Before a personal injury claim can be filed, there must be negligence. While most of us understand intuitively what this word means, there is a slightly different definition used by lawyers that can be confusing to some. Understanding what negligence is–and what it is not–is crucial to understanding whether you have a personal injury claim that can be settled or litigated to pay compensation for your damages.
What Is Negligence?
In everyday terms, negligence means being careless. You might say that you acted with “negligence” if you let your car keys fall into a sewer drain, for example; what you really mean is that you were not careful and something bad happened as a result.
In some ways, this is also the legal definition of negligence, but with an added point: negligence exists when someone does not use a level of care that an “ordinary” person would have used in the same circumstances. Almost immediately, we can see that “negligence” in this regard is not based on your own standard but on a standard that compares the actions of one person against everyone else.
Negligence can exist, in a legal sense, both when someone acts and when he or she fails to act. Under the law, this is defined as a “duty to act” or a “duty of care” that statutes outline or that is accepted as a common standard.
How Is Negligence Determined?
In a personal injury suit, negligence hinges on a judge or jury deciding that another person’s conduct lacks the reasonable standard applied to everyone. In most cases, the judge or jury will consider three important factors:
- Were the consequences foreseeable? One of the most important questions in determining if someone is negligent is the foreseeability of the consequences. This is different from intent; if a person does not intend to hurt someone else, but could easily have guessed that the victim would suffer injuries, then the behavior had foreseeable consequences.
- Was the severity of the injury foreseeable? Along with foreseeable consequences, the judge or jury may also look at whether the severity of the harm was clear in advance. Some injuries turn out to be far more harmful than normal, but that does not mean that the responsible party could not have known that the injuries would be severe.
- Did the defendant have a duty to eliminate or reduce the harm? If the defendant was legally required to take precautions to reduce the risk to others but did not do so, it is likely that the judge or jury may find that there was a breach of duty of care to the victim.
Furthermore, a victim must show four important facts in order to win a personal injury lawsuit:
- The defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The plaintiff suffered an injury as a result.
- The defendant’s breach caused the injury.
If you have suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence, contact Barber & Associates today. We can help you recover compensation to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other costs associated with your injury.