4 Elements of Negligence
Personal injury cases are civil in nature—meaning injured parties seek money from wrongdoers. In the civil justice system, when someone wrongs another, it is called a tort.
What Is Negligence?
Most civil lawsuits for injuries allege the wrongdoer was negligent. To win in a negligence lawsuit, the victim must establish 4 elements: (1) the wrongdoer owed a duty to the victim, (2) the wrongdoer breached the duty, (3) the breach caused the injury (4) the victim suffered damages. In order to establish liability and secure a civil, monetary recovery under Georgia law, a plaintiff must establish all four of the above-mentioned elements.
A duty is a legal responsibility to do or not to do something. For example, Georgia drivers have a legal duty to follow the Rules of the Road.
Sometimes, you may be injured by a person or entity that has immunity. If someone or some group has immunity, that means you cannot sue. For example, schools and teachers have immunity, and so does the State of Georgia, its cities, and counties. Navigating difficult and complicated immunity issues is very important so that you can make sure you can recover if you are hurt because of someone’s negligence.
A breach of a duty is simply that—a person violated his responsibility. For example, someone who drives while impaired is breaking the law, and in turn, breaching a legal duty.
The causation element asks 2 things: First, whether the damages specifically suffered by the victim were caused by the wrongdoers breach of a duty. One way to figure this out is to ask whether the injuries would have happened “but for” the breached duty. Second, whether it could have been predicted that the breached duty would cause the type of injuries the victim suffered. So, one part of causation is very specific and one part is more general. For example, causation would be met if an impaired driver hit a pedestrian, causing the pedestrian to break his leg—specifically, the impaired driver’s actions directly caused the pedestrian to break his leg; and generally, when a person drivers while impaired, it is probable they will injure a pedestrian or others on the road.
In order to recover, a person must usually have been injured or suffered damages. There are 3 types of damages available to a victim in Georgia:
- Special damages: compensation for money lost, including medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs.
- General damages: compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, or the loss of society and companionship of a loved one.
- Punitive damages: these are to punish and deter a wrongdoer and the community as a whole from engaging in willful misconduct that could harm others.
Where to File Your Personal Injury Case
Georgia courts are only allowed to handle a case in which they have jurisdiction over the parties to the lawsuit. If a court has jurisdiction to handle a negligence case, it means they have the power to determine who was at fault and compensate the injured party.
Georgia courts have jurisdiction over Georgia citizens. In normal personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents, you can file a lawsuit in Georgia if the accident occurred in Georgia. Also, if you and your driver both live in Georgia you have to file your personal injury lawsuit here in Georgia, regardless of where the accident occurred.
In cases involving accidents with commercial trucks, the driver is often a citizen of another state. However, if the accident occurs in Georgia, the truck driver impliedly consented to the jurisdiction of Georgia courts by driving on the roads here. Therefore, if your accident occurred on the road in Georgia, the court can hear the case between you and the truck driver who hit you.
Venue is the legally proper place where an injured party can file his or her lawsuit. In general, an injured person can either file their lawsuit against another person in the county where the crash occurred or the county where the defendant (person who caused the accident) lives. When a company is at-fault in the crash, the analysis becomes much more complicated, and even more so when the company is not based in Georgia. Filing your lawsuit in the correct Court is important so 1) your case is not delayed, 2) you do not unnecessarily have to pay to file your case multiple times, and 3) you do not risk losing your lawsuit because you filed it in the wrong county and are not allowed to re-file it in the correct place.