Negligence is the violation of a legal duty which one person owes to another to care for the safety of that person or that person's property. There is both "statutory" negligence and "common-law" negligence. Statutory negligence is the failure to conform one's conduct to a duty imposed by the legislature through the enactment of a statute. Common-law negligence is a violation of the duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances. A violation of either of these duties is negligence.
What is Reasonable Care ?
Reasonable care is that which a reasonably prudent person would use in the same circumstances. In determining the care that a reasonably prudent person would use in the same circumstances, one considers all of the circumstances that were known or should have been known to the defendant at the time of the conduct in question. Whether care is reasonable depends upon the dangers that a reasonable person would perceive in those circumstances. The more dangerous the circumstances, the greater the care that ought to be exercised.
What Duty is Owed and What is Foreseeability in this Context?
A duty to use care exists when a reasonable person, knowing what the defendant here either knew or should have known at the time of the challenged conduct, would foresee that harm of the same general nature as that which occurred to cause the plaintiff's injury was likely to result from that conduct. If harm of the same general nature as that which occurred was foreseeable, it does not matter if the manner in which the harm that actually occurred was unusual, bizarre or unforeseeable.
What is Legal Cause?
Legal cause has two components: cause in fact and proximate cause. A "cause in fact" is an actual cause. "Proximate cause" means substantial factor. Negligence is a substantial factor in bringing about an injury if it contributes materially to the production of the injury. The injury must be a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the negligent conduct. The plaintiff must prove that it is a harm of the same general nature as that which a reasonably prudent person in the defendant's position should have anticipated, in view of what the defendant knew or should have known at the time.
What Damages are Available in a Negligence Case?
In a personal injury case, there are two general types of damages available: economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are monies awarded as compensation for monetary losses and expenses that the plaintiff has incurred, or is reasonably likely to incur in the future, as a result of the negligence, such as the cost of reasonable and necessary medical care and lost earnings. Noneconomic damages are monies awarded as compensation for non-monetary losses and injuries which the plaintiff has suffered, or is reasonably likely to suffer in the future, as a result of the defendant's negligence, such as physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional pain and suffering, permanent injury or impairment, and loss or diminution of the ability to enjoy life's pleasures. There is no mathematical formula in making the determination of how much damages a person should recover.
What is the Standard of Proof in a Negligence Case?
The standard of proof in a civil case is the "preponderance of the evidence," or the better evidence. In order to meet the burden of proof, a party must prove his or her claims on an issue are more probable than not. This standard of proof is a lower standard that that used in criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt). The party who asserts a claim in a negligence or other civil case has the burden of proving it by a fair preponderance of the evidence: the better or weightier evidence must establish that, more probably than not, the plaintiff's assertion is true.
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