What is Negligence?
There are many lawsuits that revolve around the concept of "negligence." While most of us have heard the term, we might not all be fully aware of the legal implications of the word "negligence." Basically, a person's behavior could be referred to as negligent if they failed to exercise care towards other individuals that a reasonable or prudent person would take under the same circumstances, or when they take an action a reasonable person would not. In personal injury cases, or other forms of "torts," negligence cases make up a large number of the lawsuits involving accidental injuries (as opposed to intentional torts, which involve something like assault or trespassing).
In a legal context, making the case for negligence involves showing several "elements." Here is an explanation of each of those elements.
- The negligent party owed the injured person a duty, or owed a duty to the public. Oftentimes this is fairly obvious - for example, a driver owes a duty to other drivers to drive in a reasonably prudent way. Any driver will have the duty to not speed or swerve their car recklessly on the road. Some duties are more specific. For instance, a doctor will have the duty to his or her patients by reason of their doctor patient relationship, while a person driving has a general duty to to other drivers on the road.
- The negligent party did not act as a prudent person would in the given situation. In order to be considered negligence, a person must not have practiced the care a reasonably prudent person would have in the same sort of situation. People are not required to anticipate non-obvious risks. Again, looking at drivers, a reasonably prudent person would know not to switch lanes abruptly without signaling. In the case of some professionals, the standard will be a similarly situated reasonably prudent member of their same profession. For instance, a doctor cannot simply provide the care that a reasonably prudent person with no medical knowledge would provide, but rather must provide the care a reasonably prudent doctor would provide.
- The damage or injury was caused by the negligent act. The injury that occurred must have been "proximately caused" by the negligence. For example, a driver was driving while on her phone and driving negligently, but then got into an accident that was directly caused by her car malfunctioning, then her negligence would not necessarily have been the proximate cause of the accident and the associated injuries.
In cases where a person is found to have been negligent and therefore caused injuries to another person, the negligent person will be held liable. This will mean that the negligent person will be required to pay damages to the person who was injured as a result of the negligence.
The amount of the damages the negligent party will have to pay will depend on the severity of the injury and the cost associated with that injury. This will mean that injuries that caused a great deal of pain and suffering, that generated large medical bills, or that prevented a person from working will usually lead to higher damages.
Another issue that comes up in negligence cases is whether the injured party was also negligent. In cases where the injured party's actions were also negligent and played some part in the cause of the accident, there are two different approaches, namely contributory and comparative negligence.
Under contributory negligence, if the injured party was at all responsible for the accident, they will be barred from recovering from the other party. Under Comparative negligence, if the injured party was 20% responsible, while the other party was 80% responsible, then the injured party can collect 80% of the damages. Some states have modified the comparative negligence approach, by barring individuals from collecting in accidents where the injured party was 50% or more responsible for the accident.
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If you have been injured because of someone else's negligence, call Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation today. Montlick & Associateshas been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over 36 years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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