Many people use the term “negligence” in everyday language, most often in referring to something a person should have done. While this concept is generally correct, in the legal field, “negligence” has a very specific meaning.
In Louisiana, the law provides a right to bring a lawsuit against a person who causes damage to another: “every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.” In other words, a person who causes personal injury or property damage is required by law to pay for it. To read more about personal injury law, please read our earlier blog here.
To prove a case of legal negligence in Louisiana, the person bringing the lawsuit must be able to prove the following four elements of a case:
- The existence of a duty;
- A breach of that duty;
- Causation of his or her injuries or other damages; and
- Actual damages incurred.
4 Elements of Actionable Negligence
- The first element of the case is the existence of a duty. This means that the person being sued must have had some obligation to act reasonably for the other person. A duty sometimes arises because of a law that require someone to act in a certain way. For example, Louisiana traffic laws require drivers to stop at stop signs and obey speed limits. Louisiana courts have also issued many decisions that determine when a duty exists.
- If the injured person can show the existence of a duty, the next question is whether the wrongdoing party breached that duty. For instance, in the example above, the person who was injured would have to prove that the other driver ran a stop sign.
- The third element of an actionable negligence case in Louisiana is known as causation. If the injuries or damages would not have occurred without the wrongdoer’s breach, causation exists. This can be a complicated issue when there are several contributing causes to an accident. For example, perhaps the other driver did coast through a stop sign, but the injured party also ran his stop sign and was speeding. The injured party’s speed may be considered the cause of his injuries. In addition, any time the existence of a duty stems from a law, special rules apply.
- Finally, the injured person must show that he or she was damaged or injured in some way. Damages can include personal injuries, such as broken bones or emotional distress, as well as property damage, which would include damage to the injured party’s vehicle.
A possible recovery for actionable negligence can best be evaluated by an experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyer. To schedule a free consultation today, contact Wright & Gray.