Negligence Laws That Can Affect Settlement Amounts

Negligence lawsuits are often filed by plaintiffs when a defendant does not act with a level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under similar circumstances. Injuries to the neglected individuals often occur as a result of these failures. While most negligence lawsuits are directed towards professionals or medical doctors, any entity or person can be found negligent if their actions led to another person’s injury.

For any negligence case to have merit, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the negligent party committed actions that were deemed unreasonable. The plaintiff must also be able to prove that their injuries likely would not have happened had the negligent party used duty of care and been more aware.

When placing fault on one or multiple responsible parties, different types of negligence come into play, depending on the circumstances. Understanding these types of negligence will better prepare you for any difficult questions you may need to answer in court. To learn more about how negligence can affect a damages claim, read on.

What is Negligence?

Negligence means a failure to take proper care in doing something, such as the failure to be attentive, perform a duty, or give proper care. The law requires that an individual act reasonably to prevent occurrence of harm..   This is known as a duty of care. For instance, a doctor is required to ensure that their patients are not harmed. In the case of an everyday person, an individual has a duty to prevent harm to others while they are driving a vehicle.

Elements of a Negligence Lawsuit

The following four case elements must be proven to show that the defendant acted in a negligent manner. This is key to winning a negligence lawsuit.

  • Duty – The defendant had a duty of care to keep the plaintiff safe under the circumstances;
  • Breach – The defendant’s legal duty was breached by either acting negligently or by failing to act in a certain way to prevent the plaintiff from being harmed; 
  • Causation – The defendant’s actions or inaction caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
  • Damages – The defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff to become injured or harmed.

Types of Negligence

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is when an individual demonstrates a lack of concern for another person’s safety due to their high degree of carelessness. Gross negligence is much worse than general negligence in that this level of regard goes beyond simple neglect. For instance, if a resident living in a long-term care facility goes days without having a bandage changed, this would be considered gross negligence.

Contributory Negligence

If a plaintiff contributed to their injuries in any way, they could be barred from recovering any damages. This is known as contributory negligence. Several states have a contributory negligence rule, including Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Alabama. Most states do not follow contributory negligence laws. However, the states that do present an obstacle to plaintiffs in receiving  settlements for their injuries if they contributed to their damages by as little as one percent, if they reside in these states. 

If an accident victim is even slightly at fault for an accident, the harsh contributory negligence doctrine can deny compensation to them, which is why only several states follow this rule.

Comparative Negligence

Fault in the comparative negligence system is allocated between both parties. Some version of comparative negligence exists in most states, which allows defendants to claim that the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident. In the legal system, this is known as raising a partial defense.

For instance, if John made a left turn and hit Ann, who was driving 15 mph over the speed limit, she could sue John for negligence and attempt to recover damages for her injuries. Depending on the circumstances, the comparative negligence system can find Ann 20% at fault for speeding and John 80% at fault for not making a safe left turn. In this situation, Ann’s total losses, or damages, would be reduced by 20%, meaning that if she were awarded $100,000 in damages, she would only receive $80,000 because she was partially at fault for the accident.

There are different comparative negligence rules, depending on which state you reside in. Most U.S. states have adopted the two rules described below.

  • Pure Comparative Negligence: Accident victims can recover partial compensation to cover their medical expenses regardless of how negligent they were in an accident, even if their degree of fault is much higher than the defendant’s. Pure comparative negligence jurisdiction includes states such as New York, Florida, or California.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence: In states with a modified comparative negligence rule, the amount of money an accident victim can recover is limited if they are more than 50% at fault for the accident. In some states, an accident victim must be less than 50% at fault for them to be able to recover damages. This rule exists in states such as Georgia and Colorado. Victims in other states, including Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Illinois, must be 50% or less at fault to recover damages from another at-fault party.

Vicarious Negligence

Vicarious liability or negligence can occur between a parent and a child, a vehicle owner and a driver, an employer and an employee, or a pet owner and a pet. Individuals who may not have participated in or caused the injury can be held legally responsible due to the legal relationship that exists between the individual and the pet or person whose negligent acts caused their injuries. For instance, if an employee’s careless actions cause another person to become injured, the employer can be held liable even though it was not their fault.

Get Help From a Personal Injury Lawyer

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you navigate all of the negligence laws that exist. If you reside in a state with contributory negligence laws, it is crucial to have evidence in a personal injury case. Having evidence can mean the difference between receiving nothing and recovering a large settlement.

Our legal team at Dash Injury Law Firm can help you collect and assemble evidence to present to the court to make it clear that you are not to blame for the event that caused you to become injured.          

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.