Health Care Policy

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Last updated: April 25, 2019

Identify and explain the four elements of proof necessary for a plaintiff to prove a negligence case. The four elements necessary to prove a negligence case are duty of care, breach of that duty, injury, and causation. The first requirement in establishing negligence is for a plaintiff to prove the existence of a legal relationship between himself or herself and the defendant. Duty is defined as a legal obligation of care, performance, or observation imposed on one to safeguard the rights of others. This duty, for example, can arise from a relationship between a physician and a patient which may be as simple as a telephone conversation.

Duty can also be established by contract or statute between a plaintiff and a defendant. The second element, breach of duty, is the failure to conform to or the departure from a required duty of care owed to a person. Once a duty of care has been created, the plaintiff must exhibit that the defendant breached that duty by failing to comply with the required accepted standard of care. Evidence of a breach of duty typically can be offered through expert testimony or res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”). Injury is the third element needed to prove a negligence case.The term injury is not limited to just physical harm but may also be comprised of loss of income or reputation and compensation for pain and suffering.

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According to Showalter, “it is not enough to prove that a physician failed to meet the standard of care and the patient was injured. A plaintiff must show that the injury was the proximate cause of the negligence” (Showalter, 2008). The final element needed to establish negligence requires that there be a close, reasonable, and casual relationship between the defendant’s negligent conduct and the resulting damages suffered by the plaintiff – in other words causation.


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