Negligence is one of the most common grounds upon which injury victims may file a legal claim after a slip and fall incident. The area of the law that governs slip and fall cases, known as torts, gives people a cause of action to pursue a remedy when another person’s (or business’s) wrongdoing results in physical or economic harm. Although an experienced slip and fall attorney, including those at David & Philpot, PL, can explain how the concept of negligence applies to individual cases in detail, it can be helpful to understand some foundational information about negligence when considering whether you should contact an attorney after being injured as a result of a fall. Here are some of the most important things that you should know about the definition of negligence.
Duty of Care
The foundation of every claim for negligence is the existence of a duty of care. A plaintiff must show that a defendant owed him or her a duty of care. Typically, a duty of care is commensurate with what a reasonable person would do to avoid injury to another person. For example, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws. Property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in good condition and to address hazards as soon as is reasonably possible.
In order to make a claim for negligence, plaintiffs must demonstrate that a defendant breached a duty of care. They must identify the specific behavior that represents a breach of a duty of care. In the above example of a driver having a duty to follow traffic laws, a plaintiff would need to pinpoint what action was inconsistent with applicable law or how a driver failed to drive safely. A breach could be a specific action or an omission. In other words, failing to do something could be an act of negligence. For example, a store manager who fails to clean up a known spill could be found negligent if a customer slips on the spilled substance and is hurt as a result.
In negligence claims, plaintiffs have a burden to prove that a defendant’s breach caused their damages. In some states, plaintiffs must prove that a defendant was wholly at fault for an accident. In contrast, other jurisdictions require claimants to prove only that a defendant was partly responsible.
All plaintiffs making a claim for negligence must show that they sustained damages. A claim will not prevail simply because a defendant’s negligence could have caused someone harm. There must have been actual harm such as a physical injury and/or financial loss.
The basic elements of negligence are fundamental to every claim. Courts will review every case on their individual merits. Nevertheless, they will apply the same principles of what defines negligence when they make rulings about liability.