In personal injury cases and many litigation cases, there is one concept that is key: negligence. So, what is negligence, and why is it important? Keep reading to find out.
Negligence is a failure to act with a level of care toward others or in a leadership or property ownership context. Behavior that is negligent can include acts of willful negligence or omissions when there is a duty to act.
Other terms which are critical to the understanding of negligence include:
- Willful: Done voluntarily and intentionally with intent to harm or violate the law
- Breach: A violation of a contract or duty by one party against the other
- Knowledge: An affirmative belief that a condition or state of affairs exists
- Good Faith: Honest dealings or an honest belief or purpose
Elements of Negligence
The theory of negligence incudes different elements that must be present in a case for negligence to have occurred.
Duty of Care
The primary element is the duty of care. A duty of care is the responsibility or directive that exists which an individual must obey in good faith to protect and respect others. For example, drivers have a duty of care to obey road rules and avoid jeopardizing others.
Similarly, property owners have a duty of care to maintain their property, so it is safe for visitors. If a person has a party at their home but they fail to repair rotting boards on their deck they could put guests at risk of falling through and getting hurt.
Another way to look at this is by understanding the duty of care that must be followed by the responsible party in charge of a public space. Grocery store managers may not own the store itself, but they have a duty of care to maintain the building and perform regular repairs, so it is safe. In addition, if hazards should arise on the site, the grocery store manager must warn shoppers of the danger (like a wet floor sign on a spilled item).
Breach of the Duty of Care
In order for negligence to exist, there must be proof that a breach of the duty of care occurred. For example, if a grocery store manager knows about a spill and does not either block of the aisle or warn shoppers of the danger they could be in breach of their duty of care. Similarly, if a homeowner knows about a loose nail in the floor and does not remove it or warn guests about it, they could be in breach which would endanger others and could possibly lead to a guest stepping on the nail and getting hurt.
In court, the prosecution must also prove a direct causation between the duty of care and the injury or incident. For example, a person cannot claim negligence if they slipped and fell breaking a bone at a grocery store if the injury was the result of something else. Causation would be if the person fell due to a puddle that was not cleaned up or roped off.
Based on the elements listed above, there could be grounds for a negligence claim. It is important to recognize that all of the elements must be present in the case and the injury must be a direct result of negligence.
If you have been hurt due to negligence and believe you have a case, contact Eldridge & Blakney, PC today.