Whether it’s a slip and fall or a car accident, any type of accident can lead to serious damages or–in the worst cases–death. A majority of accidents could be avoided if the proper care had been taken and the proper precautions were in place. The failure to do these is called negligence and is the heart of every personal injury lawsuit. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions that our legal team at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. get about negligence.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence, by legal definition, is the failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.
For example, if a driver ignores a red light and plows through the intersection and hits another driver, they were negligent because they failed to follow the laws set to keep themselves and other drivers safe.
How Can Negligence Be Proven?
The following must be shown to prove the negligence of a defendant:
- Defendant Had a Duty to the Plaintiff: This means that the defendant had a legal responsibility to take certain actions to protect against an accident that could cause injury to another.
- Defendant Breached Their Duty to the Plaintiff: Once it has been established that the defendant has a duty of care to the plaintiff, it must be proven that the defendant violated that duty.
- Breach of Duty Caused the Accident: Which Resulted in the Plaintiff’s Injuries: It has to be clearly shown that the breach of duty from the defendant directly caused the accident which resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.
Example of Negligence:
To get a better understanding of how negligence can be proven, here is an example:
Driver A was headed to work and approached an intersection. The light was yellow as they approached. Instead of slowing down, Driver A decides to speed up, hoping to beat the light to save on time.
The light turned red right before they hit the line but Driver A continued through the light anyways. This caused them to slam into Driver B who was attempting to cross the intersection after their green light. Driver B’s car was totaled and the driver himself received a serious neck injury.
Driver B decides to sue Driver A for compensation for the damages and medical expenses that resulted from the accident. Driver B won their case because they were able to prove that:
- Driver A had a Duty to Driver B: Driver A had a legal duty to follow all traffic laws, including stopping at a red light.
- Driver A Breached Their Duty to Driver B: Driver A was running late and ran the red light to save time and they hit Driver B.
- Driver A’s Breach Of Duty Caused the Accident: Driver A’s refusal to follow the traffic laws and stop at a red light resulted in them hitting Driver B which caused their injuries and damage to the vehicles.
What Is Duty of Care?
In general, every person owes everyone else he or she comes into contact with a “duty of care.” This simply means that one must behave with the care that would be shown by a reasonable person. In some cases, this also applies to the refusal to act on a given circumstance to reduce the risk of an injury.
For example, if you own a home that has a broken floorboard, do nothing to fix it, and a guest gets hurt on your property, you may be held liable for the accident. This is because there was a failure to act to prevent or warn the guest of the possible danger.
However, this is not true in all cases. A person cannot be held liable for an accident because they failed to act when they were not the cause or did not know about the danger. For example, if a runner is at a park and passes by a man who has fallen into a pond but fails to help them, they cannot be held responsible for any damages. This is true even if the runner was able to safely pull out the man who had fallen into the pond. This is because the runner is not responsible for the harm that the man sustained from his actions.
What Is Reasonable Care?
When it comes to determining whether or not someone is negligent, it is important to define what constitutes “reasonable care” in the set of circumstances of the case. There is no clear definition of reasonable care for every single person as what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another.
Courts will decide what constitutes reasonable care by finding out what type of intelligence the person has and if someone of the same intelligence under similar circumstances would have done the same.
Reasonable Person Standard: An adult is guilty of negligence if he or she fails to act the way a person of ordinary intelligence would have acted under similar circumstances.
Reasonable Child Standard: Both a child and his or her parents can be held liable for a child’s poor conduct. Children are not held to the same level of care as an adult as they do not have the same mental, emotional, or life experiences as an adult.
Professional Community Standard: Professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, are helped to a higher standard of care due to their specialized training and experience. In these cases, professionals may be found negligent if they do not exercise the same degree of skill and care that would normally be exercised by other qualified professionals of the same field.
What Are Common Defenses Against Claims of Negligence?
In some cases, it can be difficult to prove that another person’s negligence caused your injuries. In this case, the defense will try and shift the blame for the injury elsewhere to avoid having to pay damages. Here are the most common defenses:
- Assumption Of Risk: The plaintiff was aware of the risk of their action/activity but decided to move forward with it anyway.
- Release of Liability Waiver Was Signed: The plaintiff signed a liability waiver before engaging in an activity that resulted in the accident.
- Pre-Existing Injuries: The plaintiff had pre-existing injuries that occurred before the accident.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
The Contributory Negligence doctrine states that the plaintiff cannot receive compensation for any damages or injuries if they are found to be at least 1% at fault. Very few states follow the contributory negligence doctrine. These states include:
- North Carolina
- Washington D.C.
What Is Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence is the determination of the percentage of fault for an accident. There are three different types of comparative negligence and different states follow different ones:
- Slight-Gross Comparative Negligence: A plaintiff can recover damages only if they didn’t contribute to the accident or if they only contributed slightly to the accident which caused their injuries. Only South Dakota follows this doctrine.
- Pure Comparative Negligence: A plaintiff can recover a percentage of damages equivalent to the percentage of fault for which the defendant is found guilty. For example, if the plaintiff was found to be at 20% fault for an accident, they can still receive compensation for 80% of their damages. This doctrine is followed in Alaska and California.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: A plaintiff cannot receive compensation for damages if they are found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident. The State of Texas follows the modified comparative negligence doctrine.
What Is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is an act, or the omission of action, that involves a large degree of risk. Defendants whose behavior shows either a conscious indifference to the well-being of others or showed the intent to harm others would fall under this category. For example, if a driver purposely runs into the back of another driver because they cut them off, this would be considered gross negligence.
Have You Been Involved In an Accident Caused By Negligence?
If you have been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, then you may be eligible to receive compensation for damages and medical expenses. The attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. can help you claim the compensation you deserve. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with our caring staff.