Element Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Element, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Element?

n. 1) an essential requirement to a cause of action (the right to bring a lawsuit to enforce a particular right). Each cause of action (negligence, breach of contract, trespass, assault, etc.) is made up of a basic set of elements which must be alleged and proved. Each charge of a criminal offense requires allegation and proof of its elements. 2) essential requirement of a zoning general plan.

History and Meaning of Element

An element in law is a basic part of a claim, offense, or cause of action. It is the specific fact that a party must establish or prove to win a case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt, while in a civil case, the plaintiff must prove each element of the legal claim by a preponderance of the evidence.

Examples of Element

  1. Assault- The elements of assault require that the accused intentionally or recklessly threatened to cause immediate physical harm or offensive contact, the accused had the ability to carry out the threat, and the victim had a reasonable apprehension of harm or contact.

  2. Breach of Contract- The elements of breach of contract require that a valid contract existed between the parties, the plaintiff performed their obligations, the defendant failed to perform their obligations without a valid excuse, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.

  3. Negligence- The elements of negligence require that the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered harm, and the defendant's breach was the cause of the harm.

Legal Terms Similar to Element

  1. Prima Facie- Latin term meaning "at first sight" or "on its face", refers to the minimum amount of evidence required to establish a case or claim.
  2. Cause of Action- A legal claim based on a specific set of facts and elements that, if proven, will entitle the plaintiff to relief or damages.
  3. Standard of Proof- The level of evidence required to establish a fact or element in a legal proceeding.