Identify and explain the four elements of proof necessary for a plaintiff to prove a negligence case.
The four elements necessary to prove a negligence case are duty of care, breach of that duty, injury, and causation. The first requirement in establishing negligence is for a plaintiff to prove the existence of a legal relationship between himself or herself and the defendant. Duty is defined as a legal obligation of care, performance, or observation imposed on one to safeguard the rights of others. This duty, for example, can arise from a relationship between a physician and a patient which may be as simple as a telephone conversation. Duty can also be established by contract or statute between a plaintiff and a defendant. The second element, breach of duty, is the failure to conform to or the departure from a required duty of care owed to a person. Once a duty of care has been created, the plaintiff must exhibit that the defendant breached that duty by failing to comply with the required accepted standard of care. Evidence of a breach of duty typically can be offered through expert testimony or res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”).
Injury is the third element needed to prove a negligence case. The term injury is not limited to just physical harm but may also be comprised of loss of income or reputation and compensation for pain and suffering. According to Showalter, “it is not enough to prove that a physician failed to meet the standard of care and the patient was injured. A plaintiff must show that the injury was the proximate cause of the negligence” (Showalter, 2008).
The final element needed to establish negligence requires that there be a close, reasonable, and casual relationship between the defendant’s negligent conduct and the resulting damages suffered by the plaintiff – in other words causation.
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