Negligence is a legal concept that anyone who has been injured is likely to hear a lot about. It is central to injury law across the country. Broadly speaking, negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care. The law likes to talk about reasonableness and pretend that it is a concept that can be described concretely. You can think of reasonable care as the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in the same situation.
The basic idea behind negligence is that everyone should exercise reasonable care when they act, and doing that means taking into account the potential harm their actions could foreseeably cause others. Those who fail to take reasonable care, are liable for the reasonably foreseeable results of their actions. So, for example, if you fail to tie down some furniture in the back of your pick-up truck which then falls out while you’re driving down the highway and hits the driver behind you, you were negligent and responsible for the foreseeable results of your actions. And since it doesn’t take a Stephen King to imagine that driving with loose furniture could be a danger to those behind you, the damages you caused were probably foreseeable.
But often, it’s not so clear whether or not someone was negligent. In that situation, it may take a Court to determine whether a party was negligent and liable for the damage they caused. Injury lawsuits can be fought over liability, damages, or both. If the parties are arguing over whether someone was negligent, they are arguing over liability.
The thing to remember is that when you go out in the world, you are expected to behave in a reasonably prudent manner. Be careful. And watch out for everyone else too. The law may presume that people will act with reasonable care, but you’ll probably be safer if you assume the opposite.