Negligence applies when a party fails to act in the way a reasonably prudent person would have acted in a similar situation, whether the party affirmatively did something a reasonable person would likely not do or the party did not take an action a reasonable person would likely take. Negligence does not involve intentional harm toward another; rather, it is the careless failure to take into account potential harms to others.
There are many types of negligence that may be the basis of a lawsuit
A common example is a driver’s failure to stop at a stop sign, yield the right of way, or keep a proper lookout, resulting in a crash. Another common occurrence is property owners’ failure to properly maintain their premises, resulting in a slip and fall. Negligence lawsuits can also be brought against product manufacturers for design and manufacturing defects or failure to warn of a danger associated with the product.
A party hoping to bring a negligence case against another must generally prove four elements:
- Duty of care: The defendant had a duty to the injured party or the general public to protect them from harm
- Breach of duty: The defendant breached the duty of care by not acting as a reasonably prudent person would
- Damages: Plaintiff suffered an injury, whether physical or economical, as a result of defendant’s failure to follow the duty of care
- Causation: The injury plaintiff suffered was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of defendant’s action or inaction
Possible damages in negligence cases include medical costs, anticipated future medical costs, compensation for emotional distress, property loss, loss of consortium or lost affection and companionship from a spouse or parent, lost wages, and future lost income.
In some states, plaintiffs face additional hurdles if they played a role in their injuries.
Florida allows a reduction in a damages award based on the percentage adjudicated to be the fault of the plaintiff, which is called comparative negligence. Some states follow a more stringent system called contributory negligence, in which a plaintiff whose own negligence caused even a small percent of the injury may not recover any damages. In some cases, damages may be reduced if a court finds the plaintiff failed to take advantage of an opportunity that would have mitigated the damages.
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