Understanding Negligence

The legal definition of negligence is the failure to give the same level of care that, under similar circumstances, a reasonable person would give themselves, and or have the ability to give. The actions of those found guilty of negligence are referred to as negligent actions.

Here is an example of an injury due to negligence:

42negligence A car company manufactures and installs brake pads on a vehicle they produce. Though the brake pads were designed and produced using state of the art technology and equipment and seemed to meet all legal safety requirements, employees knowingly failed to test the brake pads in order to meet production deadlines and to save on expenses accrued during the testing period. Once available on the market, a consumer purchases the vehicle and suffers a catastrophic accident due to do the brake pads not properly functioning. The car company is considered negligent, or responsible for this accident because they failed to test the brake pads before they sold them and knowingly sold a defective product. They had the ability to test them, the equipment, knowledge and understanding of how to test them, but in fact willingly failed to do so.

Duty of Proving Negligence

In a lawsuit where negligence is the leading factor for causing an accident or injury, it is a claimant’s responsibility to prove that the defendant was negligent and did not exercise the same level of caution that a reasonable individual would have exercised and/or had the ability to exercise but chose not to.

Proof of Negligence

Proving negligence can be a difficult task. In some cases it can be one individual’s word against another, making it very difficult for the court to accurately determine who is to blame. An example of this would be when two parties involved in an automotive accident claim that each other was to blame for the accident, but no witnesses or video documentation is available to prove blame in either person. This is where having an experienced attorney is an absolute necessity.

An experienced attorney will use every resource available to prove that the defendant is to blame for injuries caused as the result of an accident. Some of the resources that a good attorney will use are:

  • Expert Testimony – Attorneys may use the testimonial of a person who has expertise or significant knowledge on a particular subject or field. Their expert opinion may help in determining the cause of the accident and or who is to blame.

  • Eyewitness Testimony – If someone does not initially come forward and say that they witnessed the events leading to the cause of an accident or injury, an attorney will seek out potential eyewitnesses; interviewing people in close proximity to the accident or those who might have information about negligence (like an employee who was told by a co-worker that his department failed to check the brake pads on their newest model of car)

  • Public & Private Records – In some cases absolute proof of negligence can be found by official records: Timesheets showing that a the manager on duty, who acted as a witness on the side of the defendant, was in fact not working on the day that the incident occurred, and would not have been able to say whether or not negligent actions led to the death of an employee. Other records such as medical records, employment records, invoices, receipts of transaction, etc. can be used to prove negligence.

  • Photographic or Video Evidence – These will generally be used as a smoking gun, where they will prove without a doubt who was negligent, and even their degree of negligence.

  • Graphical Animation & Illustrations – Attorneys can use computer developed animation and illustrations to create visual representations of events that led to an accident. Though this type of evidence is not always absolute, it may give the courts or jurors an idea of what could have potentially happened and lead them to a conclusion.

Proximate Cause

The legal definition of proximate cause is an act causing an injury that was the result of a direct consequence and without its presence the injury would not have occurred. This can sometimes be difficult to prove but an experienced attorney will use all the resources necessary to prove without a doubt that injuries were caused as a result of negligent behavior and that compensation is not only deserved, but that is fair and just.

Take for example an auto accident where the responsible party not only injurers the other driver but also hits a mailbox which is projected in to the air and lands on a pedestrian causing massive brain damage. It seems easy enough to assume that any judge or jury would hold the negligent driver responsible for any injury caused to the pedestrian by the mailbox that their car sent flying through the air during the accident. But unfortunately that is not automatic proof of negligence or responsibility. The driver may have hit the mailbox as a result of their vehicle spinning out of control, which is not something that a reasonable person would have any control over. Another factor might be that the mailbox may have not been sufficiently secured to the pavement by the city worker who installed it, and the driver would have had no idea that the mailbox was not secure.

Issues like the one above are circumstances that must be overcome to prove negligence and responsibility for injuries and damages. An injury lawyer must prove without a doubt that injuries sustained were a direct result of an accident. This is another case where an experienced attorney is absolutely necessary to get appropriate compensation for victims of personal injury.