Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
A primary factor in determining negligence in a personal injury case is that the injury resulted from an accident or carelessness, as opposed to on purpose. If one party intentionally harms another, the defendant will be charged in a criminal case.
New Jersey defines negligence as a “failure to exercise, in the given circumstances, that degree of care for the safety of others, which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances” (5.10A).
Negligence includes both the doing of an act or the failure to perform an act that a reasonable person would have done to prevent harm.
To establish negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following four elements:
- Duty of care: The plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant had the duty to act as a reasonable person would in regard to preventing injury. Courts take into account many factors when determining the degree of care the plaintiff was owed, such as the type of injury, the relationship between the parties, and the defendant’s control over the circumstances that led to injury.
- A breach of duty: If the plaintiff proves the defendant had a duty of care, he or she must then establish the defendant failed in their obligation to exercise reasonable care.
- Causation: The plaintiff must effectively connect the defendant’s breach of duty with his or her injuries. The damages must be within the scope of what the defendant could have reasonably foreseen as a result of his or her actions.
- Damages: The plaintiff must have experienced actual harm as a result of the negligence. If the defendant did not exercise reasonable care, but the plaintiff did not sustain injuries, there is no basis for compensation.
Compensation & Shared Fault Law
If the plaintiff proves each of the four elements — the defendant breached his or her duty to care, and it directly resulted in actual damages — the plaintiff may be entitled to receive compensation.
New Jersey holds shared fault laws, meaning the court will determine the level of responsibility each party played in the injuries. As long as it is decided the plaintiff is no more than 50 percent at fault, he or she can recover for damages.
For example, if a distracted driver hits an intoxicated pedestrian who was illegally crossing a road, the defendant may argue although they are at fault because they were not paying attention to the road, the injured party is partially at fault for illegally crossing the road while intoxicated.
If the plaintiff seeks $100,000 in damages, and it is determined he or she is 30 percent at fault, the court would award them $70,000.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury & Negligence Attorney
If you are filing a personal injury case, you need an experienced legal team for representation in navigating the complexities of both establishing negligence based on the four criteria and also ensuring your recovery compensation is not significantly reduced through New Jersey’s shared fault laws.
For a free consultation, contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates, and we’ll learn about your case and share insights into how we can fight for you.