What is Negligence?
You might hear the word negligence in many situations. Someone could be describing an individual who was negligent in a car accident. Or someone who was negligent in their actions and caused themselves, or another, to be injured. But what exactly is negligence?
Negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” There are four elements that must be shown in a cause of action for negligence.
- Causation; and
Florida statutes govern what is considered negligence.
Duty refers to the existence of a legal duty that a defendant owed to a plaintiff. There are many circumstances in which one person has the legal obligation to protect, or act on behalf, of another. Different situations cause a defendant to have the duty to act. Four of the most common situations where a duty to act arises are:
- A defendant engaging in the creation of the risk that caused your injury or harm
- A defendant volunteering to protect you from harm
- The defendant knows that their conduct will harm the plaintiff
- A business or voluntary relationship exists. This could refer to the owner of a grocery store and a patron, a person that opens their land to public use, or taking voluntary custody of another person
Breach refers to the defendant breaching their duty to protect. A duty is breached when a defendant fails to act reasonably in fulfilling their duty. In negligence cases, a jury decides if there was a breach of duty.
For a defendant to be considered negligent, the defendant must be the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the defendant is responsible for the harm that was caused. This harm, however, must be foreseeable. The injury must be reasonably foreseeable. Generally, a “but for” rule is used in determining causation. A plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred, but for the defendant’s negligence. The injury must be within the scope of the defendant’s responsibility. The defendant must know, or should be able to foreseeably see, that an injury could occur.
If there is not an actual injury, then there is no negligence cause of action. There needs to be an actual injury for a plaintiff to be able to collect damages. There are two different types of damage categories: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are damages to make a plaintiff whole again. These damages attempt to restore a plaintiff to what they were before injury. This can include both monetary (medical care expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.) and non-monetary damages (pain and suffering, mental distress, etc.). The second type of damages include punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and deter future wrong-doers from committing the same act. In Florida, punitive damages are rarely awarded. The defendant’s conduct must be “wanton and willful, reckless, or malicious.” Punitive damages are limited to three times the compensatory amount, or $500,000, whichever is larger. Compensatory damages have no limit.
If you have been injured by another’s negligence in Florida, the Leifer & Ramirez can help. Our skilled attorneys have the experience and passion to seek remedies available to you to make you whole again. Contact us today.