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Elements of a Negligence Claim

Under Colorado law, a negligence claim has four elements:

(1) the existence of a legal duty to the plaintiff;
(2) the defendant breached that duty;
(3) the plaintiff was injured; and,
(4) the defendant’s breach of duty caused the injury.

Raleigh v. Performance Plumbing & Heating, 130 P.3d 1011, 1015 (Colo. 2006). The three most litigated components of these elements are “duty,” “causation,” and “damages.”

In plain terms, the “duty” element requires that the defendant actually owe a legal duty to the plaintiff. For example, you generally do not owe a duty to be friendly to others; however, you do owe a duty to act with reasonable care so that you do not physically injure others. The “causation” element generally relates to whether the defendant’s actions hurt the plaintiff. Many times, it is not clear as to who or what injured the plaintiff. Sometimes it is clear that the defendant injured the plaintiff, but it is not entirely clear that all of the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant. Finally, the element of “damages” concerns the amount of monetary loss the plaintiff has suffered. This element is almost always in dispute with defendants arguing that the plaintiff suffered no injury or suffered minor injuries and the plaintiff arguing the opposite.

For more information about negligence claims, contact Griffiths Law’s civil litigation attorneys.