The legal definition of negligence involves the failure to act in a way that has the same level of care that a reasonable or ordinary person would if they were in the same situation. While this idea of reasonable care for the average person may seem simple through its legal definition, it’s actually quite complex.

The information provided on this page regarding negligence’s meaning in law is only for informational and educational purposes. The information presented on this page is not legal advice. If you have a potential personal injury lawsuit and would like to learn more about how negligence applies, schedule a free consultation now with Kermani LLP.

Key Elements of Negligence

To prove negligence, certain elements must be fulfilled.

  1. A legal duty of care existed between the parties.
  2. That duty of care was breached with the failure to behave with reasonable care.
  3. That action or inaction taken caused damages, including but not limited to physical injury.
  4. The “but-for” test is fulfilled: But for the action or inaction ignoring an ordinary person’s legal responsibility in similar circumstances, the damages wouldn’t have occurred.

Types of Negligence

Negligence is further categorized as follows:

  1. Gross negligence. It occurs when the failure to behave with reasonable care is so severe that the risk of harm is a reckless disregard for others. Gross negligence is more serious than other forms because of the consequences that could result. Some circumstances involving gross negligence involve activities of a criminal nature.
  2. Comparative negligence. This negligence looks at the liability of all involved people. It compares the level of care of each party against the ordinary person's standard. Some jurisdictions limit the amount a person may collect in monetary damages if they hold the majority of the liability.
  3. Contributory negligence. This type of negligence is similar to comparative negligence. It looks at the action or inaction of each party to determine how or if they contributed to the damages. Some jurisdictions limit the amount of compensation awarded to individuals with a certain amount of liability.

Proving Negligence in Court

During a personal injury lawsuit, negligence must be proven by the plaintiff or petitioner. That means they must have evidence to show how the facts of their case fulfill the legal elements, including the reasonable care standard. The plaintiff or petitioner may need some or all of the following to support their claim:

  • Police reports;
  • Accident reports;
  • Insurance interviews;
  • Depositions;
  • Medical records;
  • Witness interviews;
  • Videos of the accident or injuries;
  • Photos of the accident, scene, or injuries;
  • Expert witnesses;
  • Pieces of physical evidence.

Examples of Negligence Cases

Some of the most common negligence cases filed include:

  • Car accident;
  • Truck accident;
  • Motorcycle accidents;
  • Drunk driving claims;
  • Pedestrian accidents;
  • Bicycle accidents;
  • On-the-job injuries;
  • Slip and fall accidents;
  • Dog bites;
  • Product liability;
  • Medical malpractice claims.

Impact of Negligence on Legal Outcomes

Determining negligence is necessary for a successful personal injury lawsuit. However, comparative negligence or contributory negligence may limit a person’s ability to collect on their damages. Gross negligence claims can result in larger compensation amounts due to the foreseeable severity of potential harm. Punitive damages may then be assessed by the court as a means to both penalize the defendant and warn the public against similar action or inaction.

If the damages were because of an activity of a criminal nature, there may be extra steps to take to ensure that a person’s legal rights to sue the defendant are protected. It is best to speak with an experienced attorney before determining when to file a potential civil suit.

Glossary References

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