What “Negligence” Means

At one time or another, most people think of making a claim against somebody for “negligence.” Usually this happens after being in a car, slip and fall or other type of accident. “Negligence“ is the legal theory that many accident victims base their claim on to hold a person or business legally responsible to pay their damages. What exactly is “negligence?”

The legal concept called “negligence” has evolved over many centuries. Depending on the case, it can be easy or hard to apply. Here is a summary of the elements courts consider to decide if a person or business was “negligent.”

• Breach of Duty of Care. In short, negligence exists when someone acts carelessly and causes damage to a person to whom he or she owed a duty of care. For example, everyone has a duty when driving a car to be careful to avoid injuries to other motorists and pedestrians. A driver who is careless — such as by speeding or running a red light — and gets in an accident has breached the legal duty of care to others and may be “negligent.”

Negligence is not just limited to situations in which people or businesses actively do something that is careless. It also includes situations in which they fail to do something that should have been done.

• Damage. A negligence case also requires “damage.” This is the legal word for injuries you suffered. Damages can cover many things, including physical injuries, damage to property, lost wages and emotional distress.

• Foreseeability. One more aspect of negligence is “foreseeability.” A person is liable for negligence only if the resulting damage was a foreseeable result of his or her actions.

How Courts Decide

To decide if someone breached a duty in a particular case, a court looks at all the facts to find out what happened. Then it asks what a “reasonable person” would have done in the same situation. If the person accused of being negligent did what an ordinary person would have done in the same situation, there is no liability. But if the person’s actions were not what a reasonable person would do, then he or she will probably be found liable for acting negligently.

• An example. Many slip and fall cases involve negligence. In one case, a man was injured after tripping on a toy that fell onto the floor of a department store. He made a claim against the store’s owner. A court ruled for the man, saying the store was negligent because the employee who had stacked the toys on the shelf did so improperly and in a manner that was likely to harm someone. As a result, the man received compensation for his injuries and losses.

If you are hurt in an accident where the other party may have been negligent, call our law firm to find out about your right to recover damages. We can advise you if you have a strong case as well as inform you of the damages you are entitled to receive. Act quickly, as the time right after the accident can be vital to your claim.

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