What is Negligence?

Imagine a situation where one person acts in a careless way that leads to injuring someone else. For example, a driver running a red light, which causes a dangerous collision on the road. In legal cases, an event like that could be classified as “negligence”. The plaintiff, which is the person that was injured, can seek legal consequences against the person who committed the negligent act.

The general definition of negligence found in dictionaries states that it is the failure to follow and exercise a standard of care that a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances.

However, there are certain criteria that must be met in order to classify an act as negligent. So, how do we know if someone acted “negligently”?

Generally, there are four elements that determine negligence from a legal standpoint.

The first element is a duty. Duty can be simply described as a legal obligation. For example, all drivers have the legal obligation to not exceed the speed limit. A person driving above the speed limit is said to not act reasonably, because his or her actions could lead to injuring someone else. All people residing in the United States are legally obligated to ensure that they act in ways that will not cause harm to others.

The second element is a breach, which can be defined as a violation of a duty. Therefore, if a person fails to follow a legal obligation, such as the speed limit from the previous example, he or she is said to have breached their duty of care.

The third element is known as causation. Causation is the connection between the second element (breach), and an injury. For example, if the driver exceeds the speed limit, and hits a pedestrian, we can say that there was causation. However, if the driver does not harm anyone through his or her violation, then there is no injury causation.

The last element - the damages - is the harm that has been caused to the plaintiff. There are many different forms of damages, ranging from medical bills to pain and suffering that one suffers after an injury. In the case of a reckless driver who ignored the speed limit, an example of damages would be the cost of medical treatment and the injury that was the result of being hit by a speeding car.

To prove that there is negligence in a legal case, all of the four elements must be proven and presented in court. Unfortunately, just the possibility of causing harm to someone is not enough to legally prosecute a person for negligence. The plaintiff must have actually suffered damages in order to be able to sue.


If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s fault, call Jason DeSouza today.