Some injuries are intentional—someone deliberately strikes you with their car or hits you with a baseball bat. But other injuries are unintentional, caused by the defendant’s carelessness. In these unintentional cases, you have been injured by someone’s “negligence” and you can bring a lawsuit for negligence. In Washington, you need to establish four elements to prevail on a negligence case.

Element One: The Defendant Owed You a Duty of Care

In some cases, duty is easy to prove. For example, a trucker owes other cars on the road a duty to drive carefully.

Element Two: The Defendant’s Conduct Breached this Duty of Care

If the defendant owes you a duty of care, they typically need to use the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise. For example, drivers must use the care that other careful drivers would use. This standard doesn’t require that people be perfect, but they can’t be more careless than a reasonable person.

Element Three: Damages

You need a legally recognizable injury to bring a negligence lawsuit. Generally, most injuries are physical, such as:

  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Cuts or abrasions
  • Brain injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • Spinal cord injuries

You can receive compensation for any money spent on medical treatment, as well as lost wages if your injury kept you out of work. These economic losses are directly attributable to your physical injuries.

You can also receive compensation for emotional harms like depression, anger, or irritability. Typically, however, these emotional harms must have been caused by physical injury of some sort, although there are limited exceptions.

Element Four: Causation

The defendant’s lack of care must have “caused” your injuries. This is the fourth and final element.

Causation has two parts. First, the defendant’s conduct must have been in the cause in fact. Ask yourself, “But for the defendant’s conduct, would I have been injured?” If the answer is “no,” then there is cause in fact.

Second, the injuries must have been foreseeable. They must have been a known risk based on the defendant’s actions.

Speak with a Yakima Personal Injury Lawyer

Negligence actions are complicated and require an experienced legal eye to determine whether you have a valid claim. To discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, please reach out to us today. Initial consultations are free.


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