A Negligence Claim is a Cause of Action Consisting of Several Elements

The elements of negligence in Illinois

Negligence is a common law cause of action specifically recognized by Illinois courts.  While Illinois courts often refer to three elements required to support a negligence claim, (Hartnett v. Boston Store of Chicago, 265 IL 331 (1914)) it is probably better to discuss five elements when explaining what constitutes cause of action for negligence.  Quinn v. Sigma Rho Chapter of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, 155 Ill.App.3d 231 (4th Dist. 1987).  The five elements are: 

  1. The existence of a duty,
  2. the duty must be owed from the defendant to the plaintiff,
  3. a breach of that duty,
  4. injury or damages to the plaintiff, and
  5. the injury or damages must be proximately caused by the defendant’s breach of duty. Id.

The existence of a duty means that the person against whom the action is brought must be legally required to act in a certain manner.  With regard to the second element, this requirement to act in a certain manner must be specific to the plaintiff.  If the person against whom the action is brought fails to act in the standard of conduct owed to the plaintiff, and as a result the plaintiff is injured, then the defendant is liable for any injury or damages caused by the defendant’s failure to act.  Id.
 
Accordingly, the “three essential elements” necessary to support a negligence claim, more fully stated as a grouping of the five elements above, are (1) A duty recognized by the law from one individual to another, (2) a failure to perform that duty, and (3) the failure is the proximate cause of an injury. Id.

To be held liable for negligence, the defendant must be at fault

There is no liability in a negligence claim without fault.  At trial a jury decides if a defendant is at fault for the plaintiff’s damages, and should be held liable.  This is an extraordinarily important function of our society.  Before making this determination at trial, the jury is instructed as follows: 

[T]he word “negligence” [is] the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the doing of something which a reasonably careful person would not, under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence. The law does not say how a reasonably careful person would act under those circumstances. That is for [a jury] to decide.  IPI 10.01 (2016).

[T]he words “ordinary care,” mean the care a reasonably careful person would use under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence. The law does not say how a reasonably careful person would act under those circumstances. That is for [a jury] to decide.  IPI 10.02 (2016).

While the general principles of negligence are relatively easy to grasp, it is important to understand that personal injury law is a highly nuanced area of the law.  A pro se litigant, or an attorney who does not regularly handle negligence claims, should not attempt to pursue an injury claim without consulting an attorney who handles these types of claims on a regular basis.
 
The Law Offices of Frederick W. Nessler & Associates, Ltd. has been handling negligence claims for over 35 years.  Our office handles injury claims every day, and we are familiar with the nuances of personal injury law.  We will help obtain the recovery you need, and will provide the representation you deserve.  If you have been hurt or injured in an accident, due to the negligence of another, contact one of our attorneys.