Negligence Lawsuits: What the Plaintiff Must Prove

 

Negligence occurs when a party fails to exercise proper care and, as a result, damages occur. Laws surrounding negligence and liability vary from state to state, so it’s important to contact a Kansas and Missouri injury attorney to represent your case. Although the definition of negligence is relatively simple, proving negligence as defined by law is a little more complex. In order to prove negligence, a plaintiff must prove four things.

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First, the plaintiff must prove that it was the defendant’s duty to exercise caution in a given situation. When there is a doctor-patient relationship, for example, the physician clearly has a duty to use proper care when treating the patient. On the roadways, drivers have a duty to their fellow citizens on the roadways to drive carefully.

The second element the plaintiff must prove is a breach of duty. In other words, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant did not exercise a reasonably acceptable level of caution or care while performing their duty. For example, a physician might have breached their duty if they accidentally prescribed the wrong medication or left a sponge inside a patient during surgery. A driver may have breached their duty if they did not stop for a red traffic light.

The third element that must be proved is causation. The plaintiff must be able to show that the negligent actions of the defendant directly caused the injuries to the plaintiff. The defendant is not necessarily responsible for the injuries of the defendant just because they were in breach of duty. For example, suppose a woman receives an operation and, prior to that operation, a nurse fails to scrub up properly. During the surgery, a sponge is left inside the woman and she develops an infection. In this case, both the surgeon and the nurse were in breach of duty, but the injuries are not due to the nurse’s breach of duty. Causation can only be shown in the case of the surgeon’s breach of duty, therefore, even though the nurse did not meet minimal standards of behavior, she did not cause the injuries to occur and cannot be held negligent in this case.

Finally, the plaintiff must be able to prove damages. Most times, the plaintiff has a stack of medical bills and records that clearly indicate that they were injured. It is important, however, that the physician notes the nature of the injury. A note saying you have a chronic back condition is going to carry far less weight than one saying you have a spinal hernia due to damage sustained in a car accident.

What is comparative or contributive negligence and how might that affect my case?

Missouri’s comparative negligence law addresses the fact that multiple parties may be negligent. In fact, sometimes even the plaintiff bears some responsibility for the accident. The law states that the plaintiff can only seek a level of damages that corresponds with the defendant’s level of responsibility. In other words, even if the plaintiff was 80 percent liable for an auto accident, they can still seek compensation for 20 percent of the value of their damages from the defendant, who was deemed 20 percent responsible.

Kansas modified comparative fault law is different. In Kansas, if a plaintiff is found to be 50 percent or more liable for an accident, they cannot recover anything.

The legal process can be overwhelming, so it’s critical to have an experienced Kansas personal injury attorney on your side. At the Hamilton Law Firm, LLC, we seek to educate our clients as we develop their case. We will help you understand what we do to build your case, so that you can contribute your knowledge and understanding of the events that led to your injury. If you have suffered due to the negligence of another, contact the Kansas and Missouri personal injury attorneys at the Hamilton Law Firm, LLC today.

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