There are 4 elements to negligence in Florida. The 4 parts of negligence include:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach of Duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Most personal injury cases are brought on the basis of negligence. In order to prove negligence in a court of law in Florida, there are 4 elements that must be proven. Here we have clearly outlined the 4 elements of negligence to determine if you are owed compensation for fault in a personal injury case. 

As always, call us at 561-671-5995 or visit for 24-hour access for specific advice regarding your situation. 

What is Duty of Care in negligence?

Duty of care is a part of tort law when there is a responsibility to maintain the health, safety, and well-being of others. This includes examples such as safe working conditions. Ensuring a safe business environment includes responsibilities such as proper precautions for physical safety, ensuring compliance with industry standards, and generally mitigating risks to physical, emotional, and mental health. 

Outside of work, in the United States, we all have a duty of care to each other. While driving we have a duty of care to drive responsibly and medical professionals have a duty to provide substantial care to their patients. These are just a few examples. In Florida, everyone has a responsibility to act in a reasonably safe manner in order to prevent harm to others. 

How does the court determine whether there was a Duty of Care?

To determine that there was in fact a duty of care, the court will evaluate whether or not a person could have reasonably foreseen that if they did not take care, the other person would suffer personal injury or death. It must also be determined that a Duty of care was owed. In Florida, this duty of care is also referred to as the “foreseeable zone of risk.” 

What are the limits to Duty of Care?

Duty of Care must be established in a negligence case in order to satisfy the four essential parts of negligence in Florida. While we all should look out for each other in an ideal world, there are limits to Duty of Care in Florida. Limits include if an accident was not foreseeable, meaning it was not predictable then a party can not be held liable. Furthermore, if there was no Duty of Care to begin with then the party can not be held liable. This would happen if it were off-hours or in a setting where Duty of Care is not owed. It is also the case for landowners. Unless the danger could have been foreseeable and preventable, then they can not be liable for any condition, thus the duty is not absolute. 

If you are confused as to whether or not you are owed a duty of care, contact our offices at 561-671-5995 or visit for 24-hour access for specific advice regarding your situation.

What does Breach of Duty mean in negligence?

Breach of Duty occurs when in fact there was a duty that was breached. In legal terms, a breach is a violation of law or when a party fails to uphold their part of an agreement. This covers the duty of care we have to each other. In Florida, and the rest of the United States, Breach of Duty in a negligence case means that the other party did not meet the duty of care either actively or inactively. 

What is causation in a negligence case?

The third element of negligence cases in Palm Beach or Broward county is causation. Causation means to prove that the defendant’s actions contributed to the events which led to your injuries. There are two elements to causation - fact and proximate cause. Factual causation, otherwise known as cause-in-fact, is the physical evidence, or facts of a case that prove the defendant is at fault for causing harm, damage, or losses. An example of factual causation would be if another driver runs a red light, hitting a vehicle. This would prove the other party did not act carelessly and subsequently caused damages to physical property as well as contributed to injuries. 

Proximate cause refers to ‘legal cause’ or one that is legally sufficient to determine that the defendant is liable for damages incurred. 

What is the ‘but for’ test in a negligence case?

The ‘but for’ test asks ‘but for the action of the defendant, would the result have occurred?’ This is a standard test used in courts to determine the factual cause in a negligence case. In order to prove causation in court, it must be shown that ‘but for’ the conduct of the defendant, the damage, injuries, or harm would not have occurred. This can also be determined by X came before Y, that the observed relationship between X and Y did not happen by chance alone, and that there is nothing else that would account for the X -> Y relationship.

How are damages determined in a negligence case?

The final element is Damages, or in plain English what harm was caused.  Damages are determined by the court in Florida for a negligence case. It will be determined based on compensation for personal injury, property damage, and associated expenses caused by the negligence or breach of duty in Florida. Damages may also include medical care, lost wages, emotional turmoil, and more. 

Actual Damage vs. Punitive Damage

The court-ordered amount owed in negligence cases includes covering the amount needed for actual damages, otherwise known as compensatory damages. The Supreme Court held in Birdsall v. Coolidge, 93 U.S. 64 (1876) that the phrases "compensatory damages" and "actual damages" are identical. The amount awarded for actual damage is determined by both tangible and intangible losses. The tangible loss will be based on the market value of destroyed/damaged property, lost wages/income, and other necessarily incurred expenses due to the determined negligence of the defendant. Intangible losses vary since methods of evaluating losses without a specific cost attached are not consistent. The amount awarded for intangible losses in a negligence case is based on pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and other mental-health-related effects that damage the plaintiff’s quality of life. Punitive damages are also mandated when the actions are particularly reckless, dangerous, and/or malicious. Punitive cases occur in negligence when it may be determined that the defendant acted in complete disregard for others’ safety. Also known as exemplary damages in Florida, punitive damages may include medical malpractice or product liability wherein the defendant is punished in the legal process due to negligence. 

If you want to know more about injury cases and what they are worth download our guide “What the Heck is my Case Worth?”  It is available here.

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