What Exactly Is “Negligence” Anyway?

What Exactly Is “Negligence” Anyway?

When you are injured in some sort of accident which was caused by another person or entity, any sort of personal injury lawsuit brought against that person usually hinges on the legal concept of “negligence.”

You probably understand the word to mean some sort of failure to fulfill one’s duties. For example, if you constantly forget to feed the dog when you are supposed to, your spouse may call you negligent. In the context of personal injury law this is somewhat true as well, but legal negligence is much more complex than that.

In a personal injury lawsuit, whether it resulted from a car accident or a slip and fall or even medical malpractice, the key element of the trial will be to determine whether the defendant can legally be considered “at-fault” for the plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, to what degree they can be held responsible. Were they 100% at-fault? 50%?

This fact will determine whether or not the defendant will be required by the court to pay damages to the plaintiff, as well as how much they will be required to pay.

To be considered at-fault for an accident, one must be found to have been negligent. The concept of negligence is comprised of four key elements:

  1. A duty of care existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. As a motorist, the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff to drive in a safe and lawful manner. As a doctor, the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff to provide a level of skill and care which could reasonably be expected of any competent physician.  
  2. The duty of care was breached in some manner, such as a motorist illegally texting while driving or a doctor failing to administer appropriate treatment for a certain illness.
  3. For negligence to be established, the plaintiff must demonstrate that it was in fact the breach of duty by the defendant which explicitly led to the accident and subsequent injuries.
  4. Finally, the plaintiff must have suffered compensable injuries of some sort. The plaintiff’s negligence must have led to actual damages.

Generally speaking, if all four of these elements can be proven, the defendant will be considered to have been negligent. It is important to note, however, that the existence of negligence does not inherently mean 100% responsibility for the accident. Nebraska recognizes contributory negligence, meaning the negligence of the plaintiff also contributed to the accident in some way. For example, if you were in a car accident caused by a driver who was texting while driving, but you were speeding at the time, the court may find that your own negligence contributed to the accident and your injuries.

In Nebraska, if you are found to be 50% or more at-fault for the accident, you are prohibited from collecting any damages from the opposing party. Additionally, any percentage of fault less than 50% will result in a proportional decrease in the amount of damages you can collect.

Proving negligence can be incredibly complex, but it is essential to ensuring you are appropriately compensated when you have been the victim of an accident. If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, please contact Inkelaar Law today and let us fight to get you the restitution you deserve.