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Legally Speaking, What Is Negligence, and What Does It Mean for My Montana Lawsuit?

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2015 | Firm News

There are many legal terms that are used every day by non-lawyers in a non-legal way. The word “negligence” is one of those terms. People use the word “negligent” every day to describe someone who did something wrong. In a very broad sense, this is correct; however, from a legal standpoint, the term “negligence” has a very specific meaning.

Many personal injury lawsuits are based on negligence, which is when one party fails to use reasonable care in his behavior, actions, or inactions. Two good examples of negligence cases are automobile accidents and medical malpractice cases.

The four components of a Montana negligence lawsuit, all of which must be proven to recover in court, are as follows:

  • Duty;
  • Breach;
  • Actual and proximate causation; and
  • Damages.

The first element of a negligence case is the existence of a legal duty. Duty is generally based on the relationship between the plaintiff, who brings the lawsuit, and defendant (or wrongdoer), against whom the lawsuit is brought. However, whether a duty exists also depends on whether the wrongdoer should have reasonably anticipated that his behavior might have caused injury to another person. For example, drivers have a duty toward other drivers, pedestrians, and other users of the road to follow state traffic laws. If they do not do so, others may be injured or even killed.

The second element of a negligence case is a breach of the duty. In other words, did the wrongdoer use ordinary and reasonable care in carrying out his duty? If the wrongdoer did not, that is considered a breach of the duty, which is the second factor in a negligence case. For instance, a breach would occur in a medical malpractice case if a health care provider failed to use reasonable medical care in diagnosing a condition or in treating a patient.

Causation is the third element of a negligence case. In this factor, the focus is on whether the breach actually caused the harm suffered by the injured party. This is often expressed as “but for” causation; in other words, can it be said that “but for” the wrongdoer’s conduct, the damages would not have occurred? If so, this element is met.

The final element in a Montana negligence case is whether there are damages. Even if all of the first three elements are shown, a lawsuit will not be successful unless a plaintiff suffered some form of damage. Damage can include personal or psychological injuries, such as broken bones, soft tissue injuries, or sleep disturbances; property damage, such as damage to a car; lost past or future wages; and pain and suffering.

If you have suffered damages due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for damages. At Tipp & Buley, we believe in proper recovery for damages caused by others, and we stand ready to make sure you are treated fairly. We have extensive experience in personal injury cases and will put our expertise to work for you. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our firm online or call 406-389-4215.