It is well know that people are typically responsible for the intentional harm they cause. Negligence refers to the responsibility of a person to act in a reasonable fashion that would be usually expected in a similar situation.

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Failure to exercise the degree of care considered reasonable under the circumstances, resulting in an unintended injury to another party.

Duhaime Legal Dictionary

A failure to act as a reasonable person would be expected to act in similar circumstances.

Encyclopedia Britannica

In law, the failure to meet a standard of behaviour established to protect society against unreasonable risk. Negligence is the cornerstone of tort liability and a key factor in most personal injury and property-damage trials. Dictionary

n. failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the circumstances, or taking action which such a reasonable person would not. Negligence is accidental as distinguished from "intentional torts" (assault or trespass, for example) or from crimes, but a crime can also constitute negligence, such as reckless driving. Negligence can result in all types of accidents causing physical and/or property damage, but can also include business errors and miscalculations, such as a sloppy land survey. In making a claim for damages based on an allegation of another's negligence, the injured party (plaintiff) must prove: a) that the party alleged to be negligent had a duty to the injured party-specifically to the one injured or to the general public, b) that the defendant's action (or failure to act) was negligent-not what a reasonably prudent person would have done, c) that the damages were caused ("proximately caused") by the negligence. An added factor in the formula for determining negligence is whether the damages were "reasonably foreseeable" at the time of the alleged carelessness. If the injury is caused by something owned or controlled by the supposedly negligent party, but how the accident actually occurred is not known (like a ton of bricks falls from a construction job), negligence can be found based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor (Latin for "the thing speaks for itself"). Furthermore, in six states (Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland) and the District of Columbia, an injured party will be denied any judgment (payment) if found to have been guilty of even slight "contributory negligence" in the accident. This archaic and unfair rule has been replaced by "comparative negligence" in the other 44 states, in which the negligence of the claimant is balanced with the percentage of blame placed on the other party or parties ("joint tortfeasors") causing the accident. In automobile accident cases in 16 states the head of the household is held liable for damages caused by any member of the family using the car under what is called the "family purpose" doctrine. Nine states (California, New York, Michigan, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island) make the owner of the vehicle responsible for all damages caused by a driver given permission to use the car, whether or not the negligent driver has assets or insurance to pay a judgment. Eight states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia) allow the owner to rebut a presumption that the driver was authorized to use the car. Negligence is one of the greatest sources of litigation (along with contract and business disputes) in the United States.

Failure to exercise the degree of care expected of a person of ordinary prudence in like circumstances in protecting others from a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm in a particular situation.

Lect Law Library

The failure to use reasonable care. The doing of something which a reasonably prudent person would not do, or the failure to do something which a reasonably prudent person would do under like circumstances. A departure from what an ordinary reasonable member of the community would do in the same community.

Negligence is a 'legal cause' of damage if it directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such damage, so it can reasonably be said that if not for the negligence, the loss, injury or damage would not have occurred.

Negligence may be a legal cause of damage even though it operates in combination with the act of another, a natural cause, or some other cause if the other cause occurs at the same time as the negligence and if the negligence contributes substantially to producing such damage.

In cases involving allegedly defective, unreasonably dangerous products, the manufacturer may be liable even though it exercised all reasonable care in the design, manufacture and sale of the product in question.

On the other hand, any failure of a manufacturer of a product to adopt the most modern, or even a better safeguard, does not necessarily make the manufacturer legally liable to a person injured by that product. The manufacturer is not a guarantor that nobody will get hurt in using its product, and a product is not defective or unreasonably dangerous merely because it is possible to be injured while using it. There is no duty upon the manufacturer to produce a product that is 'accident-proof.' What the manufacturer is required to do is to make a product which is free from defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions.

The failure to act in a manner that could be considered reasonable and/or prudent under the circumstances.

Merriam Webster

Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.

In order to establish negligence as a Cause of Action under the law of torts, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct, the defendant's negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged.

The concept of negligence developed under English Law. Although English Common Law had long imposed liability for the wrongful acts of others, negligence did not emerge as an independent cause of action until the eighteenth century. Another important concept emerged at that time: legal liability for a failure to act. Originally liability for failing to act was imposed on those who undertook to perform some service and breached a promise to exercise care or skill in performing that service. Gradually the law began to imply a promise to exercise care or skill in the performance of certain services. This promise to exercise care, whether express or implied, formed the origins of the modern concept of "duty." For example, innkeepers were said to have a duty to protect the safety and security of their guests.


Negligence (Lat. negligentia, from neglegere, to neglect, literally "not to pick up") is a legal concept in the common law legal systems mostly applied in tort cases to achieve monetary compensation (damages) for physical and mental injuries (not accidents).

Negligence is a type of tort or delict (also known as a civil wrong). "Negligence" is not the same as "carelessness", because someone might be exercising as much care as they are capable of, yet still fall below the level of competence expected of them. It is the opposite of "diligence". It can be generally defined as conduct that is culpable because it falls short of what a reasonable person would do to protect another individual from foreseeable risks of harm. In the words of Lord Blackburn,

"those who go personally or bring property where they know that they or it may come into collision with the persons or property of others have by law a duty cast upon them to use reasonable care and skill to avoid such a collision."

Through civil litigation, if an injured person proves that another person acted negligently to cause his injury, he can recover damages to compensate for his harm. Proving a case for negligence can potentially entitle the injured plaintiff to compensation for harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status, or intimate relationships. However, because negligence cases are very fact-specific, this general definition does not fully explain the concept of when the law will require one person to compensate another for losses caused by accidental injury. Further, the law of negligence at common law is only one aspect of the law of liability. Although resulting damages must be proven in order to recover compensation in a negligence action, the nature and extent of those damages are not the primary focus of negligence cases.