What Is A Prima Facie Case Of Negligence?

What Is A Prima Facie Case?

In personal injury law, the duty of care is one of the most important factors in an accident. It can be used to determine whether someone is responsible for an accident. Regardless of how independent you think you are, we all owe someone else a duty of care. This duty of care is usually as simple as driving safely on the highway to avoid car accidents. 

When this duty of care is violated and results in a serious accident, it is more than just an act of negligence. It is considered a prima facie case of negligence when an injury victim can successfully prove the elements of negligence and, therefore, liability. 

Speak to an experienced personal injury attorney in San Antonio from Cesar Ornelas Injury Law today.

prima facie case of negligence

What is prima facie negligence?

Negligence is the failure to take proper action or do something. Prima facie is a Latin phrase that means “on the face of it” or “at first sight.” It is a phrase that describes a fact that is true until it is proven otherwise.

In most personal injury cases, you must prove the four elements of negligence. These elements include:

  • A sense of duty. You must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care.
  • A breach of duty of care. You must prove that the defendant’s actions violated the duty of care that they owed you.
  • Direct correlation. There must be a direct connection between the defendant’s carelessness and your damages.
  • Damages. There must be some form of damage that you’ve suffered because of the defendant’s actions.

In a prima facie case, it is easier to prove these elements because of the facts presented so far. This means that the facts would have to be so significantly established that they can create an assumption that’s taken as fact until disproved.

Elements of prima facie negligence

You could be the victim of a prima facie negligence case if the defendant failed to behave with a specific level of care that another person would have exercised.

Let’s say that you were the victim of a medical malpractice accident. Your physician failed to provide an accurate diagnosis of your illness.

Your physician failed to practice a specific level of care towards you, their patient. If another physician had properly diagnosed your illness under the same circumstances, your case could be a case of prima facie negligence.

If the defendant failed to practice a duty of care towards you, that’s also considered an act of prima facie negligence.

If a restaurant worker fails to warn you of a wet slippery area and you fall, that is an act of prima facie negligence. You may have a case against the restaurant.

What is the hand formula?

To determine prima facie negligence, lawyers will use a tactic known as the hand formula. The hand formula is a mathematical formula that measures different factors of an accident. The formula uses the following factors:

  • B stands for the burden of precautions the defendant could have taken.
  • P represents the probability of an accident happening.
  • L stands for the gravity of the resulting loss.

This formula determines how liable a defendant could be for her injuries. If B is greater than P and L, the burden of precautions was greater than the probability and gravity of loss that the accident would have caused.

In this circumstance, the defendant would not have to take precautions and would not be responsible for your accident. But if P or L is greater than B, the defendant should have taken certain precautions and can be held liable for her injuries.

Common prima facie negligence accidents

There are so many prima facie negligence accidents that result in personal injury. Some of the common accidents include car accidents, truck accidents, 18-wheelers accidents, premises liability cases, defective products (product liability), and more.

Car accidents

Car accidents are one of the most common accidents where prima facie negligence is common. All motorists have a duty of care to practice safe driving skills on the roadways. But many drivers deliberately violate that duty of care when speeding or disobeying traffic laws.

Most driving violations are actions that fall under the prima facie requirements. Speeding, driving while under the influence, and running a red light are actions that can be proven in court and taken as fact until challenged. Even drivers who fail to avoid situations affecting their ability to drive safely can be responsible for prima facie negligence.

Premises liability accidents

Premises liability accidents are accidents directly caused by prima facie negligence. Business owners and property owners are responsible for warning visitors on their property about any hazards that can harm them.

Failing to warn those visitors can potentially open them up to lawsuits if the visitors end up harmed. Many accidents can fall under the umbrella of premises liability accidents. Negligent security, dog bites, and slip and fall accidents are some of the most common premises liability accidents.

"Caution wet floor" sign

Product liability accidents

Manufacturers are also responsible for keeping consumers safe when they purchase their products. When a manufacturer has produced a defective product, that may cause a product liability accident if it leads to serious harm or death to the consumer.

Some of the most common product liability accidents involve products that we use in our everyday lives. Cars, children’s toys, and medical devices are some of the most common defective products in the marketplace. Unfortunately, many manufacturers would rather keep a defective product and its harmful effects out of the public eye instead of taking responsibility.

In these situations, proving negligence may be easy.

Oil rig accidents

Even though they’re not mentioned often in the news, oil rig accidents are one of the most common prima facie negligence accidents. Oil refinery accidents are automatically caused because of another person’s carelessness. Some of the common reasons are defective machinery, working in dangerous conditions, and suffering from long shifts.

