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Thomas DeLattre and Glen D. Wieland

What is Negligence? How Fault is Determined and Defined

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2018 | Workers' Compensation |


The department store employee who sees a potentially dangerous spill on the floor, yet does nothing. The driver who was snapping a new story on Snapchat while driving home. The crane operator who comes to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The homeowner who fails to pick up his gardening tools littering the public sidewalk. All of these individuals could easily be considered broadly negligent in the court of public opinion, but what does the law have to say?

Well, as is often the case, litigious standards are a bit more well-defined and rigid. Before you find yourself negligent in a case or unsure of the level of negligence of another party, learn how negligence is determined and defined in litigation.

Determining Negligence: The Four Elements

Negligence can be broken into four main elements of consideration, including:

  1. Owed Duty: Was there a legal duty of care owed to the injured party? For instance, when you legally own and operate a motor vehicle, you have a legal duty to operate your vehicle safely. The same can be said for doctors who have a legal duty to provide adequate, competent care. If you are a store owner, you have a legal duty to ensure your place of business is safe for your employees and customers (as well as anyone else on your property). Even trespassers get a minimal level of duty of care, as people are not legally allowed to set up booby traps on their property, for instance.
  2. Breach of Duty: Once it is determined that some level of duty was owed, it can then be decided whether that duty was breached based on whether the average person would have acted differently in the situation, knowing what the defendant knew at the time.
  3. Causation: Even if the above two points show that the defendant acted negligently, that alone is not enough to be proven responsible for injuries or damages. It must be proven that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the injury or damages. Additionally, it must be proven that the defendant should have reasonably foreseen the potential danger of their action or inaction. A freak accident, for instance, may not be determined a the result of negligence.
  4. Damages: Finally, adequate compensation is determined for the injured party, including repairs on vehicles and property, hospital bills and rehabilitation costs.

If you, a friend or a loved is injured because of someone else’s negligence or should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Wieland, Hilado & DeLattre, P.A. at 407-841-7699.  For additional resources, keep checking our blog, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more helpful hints and to always be informed about best practices in law.

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