Assessing Negligence Following a Traumatic Injury

Imagine waking up one day with your life turned upside down due to a severe injury. Was it an unfortunate accident or due to someone else’s negligence?

Every year, countless individuals face traumatic injuries that leave them battling physical, emotional, and financial hardships. In such difficult times, distinguishing between a mere accident and an act of negligence is crucial. We understand the intricacies of personal injury law and are dedicated to guiding you through these challenging times. In this article, we’ll explore key aspects to consider when determining if your injury was due to someone else’s negligence and what steps you should take next.

Accident vs Negligence?

Let’s begin by distinguishing between an accident and negligence. An accident is an unforeseen event causing injury, where no one is at fault. By contrast, negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise reasonable care and, as a result of that failure, a foreseeable injury occurs. 

To prove negligence, you must establish four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. If someone owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, caused you harm, and led to damages, you might have a strong case. Examples include car accidents due to reckless driving, slip-and-fall incidents on poorly maintained properties, and medical malpractice.

Criteria for Demonstrating Negligence in Traumatic Injury Situations

To obtain compensation for an injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to prove the following: 

1. Duty of Care

The first step in proving negligence is establishing a ‘Duty of Care.’ This legal term refers to the responsibility one individual has to avoid causing harm to another. This duty varies depending on the situation. For instance, drivers must follow traffic laws and not endanger pedestrians or other drivers. Similarly, business owners must keep their premises reasonably safe for customers. Establishing this duty is context-dependent and forms the foundation of a negligence claim. Without a duty of care, there can be no negligence, no matter how severe the injury.

2. Breach of Duty

Once a duty of care is established, the next step is proving a ‘Breach of Duty.’ This occurs when an individual fails to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling their duty. For example, a driver who texts while driving breaches their duty of care to other people on the road. =Similarly, a property owner who neglects a slippery floor, leading to a fall, breaches their duty to maintain a safe environment. Proving this breach involves showing that the defendant’s actions were not what a reasonably prudent person would have done under similar circumstances.

3. Causation

Causation is the link between the breach of duty and the incurred injury. It’s not enough to show that the defendant breached their duty; it must also be proven that this breach directly caused the traumatic injuries. This can often be the most complex part of a negligence case, as it requires a clear demonstration of how the breach led to the injury. For instance, in a car accident case, it must be shown that the injuries directly resulted from the accident and not pre-existing conditions or another unrelated event.

4. Actual Loss or Damages

The final element, ‘Actual Loss or Damages,’ refers to the tangible impact of the negligence on the injured person. This includes physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses like medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Quantifying these damages accurately is crucial, as they form the basis of the compensation claim. Medical records, expert testimony, and financial documents are crucial in substantiating these losses. A negligence claim cannot result in a settlement or award without demonstrating actual damages.


Understanding the distinction between an accident and negligence is crucial for anyone who has suffered traumatic injuries. At Vames, Wang & Sosa, we are deeply committed to helping our clients navigate the complexities of personal injury law. If you find yourself injured due to such circumstances, remember the importance of determining whether your injury was due to a mere accident or someone else’s negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Emery Wang

Emery Wang

Emery Wang has been a lawyer in Oregon since 2009. While attending Lewis & Clark law school, Emery worked as a Multnomah County District Attorney, and since then has been a full time personal injury lawyer.

Vames, Wang & Sosa Injury Lawyers focus on vehicle crashes, personal injury, and first-party car accident insurance claims. They have offices located in Gresham and Hillsboro.

Posted in