Negligence cases are lawsuits in which the defendant is accused of not maintaining an appropriate standard of care or duty to the plaintiff. These cases are common in many different fields, including medicine, law, and business. Negligence cases are often brought by workers, clients, customers, patients, and private citizens who feel that an injury or accident was a result of improper care on the part of a responsible business or individual.
The first element involved in a negligence case is the proof of harm. This means that a plaintiff must have experienced injury or damages as a result of the behavior of the defendant. A potentially dangerous situation, such as a construction company using a faulty safety harness, is generally not cause for a negligence lawsuit unless an accident has occurred that can be traced to the safety harness. Proof of harm is necessary for two reasons: first, to ward off spurious lawsuits, and second, to ensure that the court can reasonably determine damages should the judgment go to the plaintiff.
Once a case has been accepted for review, the majority of the legal investigation will revolve around several basic questions. First, the court must determine whether the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff. A doctor, for instance, is often perceived as having a duty to provide a patient with medical care that meets the established standards of professional health care.
Second, the court must determine if that duty was breached. This issue usually helps distinguish between situations where a defendant was taking reasonable and professional precautions, but suffered a misfortune or accident, and those where the misfortune or accident was caused by negligent behavior. For example, a lawyer that refuses to do any research or evidence gathering before a trial might be guilty of negligence if he loses the case. Performing due diligence and maintaining a professional standard, however, does not guarantee that a lawyer will win a case. Examining this question in negligence cases helps determine the difference between a reasonable accident, and true negligence.
Third, the court must decide the scope of the defendant's responsibility, which helps determine the portion of an accident or injury that was within the direct control of the defendant. Negligence cases don't assume that the defendant is omniscient or can foresee all possible complications of a situation. If a drunk driver causes a car accident, he may face negligence cases from any injury victims. If one of the victims then takes an ambulance which is involved in another car crash, the victim would most likely be unable to sue the drunk driver for the second crash, since it was not within his mandate.
Finally, if a defendant is deemed to have breached duty, negligence cases typically end with a decision awarding reasonable damages. These are usually monetary compensations given to the plaintiff to cover medical or psychological treatment, pay legal costs, replace damaged property, or compensate for pain and suffering. Damages may depend on several factors, including the determination of the scope of responsibility, and the amount of lasting harm caused.