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Common Defenses Used in Negligence Claims

In civil claims, plaintiffs bear the burden of proving negligence. When one party accuses another of negligence, he or she can use several strategies to diminish or disqualify the evidence a plaintiff presents. Those wrongly accused of causing or contributing to an injurious accident must often fight against aggressive personal injury attorneys to protect their own rights under the law.

Proving a Negligence Claim

In every basic negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a reasonable duty of care.
  • The defendant violated that duty.
  • The defendant’s violation caused the incident.
  • The plaintiff suffered injuries in the incident.

For example, a driver owes a duty of care to use reasonable caution and follow the rules of the road. If the driver speeds, texts, or drives recklessly, he or she is in violation of the basic duty of care. If that momentary distraction or 10 extra mph contribute to a wreck and a plaintiff’s injuries, the defendant is liable for the resulting injuries.

Any number of factors in the example could change the merit of the negligence claim. The defendant could prove he or she used a reasonable level of care, that the plaintiff also violated the driver’s duty of care, that the plaintiff did not suffer harm in the incident, or that the defendant’s actions did not proximally cause the injurious incident.

Identifying Defenses in Negligence Claims

Regardless of the case matter, a defendant could choose to invalidate any of the four elements of proof a plaintiff presents, to focus on the plaintiff’s own negligence or assumption of risk, and/or focus on the technical elements required for the courts to uphold the claim. Depending on the case, a defendant may not have owed the plaintiff any duty of care, violated the accepted duty, caused the accident, or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. Medical expert reports, witness accounts, accident reconstruction, and other evidence may uphold the defense’s arguments to nullify the elements of negligence.

Texas operates under a modified comparative negligence rule in negligence claims. The concept allows the courts to diminish a plaintiff’s compensation based on his or her own percentage of negligence. Any plaintiff found 51% or more at fault for an incident cannot recover any damages in a claim. Furthermore, any defendant found less at fault may use that determination as a basis for his or her own personal injury claim.

In some cases, a plaintiff may engage in well-known risky activities and suffer an injury. If the plaintiff had prior knowledge of the risks involved in an activity and acted anyway, the defendant may not bear liability for the accident or resulting injuries. If, for example, someone goes ice skating, falls, and suffers an injury, the ice rink would not face liability unless it offered the customer defective rental skates or improperly maintained the rink. Ice skating holds a reasonable assumption of risk.

In addition to case-based defense strategies, a defense attorney may also point out technical flaws in the plaintiff’s claim. For a plaintiff to successfully file a claim, it must adhere to the relevant statute of limitations, file appropriate claim documentation, and follow all legally recognized avenues for compensation. Failure to follow the prescribed civil processes can result in an invalidated claim.

Building a Defense in a Negligence Claim

To protect your rights in a legal claim, reach out to an attorney for a consultation as soon as possible after any injurious accident. You may not see the legitimacy of a claim, but a plaintiff’s attorney will search for every possible argument against the defense. Contentious claims often come down to the legal capabilities of the attorneys representing each side.