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Negligence Defined

Negligence refers to the failure to act with the level of caution or care expected from a person of ordinary prudence. An act of negligence may amount to a situation where an individual acts carelessly. From a legal perspective, the act of negligence must result in injuries or damage to another person's property for a claim to be binding.

The negligent behavior may include actions and omissions where there was an assumed duty or act of care. Ideally, the concept of negligence exists on the premise that there's an expectation on people to exercise reasonable care in all their actions. The assumption is that people should always take account of the probable harm their actions or inactions may cause on people or property before acting.

5 Types of Negligence

Depending on the circumstances, acts of negligence may take varying forms. Moreover, each state has a different set of laws that define negligence and the extent of liability each type of negligence attracts. Nevertheless, here are some common types of negligence.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is one of the more common acts of omission and commission, leading to partial legal liability. For example, suppose the plaintiff is partially responsible for their injuries or damages. In that case, they must pay a particular partial payment to cover part of the damages. This reduces the amount awarded to the plaintiff as personal injury compensation is reduced by the percentage of the total value of their fault.

In a case where the plaintiff receives $10,000 in damages following a car accident, the jury will then sit to determine whether the plaintiff was at fault. If they decide that there was 30% responsibility on the plaintiff, the total damages paid will be $7,000.

Comparative negligence allocates the total value of damages or injuries between the plaintiff and the defendant based on the established extent of liability.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence from a legal perspective refers to a behavior contributing to one's injuries or damages. Such acts fail to meet the prudence standard that individuals should observe for their safety.

In most cases, contributory negligence is applicable as a plead by the defense team against the charge of negligence. However, over time more states are moving away from this approach. A contributory negligence perspective tends to disadvantage the plaintiff.

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Convergence of Comparative and Contributory Negligence

The other common type of negligence is the combination of comparative and contributory negligence. This is a modified perspective to negligence that often combines the two converging types of negligence.

When a jury assesses negligence from this perspective, the plaintiff may stand to recover as much as 50% of the damages or losses incurred. For instance, an individual may have been texting while driving. The resulting accident may have been partly due to this action and another speeding car.

In such cases, the jury will combine both types of negligence and then determine the extent of liability. The verdict made in such contexts embraces the modified comparative negligence. The scope of damage or injury the plaintiff and the defendants share on the interpretation of this convergence.

Some states, such as Illinois, reduce or increase liability on the plaintiff by primarily assessing their contribution to the injury.

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence applies where an individual shows a complete lack of regard for the safety of those around them. However, the jury will often assess the extent of intentionality in the actions leading to the accident. This type of negligence is often treated differently from ordinary negligence, where an individual's actions may have been unintended.

This is the most serious of all forms of negligence in most states. In professional practice such as medicine, acts of recklessness from medics often fall within this category. For instance, a home care nurse's failure to provide a patient with food and water for several days warrants a case of gross misconduct.

Most states stipulate harsh legal implications in case of gross misconduct. The assumption is that the defendant knowingly fails to practice due diligence, an outcome that causes immense losses. Such a complete lack of regard for others warrants a charge of gross misconduct.

Vicarious Negligence

Sometimes the actions of another person or animal may be charged on the defendant. Such instances may include the actions of a minor, a pet (dog), or a herd of cows. The child's parents/ guardian or the pet owner may be liable for vicarious negligence in such cases.

The assumption in such a scenario is that the individual is indirectly responsible for the losses or damages accruing. Therefore, in a dog-bite case, the only logical legal direction is to charge the dog owner for the injuries and losses incurred.

Here's an article about the different types of negligence.

Examples of Negligence

There are wide-ranging examples of negligence that can help build a better understanding of acts of negligence. For instance, if a medical practitioner in the cause of treatment gives a patient the wrong dose, the resultant health impacts may amount to a negligence charge. The jury may need to determine if the actions are gross or ordinary negligence.

Another example is where a driver causes multiple accidents due to driving under the influence. In such a case, the driver may be liable for the full charge of gross negligence. Other scenarios include reckless driving or over-speeding, leading to death and injury.

Other examples of negligence include the failure of an engineer to ensure high-quality standards during the construction of a building. Such concerns may include the use of low-quality material. If such a building collapses, the engineer may have a day in court.

Here's an article with examples of negligence.

Elements of Negligence

When assessing the probability of negligence, four elements often play out. These factors are:

The Existence of a Legal Duty

Here, the plaintiff must confirm that the defendant owed them an extent of legal duty.

Breach of Duty

Beyond the existence of a legal duty, the plaintiff should also prove beyond doubt that there was a breach. In some cases, proving this may require hard-hitting facts.

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is the other vital element to consider when assessing negligence. The proximate cause refers to an injury or damage indirectly linked to an accident.

The proximate cause is different from the cause. The plaintiff suffers damages or injury due to an outcome beyond their control. For example, if a truck hits a building but the crumbling ceiling injures the homeowner, negligence may be assessed from the point of proximate cause.

Sufferance of Injury

Once the plaintiff shows proof that the defendant had a legal duty to act in a certain way, then they must show sufferance. The plaintiff must prove that the injuries they seek compensation for were due to the specific accident.

There must be actual physical damage to confirm that the defendant's actions or inaction caused the underlying injuries. Such examples may include bodily harm or substantial property damage.

Negligence in Law

Negligence in law refers to a scenario where an individual owes another person care. They then behave in a way that results in harm, injury, or damage. In some professions, such as healthcare, negligence is a significant concern that often leads to legal tussles.

In law, acts of gross negligence can attract legal consequences. This can include fines, jail terms, or both. Depending on the state, these legal consequences may vary.

Negligence Vs. Gross Negligence

Some actions, omissions, and behaviors may be unintended. When such actions cause injuries or damages, the extent of legal liability may be within the confines of rational judgment. If injuries or damages are sustained due to a lack of regard for the safety of others, then they may amount to gross negligence.

Ordinary negligence is a situation where the defendant never meant to cause harm. However, in the case of gross negligence, it argued that the defendant's actions were intentional and somewhat malicious.

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