Negligence has an important place in personal injury law as a legal theory applied in many types of cases in which an accident has occurred. Anyone who has observed or been party to a civil case involving injury, usually a car accident, can likely recall how important determining negligence is to the outcome of a case. The theory of negligence, which is the controlling theory in many civil cases, has reached even the highest court in the U.S.
There are several types of negligence used in courts across the nation. In Missouri, comparative negligence is the legal doctrine applied by courts. Comparative negligence is a more lenient theory of negligence when compared with contributory negligence, as it allows a plaintiff to collect damages even if they were partially at fault for their own injuries. In order for negligence to be established a court must evaluate the five elements of negligence against the facts of the case.
The first element of negligence that must be established is the element of duty. The exact nature of the duty varies, but in general the defendant must own the plaintiff a duty to act or not to act. Once it has been established that a duty existed, the court moves on to the next element. The second element of negligence is a breach of duty, which means that the defendant did not adhere to the duty owed to the plaintiff. If a breach is established the court will evaluate the third element, which is to make a determination of whether or not the breach of duty actually caused an injury to the plaintiff.
The theory of negligence holds every citizen to a certain level of reasonable behavior. Agreeing upon a common level of duty to each other helps protect individuals as well as society as a whole.
Source: FindLaw, “Missouri Negligence Laws,” Accessed Sept. 9, 2014