These conditions are usually caused by employers who put profits before the workers’ safety. This serious lack of negligence can result in catastrophic injury or death. Regardless of its dangerous nature, employers have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for all workers. Employers who fail to provide safe workplaces can be liable for prima facie negligence.

Handling prima facie negligence cases

In a prima facie negligence case, evidence is very important. Your evidence could be so compelling that it leads to a presumption about the defendant that they won’t be able to overturn.

The type of evidence you can include involves copies of police reports, your medical records, pieces of a defective product, or witness testimony. Surveillance footage is also the best type of evidence that can establish the facts of your accident. It’s hard to deny the facts of an accident when there is actual footage of the way that it happened.

Making the best legal argument

In addition to providing the best evidence for your claim, you must be able to make the soundest argument on your behalf. The responsibility is to prove that the defendant’s actions meet all four elements of negligence. That means that the defendant’s actions must meet all four elements, or they will not be found liable for their injuries.

Even though the elements of negligence seem easy, they are often difficult to prove in court. There are several defenses that the defendant can use to avoid liability for her injuries.

Damages from prima facie negligence cases

As a victim of prima facie negligence cases, there are several damages that you can seek from the defendant. These damages include medical expenses, lost income, property damage, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life.

Medical expenses

The defendant can reimburse you for any medical expenses you paid out of pocket because of your accident. Even if your health insurance covers the costs of your medical expenses, your compensation can be used to reimburse those costs.

Lost income

You can also be compensated for any time you’ve had to take off of work because of the defendant’s negligence. Recovering from your injuries is not just something that happens once after an accident. You may have to take time off from work to have additional surgeries performed or participate in physical therapy. The income that you missed out on can also be reimbursed to you.

Property damage

If your car was seriously damaged in a car accident, you might be reimbursed through your compensation. You could use this compensation to pay off your car repairs or purchase a new car.

Funeral expenses

These damages are only for plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits. With these lawsuits, you would be reimbursed for any burial expenses you had to pay for your loved one’s burial. These include costs for funerals and cremations.

Pain and suffering

You can also be reimbursed for the physical and mental pain caused by your accident. The recovery process does not stop in the hospital room. You could suffer injuries that cause you to experience ongoing pain for the rest of your life.

Loss of enjoyment of life

You can also be reimbursed for the emotional toll that your accident has caused you. If your accident could affect your quality of life long-term, you could be compensated for that loss.

Determining damages in prima facie negligence cases

When it comes to the amount of compensation that you can seek for your injuries, there are several factors to consider:

The severity of your injuries

Your compensation may be based on the likelihood of recovery from your injuries. If your injuries are more permanent, you may be entitled to larger amounts of compensation. This is only fair because your medical expenses will be greater than someone with a temporary injury.

The nature of your accident

The nature of your accident can also determine how much you can receive for compensation. In addition to prima facie negligence, there is another form of negligence called gross negligence. If the defendant’s actions were so gross towards you, you could be entitled to greater compensation. The judge may reward you with additional compensation as a way to punish the defendant and prevent others from making the same reckless actions.


Foreseeability is the ability to determine the consequences of a defendant’s actions. One of the most common examples used for foreseeability is drunk driving accidents. If a driver consumed alcohol before getting involved in an accident, their negligent actions would have been foreseeable based on their previous actions.

Foreseeability holds defendants accountable for their careless actions. Defendants should have considered the dangers that their actions could have caused before engaging in them. There are some occasions where foreseeability does not automatically hold defendants liable. For example, if the defendant’s actions did not directly cause the harm you experienced, the defendant may not be held liable for your injuries.

Cause of the injury

Another factor affecting your compensation is whether the defendant’s actions are directly connected to your injuries. You must prove that the defendant’s actions contributed to your injuries. The defendant may not be held liable if you can’t prove this.

This causation is often referred to as a “but-for” connection. That means, but for the defendant’s negligent actions, your injuries would not have happened. You can use the evidence gathered in your claim to prove this causation.

What Cesar Ornelas Injury Law can do for you

At Cesar Ornelas Injury Law, our lawyers take the lead in handling the complex details of your case. This allows you to focus on the more important things in your life, like spending time with your loved ones. We also prepare you by sharing what you can expect from the process. You do the resting; we will do the fighting.

Contact a San Antonio personal injury lawyer today

Our lawyers advocate for victims who were injured by third-party carelessness or negligence. No matter how you were hurt, we can help. Contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation if you or a loved one has been seriously injured. We will fight for your right to compensation when injured by a negligent party.


If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, please fill out the form below for your free consultation or call us at: (888) 237-2794

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