The Four Elements of Negligence

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When our personal injury lawyers meet with people for the first time, we evaluate whether they have a legal claim. There are several different grounds for legal liability for a personal injury. One way that a person can be legally liable for someone else’s personal injury is based on negligence.

Negligence is one type of personal injury claim. To succeed, the victim, or plaintiff, must prove all the elements of negligence. There are four elements of negligence.

What Are the Four Elements of Negligence?

The four elements of negligence are:

  1. A duty of care
  2. Breach of the duty of care
  3. Legal causation of injury
  4. Damages

Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entertainment, 180 P.3d 1172 (Nev. 2008).

The Law for the Elements of Negligence in Nevada

There is not a Nevada Revised Statute that states the elements of negligence. Instead, negligence has been developed and stated by the courts in case law. Even though no statute explicitly states the elements of negligence, it is a clear and established law that has been defined over time by the courts. See Jordan v. State, Dep’t of Motor Vehicles, 121 Nev. 44 (2005).

How Negligence Works in a Nevada Personal Injury Claim

Negligence is what the plaintiff must prove to hold a defendant legally liable for causing a personal injury. It is what makes up a negligence personal injury case. The four elements of negligence are what the victim must prove to receive a judgment in their favor.

Do you have to prove all the elements of negligence?

To succeed in a personal injury claim based on negligence, the victim must prove all the elements. If even one element of the case fails, the victim cannot receive a judgment in their favor or financial compensation.

How is negligence presented at a personal injury trial?

At a trial on a negligence claim, the issues of negligence are presented as follows:

  • The plaintiff starts with an opening statement explaining how the evidence will show that the defendant is responsible for negligence
  • The defendant can also make an opening statement
  • During the trial, the plaintiff presents evidence of all the elements of negligence
  • In turn, the defense can refute the evidence presented by the plaintiff; they may also argue comparative negligence and other defenses
  • Each of the parties may make closing statements, summing up how the evidence shows or disproves negligence
  • The court instructs the jury on the law, using the Nevada Civil Jury Instructions
  • Jury deliberations begin and continue until the jury decides whether the plaintiff has proven the four elements of negligence

At trial, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the defendant’s negligence. Both parties can present evidence and question the opposing party’s evidence. Ultimately, the jury decides the factual issues and whether the defendant is liable to pay the victim compensation.

Examples of the Elements of Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

Foster v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 128 Nev. 773 (2012) – A victim went to Costco. There, he fell over a wooden pallet that was in an aisle. He suffered injuries and brought a personal injury claim. On appeal, the court said that a landowner has a duty of care to protect entrants from dangers on the property. They noted that negligence is generally a factual question for the jury to resolve. The court reversed a summary finding in favor of the defendant based on the open and obvious doctrine. The court remanded the case for further proceedings.

DeBoer v. Senior Bridges of Sparks Family Hosp., Inc., 128 Nev. Adv. Op. 38 (2012). – The court found that general standards of negligence apply to non-medical functions performed by a medical facility. The facility has a duty of reasonable care to avoid harm under general negligence principles. The court reversed a ruling that the facility had no duty to the patient other than competent medical care.

Klasch v. Walgreen Co., 127 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 74, 54805 (2011) – A person went to fill a prescription at Walgreens. The Walgreens pharmacy system flagged the prescription as causing a potential allergic reaction for the patient. However, the company dispatched the prescription. The victim suffered an allergic reaction and burns, which were ultimately fatal. The court reiterated the four elements of negligence before discussing the narrow duty to warn when a pharmacy knows that a drug prescribed for a patient could be harmful for the patient based on a pre-existing physical or mental condition.

Exploring the Elements of Negligence

How does Nevada define duty as an element of negligence?

Duty is the obligation that a person must exercise reasonable care when their conduct may create a risk of harm to others. The duty that a person has is that of ordinary reasonableness and prudence.

What is a breach of duty in negligence?

A breach of duty in negligence is when the actions or inaction of a person fails to meet at least the minimum standard of reasonable care.

How does Nevada define causation as an element of negligence?

Nevada defines proximate cause as the natural and continuous sequence that produces the injury, damage, loss, or harm. A legal cause is when negligence is a substantial factor in bringing about the injury or harm. It is more than a remote or trivial factor.

See Nevada Jury Instructions 4.4 and 4.5 for a thorough discussion of proximate causation, legal causation, but-for causation, and substantial factor causation, and when each instruction is appropriate in personal injury law.

What are damages as an element of negligence?

Damages are the losses and harm the victim has suffered because of the negligent act. The law says what losses and harms qualify as compensable damages. It also governs how damages are valued for compensation.

Nevada Lawyers for Proving the Elements of Negligence

To receive compensation for a personal injury claim, you must prove the legal fault of the defendant. Fault may be proven by showing the four elements of negligence.

When we represent you, our lawyers build the evidence to prove your case, including showing how the defendant was negligent. Contact the Nevada Accident Injury Lawyers today for a free review of your claim.


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