Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. A driver who rear-ends a vehicle in front of him likely is guilty of negligence. In deciding whether a particular action or inaction is negligent, a jury will necessarily determine if the person acted as a “reasonably careful person would have acted under the circumstances.” The occurrence of an accident does not, by itself, mean that a particular person has been negligent. In cases involving traffic accidents, defective and dangerous products, unsafe premises, medical malpractice and certain business transactions, the law of negligence is used to determine fault.
In determining whether a person acted with reasonable care under the circumstances, the jury will consider whether the conduct was affected by an emergency. If a person, without negligence on his part, encountered an emergency and acted reasonably to avoid harm to himself or others, he should not be found negligent. This is so, even though, in hindsight, some other or better course of conduct could and should have been followed.
Violation of Law
A person who violates a statute enacted for the protection and safety of the public (e.g., a traffic law), is guilty of negligence. This is known as negligence per se, meaning that the mere violation of the law amounts to negligence. Thus, a driver who fails to control his speed to avoid colliding with another vehicle, in violation of the traffic statute regulating speed, is guilty of negligence. Similarly, a driver under the influence of alcohol is guilty of negligence per se. (If a driver had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more at the time of driving, it will be presumed that he was under the influence of alcohol.)
Negligence of a Child
A child is not held to the same standard of care as an adult. A child who does not use the degree of care that is ordinarily exercised by children of the same age, intelligence, knowledge, and experience under the existing circumstances is negligent. An adult must anticipate the behavior of children, and that children might not exercise the same degree of care for their own safety as adults.
Liability for Damages
A person who files a lawsuit for negligence is seeking an award of damages against the negligent person. If a person’s negligence is a cause of another person’s injury, that person will be at fault. The person at fault is liable for the other person’s damages. The measure of damages will, of course, vary from case to case. The jury or judge will decide the amount of money damages in a negligence case.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Don likes to target shoot, scuba dive, and pilot airplanes. Most recently, he has been working on his golf handicap. Don enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with his wife, twin sons, and golden retriever, Lucy.