In order to prove negligence, a person must have had a duty of care, which means a responsibility to act in the best interest of another. There must also have been a breach of this duty. This breach is the cause of the harm, resulting in actual physical, financial, or emotional damages. In most countries, negligence is a civil wrong, so a plaintiff or person bringing a lawsuit must show it was more likely than not that these things occurred.
A duty of care requires someone to act in the best interest of another. In most jurisdictions, this means behaving in a manner expected of a reasonable person under the circumstances. A written contract is normally not necessary in order to prove an individual had a responsibility to carry out this duty.
If it can be shown a duty of care existed, this duty must have been breached. This means that the person who was under the obligation to act responsibly failed to do so. The breach of duty does not have to be intentional in order to prove negligence.
A plaintiff should be able to prove that the breach of duty was what actually caused him harm. Many attorneys refer to this as the but-for clause, which means the harm would not have happened "but for" the defendant’s failure to act appropriately. Negligence cases can be dismissed if it cannot be proven that the breach of duty was the actual cause of an incident.
There must be some form of damage in order to prove negligence. Damages may include physical harm, financial hardships, pain and suffering, or a combination of these. If an individual is unable to establish that he did indeed suffer, he can be barred from filing a negligence lawsuit in many countries.
In most jurisdictions, the burden of proof is normally on the person bringing the lawsuit. This is, however, typically a civil action, and therefore the burden of proof requirement is less than that in a criminal case. Most judges require attorneys to prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, which means "more likely than not".
Many negligence cases are settled out of court rather than being litigated. People who are found guilty of negligence are normally required to make restitution to the victim by paying a sum of money. Jail time is rarely given because most judges feel it does not benefit society to incarcerate people for what are often damaged as a result of unfortunate accidents.