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What is Negligence? Learn from the Experts

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Negligence is the failure to exercise the care toward others that a reasonable or prudent person would do in the circumstances or take action which such a reasonable person would not. It is usually a civil wrong but can also be the basis of criminal charges. If someone’s behavior shows such reckless disregard for human life, it amounts to a “depraved-heart” or “wanton disregard” for life.

It is one of the most common bases for personal injury lawsuits and can arise in many situations. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses a patient’s illness, that could be negligence. 

Or if an auto manufacturer fails to install airbags in cars when they are available, and people are killed; as a result, that might also be negligence. In these cases, the doctor or car company could be sued by the patient or family members of those who were killed due to their actions or inaction. Many states have laws about negligence per se.

These laws allow people harmed by someone else’s criminal act to sue for monetary damages even if the act didn’t come close to causing the harm it did. An individual can do an online search ‘negligence lawsuit attorneys at Parker Waichman’ if living around that area, to get a good attorney for the case.

Negligence is measured by what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances. Although “reasonable” is a subjective word, negligence cases have generally developed rules of thumb to help determine its meaning. 

Someone who suffers loss caused by another’s negligence may be able to sue for damages to compensate for their harm. Such loss may include physical injury, harm to property, psychiatric illness, or economic loss. 

According to a simple test, the law on negligence may be assessed in general terms; did the defendant owe the claimant a legal duty to take care? If so, was there a breach of that duty? Finally, was there damage as a result of that breach?

To establish negligence, some elements must be present 

Duty of care

The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty of care based on their relationship (for example, physician and patient). If no such relationship exists, then no duty is owed, and any harm caused cannot be negligent. For example, a doctor owes a duty of care to his patients, and a driver owes a duty of care to other drivers on the road. Duty may be imposed by law, contract or voluntarily assumed by the defendant.

Breach of duty

To establish negligence, the conduct of a person must be unreasonable under the circumstances. In determining whether the conduct was unreasonable, it is necessary to decide what duty of care was owed in that particular situation and whether there was a breach of that duty. 

The general rule is that every individual must act reasonably towards others. A failure to act reasonably may constitute negligence. For example, if a driver fails to obey a traffic light and injures another driver, they have breached their duty of care owed to other road users by failing to act reasonably under the circumstances.

Actual and proximate cause

The actual cause is the first element in any negligence claim. It is also called “causation in fact” or “factual causation.” The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct caused his injuries. This can be done through various means, but most commonly by demonstrating to the court that the accident would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions.

The actual cause can be shown in two ways: Direct Cause and Indirect Cause. Direct cause occurs when one actor is responsible for another person’s injury. Indirect cause arises when one actor sets off a chain of events that leads to another person’s injury.

Proximate cause is the second element in any negligence claim. Proximate cause is also called “causation in law” or “legal causation.” Proximate cause requires both actual cause and legal foreseeability.

Actual cause establishes that, but the plaintiff would not have been injured for the defendant’s actions. Proximate cause establishes that it was foreseeable to the defendant that his conduct could lead to an injury like the plaintiff’s injury.

Damages

The plaintiff suffered physical, emotional or financial losses due to the accident. The law requires people to act reasonably under the circumstances or risk liability for resulting injuries and damages.

Negligence is a common legal theory under which personal injury lawsuits are filed. A person who suffers an accident caused by another’s negligence may be entitled to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for resulting losses and damages.

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