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negligence,in law, especially torttort,
in law, the violation of some duty clearly set by law, not by a specific agreement between two parties, as in breach of contract. When such a duty is breached, the injured party has the right to institute suit for compensatory damages.
..... Click the link for more information. law, the breach of an obligation (duty) to act with care, or the failure to act as a reasonable and prudent person would under similar circumstances. For a plaintiff to recover damagesdamages,
money award that the judgment of a court requires the defendant in a suit to pay to the plaintiff as compensation for the loss or injury inflicted. Damages are the form of legal redress most commonly sought.
..... Click the link for more information. , this action or failure must be the "proximate cause" of an injury, and actual loss must occur. Among possible defenses to a negligence action are that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury (e.g., of being hit by a batted ball at a baseball game), or that the plaintiff brought on the injury by his or her own negligence. Most negligent acts are inadvertent; between them and fully intentional acts lie forms of conduct variously termed willful, wanton, or reckless. Deliberate judgments that are dangerously careless (e.g., faulty building design) may, however, be considered acts of negligence.
The obligation to act with care may arise out of a relationship established by contractcontract,
in law, a promise, enforceable by law, to perform or to refrain from performing some specified act. In a general sense, all civil obligations fall under tort or contract law.
..... Click the link for more information. , as in the duty assumed by a common carrier (e.g., a railroad) in preserving goods and passengers from damage or injury. But the law also supposes that all persons in the ordinary course of conduct have a duty to avoid inflicting injuries on others. In all noncontractual situations this duty is to act as a "reasonable, prudent person" would act. Injury that results despite such conduct or from circumstances beyond human control (see, e.g., act of Godact of God,
in law, an accident caused by the operation of extraordinary natural force. The effect of ordinary natural causes (e.g., that rain will leak through a defective roof) may be foreseen and avoided by the exercise of human care; failure to take the necessary precautions
..... Click the link for more information. ) is not compensable, although the doctrine of strict liabilityliability,
in law, an obligation of one party to another, usually to compensate financially. It is a fundamental aspect of tort law, although liability may also arise from duties entered into by special agreement, as in a contract or in the carrying out of a fiduciary duty.
..... Click the link for more information. makes those engaged in certain trades and services liable despite non-negligent conduct.
It is usually the function of a jury to determine whether negligence occurred, and the obligation of the plaintiff to demonstrate the defendant's negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. On the other hand, in cases where due care must have been absent (e.g., where a drink bottled at the defendant's plant contains a dead mouse), the judge may apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur [Lat.,=the thing speaks for itself] and rule that there was negligence as a matter of law; this obliges the defendant to demonstrate the absence of negligence. In cases where both parties share responsibility for negligence, the law allows reduced damages based on the doctrine of comparative negligence. Thus, a driver who ignored a red light might not recover fully for an injury caused by another driver who was speeding through the intersection; responsibility might instead be assigned, for instance, as belonging 70% to the speeder and 30% to the ignorer of the traffic signal, whose damages for injury would be limited by subtraction from a full recovery.
Negligence law has been of great importance to consumer groups, who have won huge awards of actual and punitive damages, especially from the manufacturers of various goods. In the 1990s business groups and their congressional allies have pushed for federalization of U.S. negligence law, with statutory limitation of forms of damages, arguing that almost all commerce is now interstate and that the threat of large damage awards has been inhibiting American enterprise. Opponents respond that negligence has historically been one of few legal actions useful to the relatively powerless in American society, and that business has not suffered as it claims.
At common lawcommon law,
system of law that prevails in England and in countries colonized by England. The name is derived from the medieval theory that the law administered by the king's courts represented the common custom of the realm, as opposed to the custom of local jurisdiction that
..... Click the link for more information. , the right to recover for negligence belonged to the injured party only; his or her death terminated a lawsuit, and heirs might not recover. Today, all jurisdictions have statutes permitting heirs to bring suit for wrongful death and for injuries to the deceased. Negligence claims are the chief source of modern civil litigation. Most cases arise from vehicular traffic accidents; the widespread adoption of no-fault insuranceno-fault insurance,
type of indemnity plan, usually applied to automobile coverage, in which those injured in an accident receive direct payment from the company with which they themselves are insured.
..... Click the link for more information. may, however, reduce the role of negligence law in the future. Besides its civil aspects, negligence may also be an aspect of a criminal prosecution, if it results in manslaughtermanslaughter,
homicide committed without justification or excuse but distinguished from murder by the absence of the element of malice aforethought. Modern criminal statutes usually divide it into degrees, the most common distinction being between voluntary and involuntary
..... Click the link for more information. or if it is a serious breach of a public duty (e.g., carelessness by the engineer of a train). In medical, psychotherapeutic, legal, and other professional relationships, negligence, which is measured against generally accepted knowledge and practice standards, is called malpracticemalpractice,
failure to provide professional services with the skill usually exhibited by responsible and careful members of the profession, resulting in injury, loss, or damage to the party contracting those services.
..... Click the link for more information. .