According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the top three causes of preventable injury are falls, auto accidents, and poisoning. These preventable accidents may not have happened if motorists, property owners, and private companies had been more careful.
The failure to carry out these basic responsibilities often results in injuries that drastically alter the lives of victims and their families. Civil courts in Texas sum up this issue with one word: “Negligence.” But what exactly is negligence, and how does it affect your personal injury lawsuit? How do you prove that someone else’s negligence led to your injuries?
We explain everything you need to know about negligence, including its role in Texas injury lawsuits. When you’re ready to discuss negligence’s role in your injuries, reach out to a qualified Texas injury lawyer for answers. Contact Baumgartner Law Firm online to schedule a free consultation today.
Ready to secure the compensation you deserve? With over 35 years of experience and countless multi-million dollar wins, Baumgartner Law Firm is one of Houston’s most trusted legal practices. Call our law office at (281) 587-1111 to get started.
Defining Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
Negligence is the failure to act responsibly and safely toward other people. A negligent individual exhibits behavior that puts others in direct danger and can take action or inaction. The failure to act can be just as harmful as reckless, irresponsible actions.
A wide range of entities, including individuals, private companies, and government agencies, can carry out negligent behavior. Texas civil courts consider whether a “reasonable person” would have behaved similarly when determining whether one of these parties acted negligently.
Finally, someone can never be “guilty” of negligence – guilt only applies to criminal cases. Rather, civil courts can find a negligent party “liable” for the damages they have caused, meaning they can be held financially responsible.
You will need to establish negligence to pursue compensation for your damages in most personal injury cases. Texas is an at-fault or “tort” state when it comes to car accidents, and auto accident victims must establish that someone else was to blame for their injuries to receive compensation. The same logic applies to many other personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall lawsuits.
The Four Elements of Negligence in Texas
Negligence is a specific legal concept, and establishing it can be complex — especially without expert legal assistance. Your attorney must establish four crucial elements to demonstrate the defendant’s negligence.
1. Duty of Care
First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a “duty of care.” In other words, a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation should have exercised a certain level of care toward the plaintiff.
In the case of an auto accident, all drivers become responsible for the safety of others when they receive their licenses. Every time a motorist gets behind the wheel, they must follow the rules of the road and operate their vehicles in a way that does not endanger the lives of others. This relationship may be more specific in other situations.
For example, a landlord is responsible for providing their tenants with a safe, hygienic space that adheres to fire safety laws. A truck driver has a duty to follow the safety regulations to prevent a trucking accident. A property owner has a duty to clean up spills and address walking hazards in a timely manner. The specific nature of this duty of care varies depending on the circumstances of each personal injury lawsuit.
2. Breach of Duty
Once the plaintiff establishes a duty of care, they must show that the defendant breached the duty. In other words, the defendant failed to act reasonably and responsibly. Again, courts must consider whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have acted with greater care and responsibility. Some breaches of duty are obvious – such as drinking and driving—but other breaches, such as improperly merging onto a highway, maybe less obvious. Breaches may also occur through inaction, such as failing to fix a broken set of stairs.
It is important to consider the concept of “awareness” when assessing a potential breach of duty. If someone was unaware of a particular hazard, the court may not reasonably expect them to address it. For example, a customer might spill milk on the floor of a grocery store. Thirty seconds later, another customer might walk by and slip. In this situation, the grocery store owner could argue that since they didn’t have enough time to become aware of the spill, they had no chance to clean it. However, the court may still determine that a reasonable person “should have” become aware of a certain hazard – even if the defendant claims ignorance.
Causation is another important element of negligence in Texas. Causation represents the link between the breach of duty and the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. In some cases, a defendant may have exhibited negligence, but their behavior may not have directly caused an injury.
For example, a grocery store owner may have allowed a puddle of spilled milk to sit in the frozen foods section for hours despite becoming aware of the hazard soon after its appearance. This is an obvious form of negligence – but what if a shopper slips and falls in a completely different aisle where no hazard exists? In this case, there would be no causational link between the negligent behavior and the injury.
Finally, plaintiffs must prove they have experienced legitimate damages due to the negligence. These damages can be economic or non-economic. Establishing damages in some cases is often straightforward, as plaintiffs can show their medical records, hospital bills, and X-rays to establish that they have suffered genuine injuries. In other cases, the plaintiff may call a doctor to testify about the injuries and how the accident caused them. They may also provide income statements and tax returns to establish the cost of their missed wages.
Read More: How To Prove Wrongful Death in Texas?
Baumgartner Law Firm: Experienced Texas Personal Injury Lawyers in Houston
Although internet research can provide a basic overview of negligence in Texas, an online article will only get you so far. Each personal injury case may involve different types of negligence that may not be immediately clear. Establishing various forms of negligence requires convincing evidence, proven investigative techniques, and extensive knowledge of personal injury law in Texas.
Work with the Baumgartner Law Firm, and you can carry out all these steps confidently. Established in 1985, this law firm has assisted injured plaintiffs in Texas for over 35 years. Book a consultation today to discuss a personalized strategy based on your unique circumstances – and target the specific form of negligence that led to your injuries.
About Our Law Firm
Baumgartner Law Firm is a Houston personal injury law firm headed by Greg Baumgartner.
Our firm was established in 1985 and has helped thousands of injury victims get maximum compensation for their cases. If you have been injured in an accident in Houston, TX, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. (281) 587-1111.
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