How Is Negligence Defined? What Does it Mean to Be Negligent?
Maryland juries are instructed that negligence is doing something that a person using ordinary care, caution and prudence would not do, or, in fact doing something that a reasonably cautious person would not, under the circumstances. As attorney Eric T. Kirk will tell you, the standard is typically that of hypothetical “reasonable person”. The question posed, is, what, would a reasonable person in similar circumstances do, refrain from doing – or perhaps, what precautions would they take?
“How would that reasonable person react under similar circumstances?”
If the alleged negligent actor’s conduct falls outside of the bounds of reasonable expectations, you have an act of negligence. If you’ve been injured due to some action, or failure, of another, and the person that hurt you has acted in a way that this imaginary reasonable person would not have acted- that’s negligence. To prove up a case for negligence in court, a plaintiff must show that:
- the defendant owed them a duty to conform their conduct to specific standard of care that prevents harm- or the risk of harm- to others
- the defendant did not conform their and conduct that failure fairly directly led to an injury that
- damaged the plaintiff.
Now, the negligent act can take many forms. It can be an act of carelessness, e.g., not looking both ways before crossing a street, or driving a car too fast for conditions, or too close behind another car. It can be an act performed in a manner that falls beneath expectations, e.g., not properly installing a roof or tires. Or, it can a failure to act where there is an obligation to do so, e.g. a store owners failure to warn his or her customers that the floor is treacherous. Whatever the form of the negligent act, if it directly caused injury to another, that failure to act properly becomes “actionable” a legal word meaning you can bring a claim, or sue, for your losses.
In this video clip, I discuss how the law defines negligence: