Law FAQ: What is negligence?
Negligence is the legal term for failing to exercise reasonable care and caution under a given set of circumstances. It is commonly referred to as “the ordinary, reasonable man” standard. Legal liability is assessed when a person fails to follow society’s most basic “rules of the road” so to speak.
Some examples of negligence might include:
- Running a red light and causing a wreck.
- A hurried doctor who fails to follow correct protocol and thus fails to diagnose a curable disease.
- A nurse who fails to check the medical chart and who then dispenses the wrong medication.
- A store owner who fails to mop up a known puddle on the floor.
- A pharmacist who dispenses the wrong dosage of medication.
- A contractor who fails to adhere to building plans or skirts building codes.
- A child care center that fails to conduct background checks before hiring employees to care for children unsupervised.
- A lawyer who fails to file his client’s lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
In a negligence case, a plaintiff is required to prove five elements:
- that a duty of care was owed by the defendant;
- that the defendant failed to live up to that duty (i.e. referred to as a “breach of duty”);
- that an injury or loss occurred;
- that the breach of duty actually caused the injury or loss; and,
- proximate or legal cause.
More on these five elements tomorrow….