Negligence is a term that confuses many people whether it’s in regard to a car accident, dog bite incident, or a trip and fall injury. It’s a concept that can be difficult to prove in a court of law, which is typically where accusations of negligence end up. A person can be considered negligent and liable if he/she fails to act as a prudent person would under a given set of circumstances.
The standard for a ‘prudent’ person is one that would act in a sensible manner to take appropriate precautions to mitigate the potential for damage or an injury. There are typically four elements that are used to establish negligence.
Duty of Care
Homeowners, business owners and even municipalities have an obligation to take reasonable precautions to mitigate the potential for injuries or damage. In some situations, there are specific standards that exist for doctors, attorneys, and land owners, for example. Children are held to standards commiserate with their age, intelligence, experience and education.
Breach of Duty
A breach of duty occurs when a ‘reasonable’ person fails to provide adequate precautions. An individual can also be in breach of duty if they violate a statute, law or regulation.
Cause and Effect
There has to be a clear cause and effect that resulted in harm due to the defendant’s actions. It can be through commission or omission and can take into consideration unusual circumstances.
If Harm was Foreseeable
There are some situations where a reasonable person could foresee the potential for an accident, injury or damages. Examples would be running a red light, not fencing in a pool to prevent access by children, or a business that fails to put up a ‘wet floor’ sign.
Ignorance Isn’t an Excuse
Stupidity or ignorance isn’t a defense. Individuals, businesses, schools, governmental units, and a host of other organizations are all under an obligation to foresee the potential for an accident in any given situation and take the appropriate precautions to prevent damage or injuries. Those that fail to do so are considered to be negligent and held responsible for a plaintiff’s attending costs and expenses.