What Is Negligence?

ELI5: Negligence

A lot of personal injury claims hinge on whether or not the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff to become injured. Legally speaking, negligence occurs when the defendant’s failure to take reasonable precautions results in a plaintiff’s injuries. Though it sounds straightforward, there seems to be widespread confusion regarding the legal definition of negligence. Further complicating matters, there are different levels of negligence: a defendant who acted in a particularly reckless manner may be found to have been grossly negligent. If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim, but you are unsure if your injuries are a result of negligence, keep reading—we’ve got your answers.


One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding negligence tends to be that there’s a very direct relationship between intentionality and negligence. Many people believe that if a plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the defendant’s mistake, then the defendant was not negligent because it was a mistake. The aforementioned is untrue: whether or not a defendant intended to harm the plaintiff is irrelevant. In fact, very few personal injury defendants intend to cause harm to the plaintiff, but their actions or inactions caused harm anyway. When personal injury cases go to trial, juries aren’t asked to decide whether or not the defendant intended to cause the plaintiff’s injuries. Instead, juries are tasked with deciding whether or not the defendant was negligent, and whether or not the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury.


The standard for negligence often comes down to the question of whether or not the defendant was acting in a reasonable way. According to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, a defendant is negligent when they fail to take the same precautions that a person of ordinary prudence would take. However, in some circumstances, the standard for negligence is different. For example, in cases of medical malpractice, doctors are not held to the same standard as other people. Instead, when determining whether or not a doctor was negligent, a doctor’s actions will likely be compared to the actions of other doctors. If other doctors would have conducted themselves in a similar manner, the doctor is less likely to be considered negligent.


Foreseeability is another element of negligence. Foreseeability is concerned with whether or not the defendant knew or reasonably should have known, of a hazard. For example, if you own a swimming pool, and a child drowns in the pool, you would be more likely to be found liable in a wrongful death claim if a personal injury attorney can prove that you knew, or reasonably should have known that the swimming pool was a hazard. This could happen if you know that children trespass onto your property to go swimming in your pool and you failed to take reasonable precautions to protect potential trespassing children from drowning. The more a defendant was able to foresee, the more likely it is that they will be found liable if they didn’t take precautions.


An “act of God” usually refers to a natural disaster such as, storms, fires, hurricanes, etc. For the most part, people aren’t responsible for things such as premises liability when acts of God are involved. If your house is torn down in a tornado, your guests who were injured in the tornado at your residence would not likely be able to win a premises liability claim against you. This is because you could not have foreseen the tornado, the tornado’s destruction, and you could not have prevented the tornado from happening on your property. However, if you know that you have certain hazardous weather conditions in your area, you could be liable for a person’s injuries if you do not take precautions to keep your property safe during those weather conditions. If you live somewhere with hurricanes, and you have a tree that you know needs to be cut down, you may be liable when the tree falls on top of a person during a windstorm.


When determining whether or not a defendant’s negligence caused your injury, you may need the help of a personal injury attorney. In that case, Moxie Law Group is here for you. Our experienced team is ready to help you fight for the compensation you need in order to get back on your feet. If you’re ready to file your claim, contact Moxie Law Group today for your free consultation.

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