Negligence Definition

Failure to use reasonable care, resulting in injury or property damage to another. Negligence is a common basis for civil litigation, especially in personal injury cases, when plaintiffs sue for damages for harm caused by someone's failure to act with reasonable care. For example, proving who was at fault for a car accident typically means showing which driver was negligent.

When claiming negligence, the injured person (the plaintiff) typically must prove that:

  • the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
  • the defendant didn't fulfill that duty (by failing to act the way a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the circumstances)
  • the plaintiff was injured, and
  • the defendant's negligence was a cause of the plaintiff's injury.

See also: contributory negligence, comparative negligence, foreseeable risk, negligence per se, gross negligence, tort, and liability.