Negligence is defined as “the failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care that puts another person at risk.” Negligence is a foundational part of most personal injury cases because, in most personal injury cases, the injury resulted from another person’s negligence. Depending on the circumstances, there may be different types of negligence, including the failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person should maintain under the same circumstances or the failure to act when a person has a duty to act.
Civil negligence can occur in cases involving car accidents, injuries caused on business premises, workplace injuries, and more. Different states may define negligent acts slightly differently, but the basic principles remain the same. Some of the negligence factors a court may consider when determining if a person failed to exercise reasonable care include:
- The foreseeable chance the person’s acts or omissions would cause harm
- The foreseeable extent or severity of the potential harm
- How burdensome it would be to avoid or lessen the risk of harm
What is Negligence in the Context of a Civil Personal Injury Case?
Personal injury civil negligence cases involve four basic elements that determine whether or not a person acted negligently:
- Duty: Did the defendant have a legal duty to act in a certain way, or did they fail to act when they had a legal duty to take action?
- Breach: Did the defendant breach that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way?
- Causation: Did the defendant’s actions or inactions actually cause the plaintiff’s injury?
- Damages: Was the plaintiff injury victim harmed as a direct result of the defendant’s actions or inactions?
Each of these elements must be proven before a case can be settled or to win a favorable verdict at trial. Ultimately, your attorney must prove the defendant was at fault before you will see any compensation from the defendant or, more likely, from their insurance company. Proving civil negligence often requires extensive fact-gathering and evidence discovery regarding every aspect of the original accident.
Are There Different Types of Negligence?
There are two basic types of negligence: criminal negligence and civil negligence. While negligence alone is usually not a crime, certain acts can be considered criminal negligence under the right circumstances.
The circumstances required to prove criminal negligence are similar to the circumstances that determine civil negligence, except in criminal negligence cases, the deviation from the standard of care is far greater than in civil cases. Essentially, the defendant must have exhibited a gross deviation from the reasonable standard of care to be charged with criminal negligence.
Examples of Civil Negligence Versus Criminal Negligence
For example, in an auto accident, civil negligence may result from a car accident where one driver tried to maintain control of their vehicle but failed. For instance, if the driver was distracted and rear-ended the car in front of them, that could be considered civil negligence because the first driver failed to maintain a reasonable standard of care by driving distracted.
However, that same auto accident injury case could be considered criminal negligence if the driver at fault was intoxicated and speeding before rear-ending the other car, and those actions seriously harmed the other driver.
Who Can Bring a Negligence Claim, and What is the Burden of Proof?
Civil negligence claims are brought by the person who was injured by the defendant’s negligent behavior, while criminal negligence cases are filed by the government. Civil negligence is more common than criminal, but criminal negligence is much more severe and generally has much more damaging consequences.
Because criminal charges can be extremely serious, the burden of proof in criminal negligence cases is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil negligence cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the defendant’s actions more likely than not caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Proving Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
If you can’t prove fault or negligence in your personal injury case, you will not recover monetary damages from the person or business entity that injured you. Without financial compensation from the liable party, you will be responsible for your medical expenses and other losses incurred as a result of your accident.
Negligence can be a slippery term because it relies on such qualitative factors as “reasonable care,” a “gross deviation from a standard of care,” and “foreseeable likelihood of harm.” There isn’t always a framework in place to identify the parameters around a reasonable standard of care, which is why negligence cases can be complicated, costly, and uncertain.
One of the most difficult obligations of a personal injury attorney is to prove the defendant was negligent and that their negligence caused the injured person’s injuries and subsequent damages. While this often happens prior to trial, some defendants deny liability and claim they were not negligent and did not cause the plaintiff’s damages. If liability is in dispute, personal injury claims are more difficult to settle out of court.
Most cases proceed to a trial because there is a question as to whether the defendant was negligent or the parties disagree on the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. Experienced personal injury attorneys are not afraid to take a negligence dispute to a jury, and they will prepare the strongest case possible before trial.
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To Learn More, Contact Berry Law Today
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, you have the legal right to request compensation from the responsible person. Contact the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Berry Law at 402-466-8444 or fill out this contact form for a free consultation. We won’t walk away from a battle, we’ll fight for you.