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What is Negligence?

Negligence is when failure to act as a “reasonable person” directly causes injury to someone else.1 Legally, people have a “duty of care” to protect other individuals. For example, you shouldn’t be putting others in harm’s way by texting and driving. Similarly, business owners, property owners and manufacturers are supposed to ensure that buildings are safe for occupants and products are okay for consumption.

In short, people, professionals, businesses and governments are expected not to harm others by acting carelessly, or by failing to provide proper assistance. They are negligent when they do not live up to this expectation.

Who Can Be Negligent?

A private individual, professional, business or government can be negligent in the scope of personal injury law. There are many different subcategories of negligence, depending on the kind of harm caused and the situation in which it was caused.

However, there are four things that must be true for any person or institution to be successfully sued for acting negligently:

  1. The court agrees that the defendant did have a legal duty to the plaintiff
  2. The defendant did not take the appropriate steps to protect the plaintiff from harm (i.e., “breach of duty”)
  3. There was an act or failure to act resulting in the plaintiff’s bodily injury or property damage
  4. The injury or damage was a direct result of the defendant’s act or failure to act, and the injury or damage would not have happened otherwise

What Are Some Examples of Negligence?

As you can imagine, negligence encompasses a wide array of tort and personal injury cases. These are some of the more common instances where there is a strong case for negligence:

  • Slip and fall – When a customer or tenant hurts themselves after slipping and falling, the business or property owner may be deemed negligent. A common example is the oft-cited lack of a wet floor sign, but there are other risks, like ice on stairs or uneven flooring that could cause someone to trip.
  • Vehicular or pedestrian accidents – In an accident, many people could be liable. Someone else may have put you in danger by running a red light, fiddling with their GPS or drinking and driving. A company could be at fault if a commercial driver wasn’t screened properly or a vehicle manufacturer if they did not recall a faulty car part. Even a repair shop could be liable if their faulty work caused an accident, or the government could be in trouble for shoddy road construction.
  • Medical malpractice – If a patient falls ill because of a doctor or other medical professional’s oversight, they may have a case for negligence. To prove this in a court of law, other medical professionals must give testimony about the typical practices used to treat somebody like the patient. The defendant could be at fault if they prescribed the wrong medicine or dose, or otherwise contributed to the plaintiff’s poor health.
  • Product liability – Manufacturers could be potentially liable for illness or injury resulting from their product. There may be actual defects in the product itself, meaning if the product were constructed as intended, it would have been safe. A product design could be fundamentally unsafe, making the designer and manufacturer liable. Even a product that is safe when operated properly could open a manufacturer up to liability if there were not obvious and clearly stated warnings about the dangers of improper use of the product.

Hardy Wolf & Downing

No one deserves to be injured because somebody else behaved carelessly. Hardy Wolf & Downing specializes in winning personal injury cases, vehicular accident cases, slip and fall cases and much more. If you believe you have suffered a personal injury due to a person, company or government’s negligence, call us at 800-992-7333 or contact us online for your free case evaluation.

1 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence