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Negligence Definition

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What Is the Definition of Negligence?

Negligence is a failure to exercise the cautions that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. Negligence is based on a failure to do something, rather than a direct commission of a certain action.

Negligence is one of the three main categories of violations in tort law. The others are intentional torts, wherein the defendant acted intentionally to cause the plaintiff’s injuries; and strict liability, where the defendant is found liable simply by their actions regardless of their intent.

Proving negligence involves an analysis of many different factors, which will be discussed below.

How Is Negligence Proven?

Proving negligence involves a thorough analysis of the following "elements" or factors:

  • Duty: The plaintiff must show the defendant had a specific duty that they owed to them. For most professionals and business persons, this usually involves standards of professional conduct, duties to ensure customer safety, etc.
  • Breach: It must be proven that the defendant breached their duty of care that they owed to the plaintiff. This often involves an analysis of whether the defendant was able to foresee possible risks to the victim’s health or safety.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach must be the actual and direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Liability may be reduced if there were other factors that led to the injuries.
  • Damages: The plaintiff must be able to measure the damages they suffered and quantify them into an actual, verifiable amount

Defenses to negligence often include special defenses such as contributory or comparative negligence. This is where the defendant’s liability is lessened because the plaintiff contributed to their own injury due to their own negligence.

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is where the defendant’s actions are more severe than in a normal negligence case. If the person acted in a very dangerous way that they knew would have caused harm, they might be held liable for gross negligence. Oftentimes this distinction can be difficult to make.

For instance, negligence can result for speeding in a pedestrian zone. However, if they were speeding at a rate of 65mph in a 25 mph zone, it might be considered gross negligence due to the excessive speed. These types of determinations often vary from case to case and may depend on the jurisdiction.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Negligence Laws?

Negligence cases can often be complex and often require intense analysis and discussion of legal theories. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer if you need assistance with negligence issues. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice for your case as needed. Also, if you need to attend a meeting or hearing in court, your attorney will be on hand to represent you during the negligence case.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-29-2015 09:11 AM PDT

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