By definition, negligence is the failure of an individual to act according to standards of conduct that encompass the full range of his duty. If the individual fails to meet these standards, acts carelessly, and injures the rights or causes physical, economic, or psychological harm to another person in the process, the law requires the individual at fault to compensate the injured party. It is crucial to distinguish intentional torts caused on purpose from negligence caused by unintentional but careless behavior. In order to prove negligence in tort law, the court needs to establish the presence of 5 key elements. The 5 elements of negligence include:
- Did the individual at fault owe a duty to the injured party?
- Was there a breach of said duty?
- Was the breach also the cause of the legal injury?
- What was the proximate cause? (could the harm caused be anticipated)
- What was the extent of the damage caused?
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To have a strong case for proving negligence, all five elements need to be met.
Here’s a simple example of negligence familiar to all of us. Every individual with a driver’s license is required to drive at a reasonable speed. Every driver also needs to take into consideration possible safety hazards and adjust his speed accordingly. These safety hazards include weather conditions, dense traffic, bad condition of the road, and obstructed visibility. Driving at the maximum allowed speed in spite of the presence of the previously mentioned safety hazards can pose a serious risk to public safety and can be considered a breach of duty in the eyes of the law.
Professionals such as doctors, nurses, police officers, and other first responders are also expected to uphold a certain standard and act accordingly. If they fail to do so, they could be liable for malpractice, which is a form of negligence. The careless act of causing harm to another person can happen in many different situations. In order to be more proficient in spotting acts of negligence, we need to go more in-depth and explore the different types of negligence recognized by the law. These include:
In the case of comparative negligence, the plaintiff (i.e., the injured party suing the defendant), is partially responsible for the harm done to himself. Depending on the percentage of involvement, the plaintiff might or might not get compensated for the damage done. It’s also worth mentioning that this depends on the location where the act of negligence was done. Some states are considered as pure comparative fault states, meaning the plaintiff can be compensated even if their involvement in the accident is more than 50%. Other states use a different, modified interpretation of comparative negligence and require that the plaintiff’s responsibility is less than 50% in order to be eligible for compensation.
Where comparative negligence allows for compensation even if the plaintiff was partially responsible for his or her injuries, contributory negligence does not. In the case of contributory negligence, the plaintiff will not be eligible for compensation, even if their involvement was 1%.
Vicarious liability is a unique type of negligence due to the fact that an individual or a company can be held accountable on the basis of negligence even though they are not directly responsible. In these cases, the defendant is responsible for another person’s action (i.e., an employee or an underage child) and is, therefore, liable for the act of negligence. Another example of vicarious liability is when a dog owner is held accountable for the damage done by their pet.
Gross negligence is the most serious type of negligence and involves such reckless behavior that no reasonable person would ever commit it. Personal injury lawsuits involving gross negligence are most common in cases where there have been seriously violent actions or in medical malpractice cases where the defendant acted without any lack of concert for the patient and their wellbeing.
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, seeking legal help from an experienced attorney can significantly increase the chance of a settlement in your favor. Here at The Whisler Law Firm, we handle personal injury lawsuits and insurance claims, so with us by your side, you can rest assured you’ll receive full compensation.