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What is Negligence and How Does It Affect My Personal Injury Claim?

Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Jul 17, 2017 in Personal Injury

judge's gavelA personal injury lawsuit is a valuable tool for those who have been injured because of another’s actions. However, in order to file a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove that someone else, whether an individual or an entity, was responsible for causing your injury.

In many cases, this requires proving that the at-fault party was negligent. Simply put, negligence occurs when someone fails to act within certain standards of conduct that protect others from unreasonable risk of harm. This can also occur when someone fails to act in an appropriate way.

For example, a person can be negligent if he or she ignores traffic safety by speeding or running a red light, or if a property owner fails to fix a broken handrail or slippery floor.
The Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction for Negligence states:

“Negligence is doing something that a person using reasonable care would not do, or not doing something that a person using reasonable care would do. Reasonable care means that caution, attention, or skill a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances.”

Our seasoned Silver Spring personal injury attorneys have decades of experience proving the four elements of negligence and can help you determine if you have a negligence claim.

The 4 Elements of Negligence

To bring a successful claim based on negligence, you will have to prove the following four elements of negligence:

1. Duty of Care

A duty of care is a legal obligation to act with reasonable care to prevent injury to another. This duty varies based on the relationship between the people involved and the circumstances of the situation.

In most everyday situations, we each have a duty to act as a reasonable person and not cause harm to anyone else, even strangers. This can include coming to a complete stop at a red light and following the speed limit.

A duty of care is also important in many professional relationships, including the relationship between a doctor and patient. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to act within the standards of the medical community and as others with similar training would under similar circumstances.

2. Breach of Duty of Care

If an individual fails to act as a reasonable person would, he or she has breached his or her duty of care.

This can occur if a person does not stop at a light that is clearly red or drives above the speed limit. In the medical community, a breach of duty of care can occur if a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or fails to diagnose the correct medical condition, despite clear evidence of the correct diagnosis.

3. Proximate Cause

If this breach of duty causes harm to someone, the at-fault party who owed the duty of care could be held liable for the resulting injuries.

However, you must have documented evidence showing that your injuries were directly caused by the person’s breach of duty of care and would not have occurred if it had not been for that individual’s negligent actions.

The at-fault party will try to convince a judge and jury that he or she was not at fault for your injuries and that they were caused by something else.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to gather evidence to support your claim that your injuries were caused by the other person’s negligence.

4. Injury and Damages

If you were injured because of another’s negligence, you will need to show that you suffered damages in order to file a personal injury lawsuit. This can include economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

These damages will determine the value of your personal injury case and the compensation you can recover.

Contributory Negligence in Maryland

Although the concept of negligence is fairly straight forward, your claim could become complicated if you were partially to blame for your injury.

This is because Maryland is one of five states in the country that uses the rule of contributory negligence to assign a percentage of fault to both the injury victim and the at-fault party. Under this rule, if an injury victim is even one percent at fault for causing or worsening his or her injuries, he or she will be barred from recovering any compensation from a personal injury lawsuit.

This harsh rule requires the help of a reputable personal injury lawyer to help ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve after an injury.

The Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction on Contributory Negligence states:

“A plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff’s negligence is a cause of the injury.   The Defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff’s negligence was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury.”

Schedule a Free Consultation with our Silver Spring Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured because of another’s actions, contact our personal injury lawyers for a free, no obligation review of your claim. We have decades of experience representing injury victims throughout Maryland and can help you determine if you have a case.

Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis and will not charge for our services unless we recover compensation for you.

Call (888) 213-8140 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form.

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