The definition of negligence is “the failure to take proper care in doing something.” When a person fails to take proper care and that failure results in someone else’s injury, the legal theory of negligence allows the injured party to seek compensation for damages.
The legal theory of negligence, and how it’s applied to injury cases, is obviously more complex than the mere definition of negligence. However, working with an experienced injury lawyer can level the playing field in the event an injured party is not fairly compensated.
A personal injury lawyer will utilize a simple test to determine whether a claim meets the negligence standards in Oklahoma. The following must be true to prove negligence:
- the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care
- the defendant breached that duty by acting unreasonably
- it was foreseeable that by acting unreasonably the defendant would do harm
- the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) caused the injury
If a personal injury lawyer can prove negligence, the injured party can seek financial compensation from the defendant (i.e., the person who caused the damage).
What Is Reasonable Care?
It’s difficult to define reasonable care because it’s definition changes depending on the circumstances. However, most people are familiar with the word reasonable, which means “fair and sensible.” Unfortunately, what seems fair to one may seem unfair to another.
Courts often decide whether someone has shown reasonable care by asking what a person of average intelligence and judgment would have done under similar circumstances.
Importantly, not all people owe the same duty of care under the same circumstances. For example, duty of care requirements may vary when children and certain professions (e.g., legal, medical, etc.) are involved.
What Is Causation?
Another word used in meeting the negligence standard is cause, or specifically, did the negligence cause real damage? If no injury or damage exists, than there would be no need for compensation.
In order to hold a person accountable for their negligence, the injured party must prove the injury or damage was caused by the negligent party’s behavior. A negligent person’s action (or lack of action) can be either the singular cause of an injury or one of several causes. For example…
Let’s say a large truck is speeding down a road, and when the truck driver goes to hit the brakes the brakes fail. As a result, the large truck rear-ends a driver (who is texting and switching lanes at the time), which subsequently strikes a pedestrian who is jaywalking across the street. It’s later found out that a mechanic had recently repaired the truck’s brakes, but the mechanic didn’t actually replace the brake pads. In this case, injuries suffered by the pedestrian are the result of multiple negligent factors.
This example can also illustrate an important characteristic of Oklahoma’s negligence law, which is commonly known as Comparative Negligence.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
The legal theory of Comparative Negligence allows injured parties to seek financial compensation, even when the injured party is partially responsible for causing the injury or damage. The catch, however, is that a judge or jury divides fault among parties (usually as a percentage), and any awarded compensation is reduced in direct proportion to the amount of fault assigned to that party.
If you’re the pedestrian in the example above, even though you were jaywalking, you could still hold three other parties responsible: the texting driver, the truck driver, and the mechanic who failed to replace the brake pads.
If a jury finds the pedestrian 5 percent at fault, and the total damages awarded to the pedestrian equal $100,000, the pedestrian would only be eligible to receive $95,000. This is how compensation is awarded under Oklahoma’s comparative negligence law.
Experienced Negligence Attorneys of Oklahoma
Negligence, or the “failure to take proper care in doing something,” can happen anytime and anyplace—even in places and by people you’d assume would never do harm.
Negligence occurs in hospitals, at nursing homes and daycare facilities, inside businesses, and on our busy streets. But when negligence results in injury, it’s the victim and their family who suffer.
If you’ve been injured because of someone else, Carr & Carr can help determine whether your claim meets Oklahoma’s negligence standards and provide you with answers including legal options.
The initial call at Carr & Carr is always free, and there are no obligations. We work with our clients on a contingent-fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything unless we win your case.