Negligence and the Law

Negligence and the Law: What you should know about Negligence

Q: What is “negligence”?

A: Negligence is a legal term for fault that simply means failing to act as a reasonably careful person or business would act under the same or similar circumstances.

Q: Can both parties in a negligence lawsuit be negligent at the same time?

A: Yes. If you are injured by the negligent action of another, but you contributed to the accident by your failure to exercise reasonably prudent care, you are guilty of comparative negligence. You may also be guilty of a form of comparative negligence if you voluntarily expose yourself to danger – by riding a roller coaster without wearing a seat belt, or working with a neighbor’s power saw or other dangerous tool if your are inexperienced or fail to use a safety guard.

Q: If I am partially responsible for being injured as a result of somebody else’s negligence, can I still claim damages?

A: In Michigan, the courts apply the rule of comparative negligence, which holds that even if you are guilty of contributory negligence, you may recover damages reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence for which you are responsible. However, if you are more than 50 percent responsible, you may not be able to recover pain and suffering damages. The percentage of negligence is determined by the court and/or the jury.

Q: How would the amount of an award in my negligence case be determined?

A: The award would be determined by consideration of the victim’s losses and the dollar value judged to adequately compensate for the victim’s pain and suffering. The victim’s losses can include the inability to work, the impact of the injuries upon the victim’s life, and, in some cases, the amount of the medical costs needed to treat the victim’s injuries. The total of these is known as damages. However, if the Defendant has shown flagrant disregard of the safety of the injured victim, additional damages may be recovered.