Negligence is the foundation of the tort system in modern law. It is generally accepted that if one acts in an unreasonably careless manner and causes harm to another person, the careless person will likely be legally liable for any harm as the result of their negligence. The theory of negligence can be proved in court if four elements are proven: duty, breach, cause, and damages/harm.

Elements of Negligence


An ability to prove the defendant owed you a duty of care not to cause you or others harm.


An ability to prove that a violation of standard care resulted in an injury for you or a family member.

Cause in Fact

An ability to prove a correlation between the negligent or harmful action that took place and the negative consequence you suffered. The ability to prove a direct link between a negligent act and the injury that resulted from that action.


An ability to prove you suffered injuries, loss, or other expenses because of someone else’s negligence.

Understanding these elements of negligence will provide some clarity as you make the determination if you are going to pursue a civil action.

Examples of Negligence 

  • A driver who runs a stop sign causing a car accident .
  • A store owner who fails to put up a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign after mopping up a spill.
  • A property owner who fails to replace rotten steps on a wooden porch that collapses and injures visiting guests.

Damages in Negligence

Damages. If a plaintiff successfully proves duty of care, breach and causation, they will be eligible to receive compensation for their injury or the harm that has been caused. This final element of a negligence claim is called damages. Damages are awarded for both economic and non-economic loss.

Negligence is  About Behavior

As a legal term, negligence means not meeting a standard of behavior established to protect society against unreasonable risks. As a major factor in personal injury and property damage cases, negligence is the cornerstone of tort liability. In the event of negligence, proving negligence is difficult if you want compensation. You can, however, sue for negligence if you take the appropriate steps toward building your case.