Negligence: FAQ

What is negligence?

In its most simple definition, negligence means that someone was careless and as a result of being careless, someone else was injured. Negligence serves as the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. Negligence is any conduct that falls below the recognized standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under the same or similar circumstances.

To establish negligence, a plaintiff (the person injured) must be able to prove or demonstrate in court that the defendant (the person being sued):

  • owed a duty to the plaintiff,
  • the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct,
  • the defendant’s negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and
  • the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or injured.

Take, for example, this scenario:

The driver of a tractor trailer truck hauling a large piece of machinery owes a duty to other drivers on the freeway to be careful. If the truck driver failed to strap down the machinery and it fell off the truck, landing on a passing car and injuring the driver of the car, a personal injury claim could be made based upon the negligence of the truck driver.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence works on a percentage basis to assign a degree of fault for the injuries suffered. For example, in a broad-side car accident case where the injured person is awarded $100,000, the driver who broadsided the other car migth be found to be eighty-percent responsible for the accident because of, say, turning on a yellow light. The injured plaintiff could also be found to be, say, twenty percent responsible for not exercising caution by failing to look both ways. In such a case, the award would be reduced to $80,000.

What is contributory negligence?

The term “contributory negligence” is used to describe the actions of an injured person that may have also caused or contributed to his injury. For example, if you were hit by a bike while crossing the street, but you jumped into the street without looking first then your carelessness will be taken into consideration and any money that you receive may be discounted because of your own carelessness. If you are found to have contributed to your own injury, the rules in some states will prevent you from collecting any money.

Many states have done away with the concept of contributory negligence altogether and instead use the concept of “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence looks to the degree of fault of each party in determining whether an award is justified in the case and what amount the award will be.

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

To determine whether you have a personal injury case depends on several factors, including:

  • How the injury occurred,
  • Who is at fault, and
  • How significant the injuries are.

Personal injury cases are complex and should be reviewed carefully. If you have been injured you may wish to contact an attorney to discuss options as soon as possible.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local personal injury attorney.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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