Breach of Duty

In personal injury law, it’s crucial to understand key terms in order to navigate the legal complexities of bringing a claim. One concept that frequently arises in personal injury cases is “breach of duty.” This is arguably the most important element of a negligence claim. 

If you have been injured in an accident in Tennessee, you will likely need to prove that a breach of duty occurred to recover compensation.

This resource aims to explain what breach of duty means, how it fits into negligence claims, and what it looks like in personal injury cases.

What is Negligence?

What is Negligence?

Breach of duty is one of the elements of negligence. In order to understand breach of duty, it is essential to grasp the broader concept of negligence. 

Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation, resulting in harm to others. Most personal injury cases arise due to an individual’s negligent actions (or inaction). Proving negligence is a foundational element in establishing liability for damages. 

A plaintiff must prove four elements in order to establish negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Duty of Care

The duty of care is the standard of caution expected of a reasonable person acting under the same (or similar) circumstances. While the duty of care may vary based on the situation, it is not based on one’s interpretation of one’s duty. If a reasonable person is expected to meet a given standard of care, a defendant will be held to that standard.

Breach of Duty

Breach of duty is the key element to establishing liability in a negligence action. One breaches their duty of care when they fail to meet the standard of care expected of them. For instance, a driver’s duty of care is to exercise caution, be vigilant, and follow all traffic laws. A driver may breach their duty of care when they speed or drive while texting.


It is not enough that one has breached their duty. The defendant’s breach of duty must have caused harm to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove both that the defendant’s actions actually caused the plaintiff’s injury and that they were the most likely cause of the plaintiff’s injury.


Finally, the plaintiff must show that there were damages – or that they were actually harmed by the defendant’s breach. This is not limited to physical injuries; it can include property damage, financial injury (e.g., lost wages), and emotional distress. 

A plaintiff bears the burden of proof on all four elements. Only by proving these elements can the plaintiff successfully bring a claim for negligence. 

How Can You Prove a Breach of Duty in a Personal Injury Case?

In personal injury cases, establishing a breach of duty is crucial to proving negligence. Plaintiffs have the burden of proof on all elements of a negligence claim, including breach of duty. In civil cases, such as negligence cases, the standard for proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means the plaintiff must show that the fact is more likely to be true than not. 

So, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must show that it was “more likely than not” that the defendant breached their duty of care. Then, the plaintiff must show that it was more likely than not that the breach was the cause of their injuries and that damages resulted.

Plaintiffs can demonstrate that the defendant failed to meet their obligations in several ways:

  • Expert Testimony: Experts in the relevant field may provide testimony to establish the standard of care and demonstrate how it was breached. This is often utilized in cases of professional malpractice or when using specialized equipment.
  • Eyewitness Accounts: Witnesses who observed the incident can provide valuable testimony regarding the actions or behaviors of the negligent party.
  • Documentation: Any available documentation, such as photographs, records, reports, or surveillance footage, can support the claim of breach of duty.
  • Applicable Laws and Regulations: Violation of specific laws or regulations designed to ensure safety may be indicative of a breach of duty. In some cases, breaking the law can be an automatic breach of duty, called negligence per se.

Understanding breach of duty is vital when pursuing a personal injury claim. It serves as the linchpin in proving negligence, the foundation of many personal injury cases. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s breach of duty, consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential.

An Experienced Nashville Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove a Breach of Duty in Your Case

If you find yourself in need of guidance, our personal injury lawyers in Nashville, TN, are here to assist you. Do not hesitate to reach out to us at (615) 685-8546 for a free consultation to explore your legal options and ensure that your rights are protected. Labrum Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers is here for you.