How to Prove 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 persons’ 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: 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 that they owed a duty to. 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.