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In Your Court: Demystifying the elements of a personal injury action

As you will recall from last week’s column, a tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy.

Some examples of torts are battery, conversion, trespass and – probably the most popular – negligence.

The reason negligence is the most popular tort is because of its well-known subsection, the personal injury action. 

The plaintiff in a personal injury action must prove the four elements that compose negligence:

1. Duty

2. Breach of duty

3. Causation

4. Damages

Let’s expound on each of those elements in the context of a personal injury action:

1. That the injury-causing party had some sort of duty

2. That the injury-causing party has breached the duty

3. That the injury-causing party caused the injury

4. That, as a result of all of the above, the injured party was damaged

In the example of a car accident, the driver has a duty to operate the vehicle in a safe and controlled manner, as well as in accordance with the rules of the state of Illinois.

The driver breaches his or her duty by not operating the vehicle in a safe or controlled manner, such as by texting while driving or by violating the rules of the state of Illinois, such as by speeding or driving through a red light.

If the driver causes an accident as a result of breaching his or her duty, then he or she is liable for any damages to another person caused by the accident. However, in the state of Illinois, it is up to the injured party to prove all of the above. 

• Anthony Scifo is a resident of Kane County and an associate attorney with Shaw, Jacobs, Goostree and Associates P.C. in St. Charles, where he concentrates in divorce and family law, personal injury and wrongful death. His goal with this occasional column is to help educate the public regarding the court system and the law. Contact him with general legal questions at

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