The Four Elements Needed to Prove Negligence In a Personal Injury Claim in Michigan

Close up on a car crashed during an accident with two firemen in background with firetruck visual concept for legal blogs about the elements to prove negligence.

When someone has been seriously injured in an accident in Michigan, they often suffer physical pain and emotional distress. In addition, many people struggle financially after a severe accident. Medical treatment is expensive, and the more serious your injuries, the more expensive your care is likely to be. After a serious accident, many people are unable to return to work and are losing income.

To recover financial compensation after an accident, the injured person must prove that someone else caused their injuries. No matter what type of accident you were involved in, whether your injuries were caused by a car accident, a dog bite, a collision with a truck or other commercial vehicle, a slip and fall or trip and fall injury, or another cause of injury, if you wish to recover financial compensation, you must prove the other person was negligent.

Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care. To prove someone was negligent and hold them liable for the injuries they caused, the injured person, known as the plaintiff, must prove their claims by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is the legal standard that applies in most personal injury claims. It means it is more likely than not that an event occurred the way the plaintiff claims.

To prove a negligence claim, the plaintiff must establish four elements:

  1. Duty,
  2. Breach,
  3. Causation, and
  4. Damages.

Here, we examine the four elements to prove negligence in a personal injury claim.

Duty of Care

The duty of care is the obligation one party owes to another to use reasonable care under the circumstances. A person owes another person a general duty of care, ie what a reasonable person would or would not do in the same or similar circumstance.

For example, in a car accident or truck accident case, the injured party must prove the other driver owed a duty of care to other people on the road. In a medical malpractice case, once the patient has established a doctor-patient relationship with the medical provider, the provider has a duty to provide the patient with reasonable medical care.

Duties can also be created by statute, such as the Michigan Traffic Code, the Michigan Penal Code, or other safety statues.

Breach of Duty

Once duty has been established, the plaintiff must prove a breach of that duty. A breach of duty is the failure to use ordinary care, or the failure to act with a degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would use in the same or similar circumstances. For example, did the driver fail to stop at a stop sign or red light? Did they drive left of center? Did a surgeon leave gauze or a surgical tool inside the patient’s body? These are examples of a breach of the duty of care.


To prove causation, the plaintiff must show that the other party caused them harm by breaching their duty. This is sometimes referred to as “but for” causation, meaning that the plaintiff would not have been injured if not for the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff’s injuries must have been reasonably foreseeable, and the defendant’s actions must have been sufficiently related to the plaintiff’s injuries so as to assign legal liability.


Damages are the final element of a negligence claim and represent the amount of harm the defendant caused. The measure of a plaintiff’s damages is often expressed as an amount of money that will fairly compensate the plaintiff for the harm they suffered. In a negligence claim, damages often include economic losses, such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage, as well as non-economic losses like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional trauma.

How to Prove Negligence in Your Personal Injury Claim

To succeed in a negligence personal injury claim, the plaintiff must present evidence to establish all four elements to prove negligence. The evidence you need will differ depending on the nature of your claim. In a car accident or truck accident, evidence often includes the police report, medical records, photographs, and expert medical testimony. To receive compensation for the time you missed from work, you may present evidence of time you could not go to work or vacation time you were required to use.

In many negligence personal injury claims, you will need to present expert medical testimony to establish that your injuries were caused by the defendant’s actions or failure to act. Your personal injury lawyer will likely have a doctor testify as an expert witness. Unlike a lay witness, an expert witness can express an opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical probability and certainty, as to the cause of your injuries. The physician will be asked to testify whether it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or failure to act was the cause of your injuries.

Muth Law, P.C. Will Help You Prove Your Negligence Personal Injury Claim

Regardless of the type of accident you suffered, Muth Law can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Our lawyers have been practicing law in Michigan since 1987. We regularly work with accident reconstruction experts, medical experts, healthcare professionals, life care planners, financial experts, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and other experts who will help win your case.

To put our experience to work for you, contact Muth Law today. Call 734-481-8800, email, or complete our online form.

We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation. We will listen carefully as you describe what happened. Then we will explain your options and how we can help.

Categories: Personal Injury