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What Is Negligence?

What Is Negligence?Whether a distracted driver caused a car accident or you slipped and fell due to a dangerous property condition, negligence will likely play a significant role if you file a personal injury claim. Your ability to recover compensation in a civil case frequently depends on whether you can prove that the other party acted negligently under the circumstances.

Below we explain the legal concept of negligence, the elements a plaintiff must prove, and the deadline for filing a negligence claim in Oregon.

What Does It Mean To Be Negligent? 

In simple terms, negligence is a careless act or omission that results in harm to another person. When someone fails to act with reasonable care under the circumstances, they can be held liable for the damages they cause. 

To determine whether someone acted with “reasonable care,” their behavior is compared to that of a hypothetical “reasonable person.” This person is similarly situated to the defendant and exercises sound judgment and reasonable caution. 

For example, a brain surgeon’s actions in a medical malpractice case will be compared to those of a reasonable brain surgeon with a similar skill set, experience level, and educational background. If a reasonable brain surgeon would’ve handled the situation differently, the defendant may be found negligent. 

This standard of care will be different from a negligent motorist’s duty of care in a car accident case. Their behavior will be compared to a reasonable driver’s conduct in the same situation. 

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim?  

The plaintiff in a personal injury case has the burden of proving four elements of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. That means they must prove that the elements of their claim are more true (more than 50%) than not. If you can prove your case, you can establish that the defendant is financially accountable (liable) for your injuries. 

The four elements of negligence are outlined below: 

  1. Duty of Care

The defendant must have owed you a duty of care. This duty will depend on the relationship between the parties involved. 

For example: 

  • All motorists owe others sharing Oregon roads a duty of care to drive cautiously, follow traffic laws, and avoid causing harm to others. 
  • A physician owes their patients a duty to act within their professional standard of care (note: you must have a doctor-patient relationship for this duty to arise). 
  • A property owner has a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition to avoid harming invited guests. 

The duty of care typically arises by operation of law or custom. 

  1. Breach of Duty 

You must also prove that the defendant breached their duty of care, which is where the reasonable person standard comes in. If their conduct falls below this standard, they likely breached their duty. 

For example, a distracted driver is watching a video while sitting in traffic and rear-ends a car. A reasonable person wouldn’t engage in this behavior while behind the wheel. Therefore, a jury would likely decide that the defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff.

On the other hand, a plastic surgeon upholds their requisite standard of care but is sued by the plaintiff because they are unhappy with the results. This likely wouldn’t rise to the level of a breach of duty. 

  1. Causation 

The defendant’s breach of duty must have directly and proximately harmed the plaintiff. In other words, their actions must have caused the injury. You must show that you wouldn’t have been hurt if it weren’t for the defendant’s conduct. Additionally, your injuries must be a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.

Causation is often the most difficult element to prove in a personal injury case. You need evidence linking the defendant’s actions to the cause of your injuries. 

  1. Damages 

Lastly, you must prove that you sustained damages. Personal injury victims can pursue economic and non-economic damages, including: 

  • Past medical bills 
  • Future medical expenses 
  • Lost wages 
  • Diminished earning capacity 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Mental anguish 
  • Reduced quality of life 
  • Disfigurement 

If you can prove that you sustained damages due to the defendant’s negligent conduct, you can typically hold them financially liable and recover compensation.

What Is the Deadline To File a Negligence Claim in Oregon? 

Most Oregon personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the accident date. If the civil action is for the wrongful death of a loved one, you typically have three years from the injury date to file a claim. 

There could be exceptions that give you more or less time to file a lawsuit based on negligence. That’s why it’s important to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer in Portland to determine the deadline that applies to your case. 

Contact a Portland Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving Your Negligence Claim 

Proving negligence isn’t always an easy task. It often involves questions of law that require the help of a skilled attorney and complex technical issues that only an expert witness can clarify. If you’ve sustained injuries after an accident, call a Portland personal injury attorney at (503) 272-8986 for help proving the elements of your case and pursue the compensation you need.