What Is Negligence?

Negligence is a term used in the legal system to describe a failure to take reasonable care when performing an action that harms another person or entity. 

Negligence is one of the most common legal concepts used in personal injury lawsuits, as it provides a framework for determining liability in situations where one party’s actions have caused harm to another party. 

In this article, we will look into the various aspects of negligence, including its legal definition, elements, and examples.

Legal Definition of Negligence

The legal definition of negligence varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, negligence is defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. 

In other words, negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to take the care that a reasonable person or entity would take in similar circumstances. This standard is often referred to as the “reasonable person” standard and is used to determine whether a person or entity acted negligently in a particular situation.

In common parlance, a close synonym to negligence is “carelessness.”

Elements of Negligence

To establish negligence in a legal case, the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.


The first element of negligence is duty. Duty refers to the legal obligation that a person or entity has to act in a certain way in a particular situation. For example, drivers of motor vehicles owe a duty of care to others by way of obeying the rules and laws of the road.


The second element of negligence is breach. Breach of duty occurs when a person or entity fails to meet their duty of care. In other words, they do not act in the way that a reasonable person or entity would act in similar circumstances. For example, if a person runs a red light while driving, this may constitute a breach of duty.


The third element of negligence is causation. Causation refers to the link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of their injuries. For example, if a driver runs a red light and crashes into another vehicle, the causation element is likely satisfied.


The fourth and final element of negligence is damages. Damages refer to the harm that the plaintiff has suffered as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.

Examples of Negligence

Negligence can occur in a wide variety of situations. Here are some common examples of negligence:

Car Accidents

Car accidents are a common example of negligence. If a driver fails to obey traffic laws or drives recklessly, they may be found negligent if they cause an accident that results in injuries or property damage.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare provider fails to provide competent medical care to their patients. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses a patient’s condition or prescribes the wrong medication, they may be found negligent if the patient is injured as a result.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents can occur when property owners fail to maintain safe conditions on their premises. For example, if a store owner fails to clean up a spill on the floor and a customer slips and falls, the store owner may be found negligent if the customer is injured.

Product Liability

Product liability occurs when a manufacturer sells a product that is defective or dangerous. For example, if a car manufacturer sells a car with faulty brakes, they may be found negligent if the faulty brakes cause an accident that results in injuries or death.

Defenses to Negligence

In a negligence case, the defendant (the person or entity being sued) may raise several defenses to the plaintiff’s claim. Some common defenses to negligence include:

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a common defense used in negligence cases. Comparative negligence occurs when the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their injuries, but the defendant’s negligence was also a factor. With comparative negligence, the damages awarded to the plaintiff are reduced by the percentage of their own negligence. In Texas, the injured victim also cannot recover compensation if they are 51% or more at fault.

Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk occurs when the plaintiff voluntarily engages in a risky activity and is aware of the potential risks. For example, if a person voluntarily participates in a contact sport and is injured, they may not be able to recover damages from the other participants because they assumed the risk of injury when they chose to participate in the sport.

Our Dallas Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Negligence is a complex legal concept that plays a central role in many civil lawsuits. By understanding negligence and its various applications, we can better protect ourselves and others from harm and ensure that those who have been harmed are properly compensated.

If you have found yourself in a situation involving negligence, it is essential to contact an experienced attorney to help you navigate the process. The attorney with Jay Murray Personal Injury Lawyers in Dallas is ready to help you. Contact us online today or call (214) 855-1420 to set up your free consultation.