then an analysis of the income loss from the injury must be done in addition to valuing the physical pain and medical expenses arising from the incident. If the accident caused only soft tissue injuries, say a sprained or strained neck or back, then the injury element itself may be more difficult to assess, as will be the resulting monetary damages.
In any event, this is obviously a very simplistic discussion of a topic that can become quite complex. To find out more about your possible negligence claims, please contact a Dallas personal injury lawyer at BVA.