Negligence and Liability In Personal Injury Cases

The first step in any personal injury case is deciding if another individual or business is responsible for your injury. Liability is the technical terms for legal responsibility. In determining liability, your personal injury attorney will determine whether you injury was cause by the negligence of that individual or business.


Negligence is described as the failure to exercise the required amount of care to prevent injury to others. Many times this is described as what another reasonable person what do in a similar situation. For example, a reasonable person would stop at a red light to prevent running into another car. If you do not stop at the red light then you become negligent in your responsibilities.

Unfortunately, most personal injury cases are not so clear cut. In another example, many towns have ordinances to prevent slips and falls during winter, by requiring their citizens to clear off the sidewalks in front of their homes after a snow storm. In this situation, if you do not clear off your side walk you may be found negligent. The question comes in when determining what is reasonable. Should you have to clear off the side walk within one hour, two hours, or twelve hours? What if you work nights and you are sleeping during the day, when is it reasonable to be required to clear off the side walk? Lawyers and judges use a four step process to determine if an act or failure to act fits within the legal definition of negligence. All four of these requirements must be met to find the defendant liable for an injury

Legal Duty

The defendant must have a legal responsibility to act in a specific way. Every time you step into a drivers seat you have a legal duty to follow certain laws that prevent injury. In almost every facet of your personal and professional life you take on these responsibilities often without even knowing about these duties.

Failure to perform duty

After it has been established that the defendant had a legal duty then it must be proven that they failed to act. There are times when you do everything that should be done and accidents still occur. If the defendant acted in a responsibly way and someone was still injured then they cannot be considered liable.

An injury has been caused

It may seem obvious, but it is a very important provision that an actual injury occurs. If you forget to clean off the side walk after a snow storm and no one is injured, the city may cite you for disobeying the law but a walker cannot sue you for negligence.

Proximate cause

The final step in proving negligence is showing that the negligence act was the direct cause of the injury. Sometimes this can be the most difficult point to prove. If we take the example of the icy side walk again, and a teenager comes running down the street and slips the case becomes more complicated. Is it fully the fault of the homeowner for not clearing their side walk or should the teenage been walking and they were injured due to their own lack of care?

A qualified personal injury attorney is essential in determining if you have a solid personal injury case as they will be able to accurately check if all of these conditions have been satisfied.

For more useful information on making a Personal Injury claim and to learn more about how to make a Personal Injury claim, please visit our Making A Personal Injury Claim page and our Personal injury resources page