The most common tort — and the one most difficult to define — is negligence. Negligence is defined as the failure to use reasonable care to avoid a foreseeable harm to a person, place or thing. If you are negligent and your negligence causes injury to another person to whom you have a “duty of care,” you may be liable to pay any damages resulting from the injury caused by your carelessness. A person may be considered “careless” or “negligent” if they do not use the kind of “reasonable care” that is appropriate to the particular situation in question. For example, a higher level of care is called for if you are pouring boiling coffee into a friend’s glass over his lap than is called for if you are pouring cold lemonade over the kitchen sink. Generally, the law requires that individuals exercise the same level of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances. This is called the “reasonable person” standard.
Some common negligence claims involve:
- Slip and fall accidents (a person slips, falls and is injured on someone else’s property)
- Alcoholic beverage liability (a provider of alcohol — either a social host or bartender — serves too many drinks to an underage or noticeably intoxicated individual who is then involved in an accident that causes injury to a third person)
- Motor vehicle accidents (accidents caused by reckless or careless driving)
- Medical malpractice (when a doctor doesn’t maintain the level of skill and knowledge commonly exercised by other doctors)