What Must You Show to Successfully Recover Compensation?
When you’re hurt because of the wrongful or careless acts of another person, you have a right to seek damages (financial compensation) for losses arising from the accident. Damages can include lost wages or income, unreimbursed medical expenses (past, present, and future), physical pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, and loss of the ability to perform the ordinary tasks of daily life or engage in activities that brought you fulfillment.
In most personal injury cases, you must prove the other party was negligent in order to recover damages.
What Are the Elements of a Negligence Claim in Texas?
To succeed with a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, you must convince a jury that:
- The defendant (person from whom you seek compensation) did not act as a reasonable person would have under the circumstance. Such a failure to act reasonably is also commonly referred to as a breach of the standard of care;
- The defendant’s breach of the standard of care caused an accident or event; and
- Led you to suffer “actual losses”
What Is the Duty or Standard of Care in a Negligence Claim in Texas?
Under the law of negligence, as it’s developed over the centuries, all persons in society are considered to have a duty at all times to exercise a reasonable level of care, so as not to needlessly pose a risk of danger or injury to others. That standard of care applies in all circumstances, whether you’re driving a car, designing or manufacturing a product, or maintaining residential or commercial property.There are no written laws that identify exactly what a person should do in a particular situation. Instead, whether a person has acted reasonably is determined by the jury, on a case-by-case basis, when it applies the facts of each case. The law does provide guidance, though, describing a reasonable person as “an average person of ordinary prudence.” In addition, juries are required to give greater weight to previous rulings in cases with similar facts and typically cannot make decisions that are contrary to precedent.
How Is Cause Established in a Negligence Claim in Texas?
The causation element in a negligence-based lawsuit requires that you establish two distinct types of cause:
- Actual, or “but for,” cause – This type of cause essentially asks the question “would the accident have occurred if the defendant had acted reasonably?” In other words, if you can show that “but for” the defendant’s breach of the duty of care the accident would not have happened, you have established actual causation.
- Proximate cause – On the other hand, proximate causation assesses whether the accident and/or losses incurred were “reasonably foreseeable” by the defendant when they breached the duty of care. There must be some reasonable connection between the wrongful act and the consequence. For example, if you are speeding and fail to stop at a traffic light or stop sign, it’s reasonable to expect that you may collide with another driver who has the legal right-of-way. However, if that driver careens into a fire hydrant, which floods a nearby home and destroys a rare baseball card collection, you may not be responsible to the owner of the cards, as the damages were not reasonably foreseeable.
Who determines whether the accident or damages were reasonably foreseeable? As with the standard of care, that responsibility falls on the jury.
What Are Actual Losses?
In the American civil justice system, damages are generally considered to be compensatory (i.e., designed to compensate you for something you’ve lost). If you’ve already been compensated for a loss—if, for example, your medical expenses are covered by insurance or a workers’ compensation claim—then it’s not an actual loss. In such a situation, even if you can show a breach of the duty of care and causation, you may recover only nominal damages or possibly no damages at all.
Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we know the impact that a personal injury can have on every area of your life. If you suffered an injury because of the negligent acts of another person, send us an e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.