Snellings Law PLLC Attorneys are Personal Injury Trial Lawyers

Accident Injury Lawyers

What is negligence?

There is no shortage of car crashes each year here in Texas. Most of us have either been in a car crash or had a close friend or family member who has been in one. In the aftermath of a crash, one very important question is, who was at fault? While we may think this is a relatively straightforward question – it can be more complex than we think.

John has rear ended another car and injured Ellen. Is he liable for her injuries? A jury would need to decide based on whether or not John’s negligence proximately caused the crash/injuries 

There are four elements to a negligence cause of action:

1.) Duty:

The at-fault party owed a duty of care to another party. A duty arises when the law recognizes a relationship between two parties and requires one of the parties to act in a certain manner toward the other. One example of this is that we all have a duty to other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and others on the roadway to use ordinary care while driving.

2.) Breach of Duty:

Did the at-fault driver breach his duty of care? In our example, the jury would determine whether John breached his duty by failing to use “ordinary care.” Ordinary care is defined as that degree of care that would be used by a person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, what would a normal person who was being careful have done or not have done in this same circumstance.

3.) Proximate Cause:

This element looks at whether the breach of duty caused the harm at issue. There are two parts to proximate cause: A jury will look at whether or not a person using ordinary care could have forseen that this or a similar event might reasonably occur.

• Cause in fact – Was the breach of duty a substantial factor in bringing about this event? In other words – “but for” the at-fault party breaching their duty, would the crash/injuries have happened.

• Foreseeability – Would a person using ordinary care have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result therefrom. In other words, is it foreseeable to an ordinarily careful driver that if they are not driving carefully, that they could cause a crash that injures someone.


4.) Harm:

The breach of duty must have resulted in some type of harm. In a personal injury case, there can be property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and others.


Going back to our example, an eye witness testifies John was following much too close to Ellen. Phone records show that John was also sending texts up to the time of his crash. Armed with these facts, a jury would be asked to decide if John was acting like an ordinarily careful driver when the crash happened. More specifically, the jury would likely be asked to answer a question similar to this:

• Did the negligence, if any, of John proximately cause the occurrence in question?
            Answer “Yes” or “No:”  _____________

Assuming the jury answers “Yes,” they would then move on to the damages questions, which will be the topic of a future blog.
Snellings Law PC focuses solely on helping people injured due to someone else’s negligence. If you or a loved one has been injured, call us today to set up your free consultation at 214-387-0387.


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