How to Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

Establishing Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

In personal injury claims, three things need to be established to prove negligence: duty, breach of that duty, and causation. So, for a defendant to be held liable for negligence, they must have owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (the injured person), breached that duty by failing to meet the standard of care, and the injury that occurred must have been caused by the defendant’s breach of their duty.

Duty: When does someone owe a duty to someone else?

The state of Kentucky recognizes a universal duty of care. This means that every person owes a duty to every other person to use reasonable care in their actions to avoid foreseeable injuries. What the standard of care is for each person’s duty can change. Usually, the standard of care for duty requires someone to act as a reasonable person in the same circumstances would. However, the standard for duty can change depending on special circumstances. For example, a child or a doctor would have different standards of care than the average person.

Breach of Duty: When has someone breached their duty?

A person has breached their duty when, either through their actions or omissions, they have failed to prevent foreseeable injury to someone to that they owed a duty. If the resulting injury was unforeseeable, the defendant will not be held liable. Additionally, common knowledge is considered foreseeable. So, if someone did not know that something would lead to an injury, but they should have known and it is common knowledge, they can still be held liable for negligence.

Causation: When is a breach considered a cause of the injury?

If it has been established that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff and breached that duty, a claim for negligence will only stand if the defendant’s breach of their duty caused the injury sustained by the plaintiff. The defendant’s conduct will be considered a cause of the injury if it is a substantial factor in the creation of the harm. There can be multiple causes of an injury, and sometimes another cause can be so great and unforeseeable that it supersedes the defendant’s actions and cuts off the defendant’s liability. So, causation will only be satisfied if there was not a superseding cause.

Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim in Kentucky

In Kentucky, to prove negligence in a personal injury case, you must be able to show four elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. It’s important to note that in Kentucky the burden of proof lies with the Plaintiff (the person making the claim), and they must prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence.

  • Duty:  You must be able to show that the defendant had a legal duty to take reasonable care to prevent harm to others. For example, a driver has a duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely to prevent accidents.
  • Breach of Duty: Once you have established that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care, you must show that the defendant failed to do so. This is known as a breach of duty. For example, if a driver runs a red light and causes an accident, that driver has breached their duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely.
  • Causation: You must be able to show that their breach of duty caused your injury. For example, if the driver who ran the red light caused the accident that resulted in your injury, you must be able to prove that the driver’s breach of duty caused your injuries.
  • Damages: Finally, you must be able to show that you have suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Damages can include physical injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Also in Kentucky, there is a legal principle of contributory negligence, which can be used as a defense by the defendant. The defendant can argue that the plaintiff themselves were negligent and that this contributory negligence contributed to the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore the plaintiff’s recovery would be diminished in proportion to the degree that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the accident.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You Prove Negligence

It’s important to consult with an attorney with experience in personal injury law in Kentucky as the laws can be nuanced and can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.