The Four Elements Needed to Prove Negligence

Personal injury medical assessment. Concept for proving negligence in a Personal Injury claim.

When an accident causes injuries, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Most claims for personal injuries arise from accidents like a car crash, a truck accident, or medical malpractice. To hold the responsible party liable for the harm they caused, you must prove a negligence claim. Negligence can result from an action like speeding, improperly loading a semi-truck, or cutting the wrong body part during surgery. Negligence can also be caused by inaction, such as failing to stop at a stop sign, not complying with federal hours of service rules, or failing to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. If you wish to recover financial compensation for your injuries, you must prove a negligence claim.

Proving a Negligence Personal Injury Claim

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. To prove a negligence personal injury claim, the injured person, known as the plaintiff, must prove all four elements of a negligence claim by a preponderance of evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is the legal standard that applies to most personal injury negligence claims and means that it is slightly more likely than not that an event occurred the way the plaintiff claims.

To prove a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove (1) duty, (2) breach, (3) causation, and (4) damages.


The plaintiff must establish that the defendant (the person or entity being sued) owed them a duty of care. A person owes another person a duty of care if it is reasonably foreseeable that their actions or inaction could cause harm.

For example, in a car accident or truck accident case, a driver owes other people on the road a duty of ordinary care not to create an unreasonable risk of harm. In a medical malpractice case, a doctor owes a patient a duty to use reasonable care.


A breach occurs when the person who owes a duty acts or fails to act with a degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would use in the same or similar circumstances. The plaintiff must be able to clearly explain how the defendant breached their duty.


To prove causation, the plaintiff must prove the defendant caused them harm by breaching their duty. The harm must have been reasonably foreseeable, and the defendant’s actions must have been sufficiently related to the plaintiff’s damages to assign legal liability.


Damages represent the amount of harm the defendant caused the plaintiff and are often expressed as an amount of money that will fairly compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. In a negligence personal injury claim, damages often include the cost of medical and hospital bills, lost income, property damages, pain and suffering, decreased quality of life, and emotional pain and suffering.

Gathering Evidence to Prove Negligence

To prevail in your negligence personal injury claim, you must gather the information necessary to prove all four elements. The evidence you need can differ depending on the nature of your claim. It may include a police report, medical records, photographs, and expert medical testimony.

Most negligence personal injury claims include medical records and hospital bills that are used to prove the nature and extent of the harm caused by the defendant.

If you missed time from work or had to use vacation time because of your injuries, you can present evidence of your past and future lost wages.

You may need a medical expert to testify to prove your injuries were caused by the defendant’s actions or failure to act. Doctors are typically called as expert medical witnesses. Unlike a lay witness, a medical expert witness can express an opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical probability and certainty, as to the cause of your injuries. Your lawyer can use this evidence to prove the defendant’s actions caused your injuries.

When an Accident Causes Injuries, The Robenalt Law Firm Will Fight For You

If you or someone you love was injured because of someone else’s negligence, The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., can help. Our attorneys have more than 45 years of combined experience representing injured victims and their families. Tom Robenalt began his career in the insurance defense field and knows first-hand how insurance companies evaluate personal injury cases.

To put our experience and expertise to work for you, call (216) 223-7535, email, or complete our online contact form.

Categories: Personal Injury