In every jurisdiction, a person is liable for all losses and damages that result from his or her negligence.
Negligence is usually defined as an unreasonable action, or unreasonable omission to take
action. The negligent act or omission to act must be the proximate cause of the losses.
Proximate cause is a unique legal concept. Basically it means that the harmful result must be
closely related to the negligent act or omission. The victim must be a person to whom you or
your business owes a legal duty.
The victim sometimes is also negligent.
Most states apply the law of comparative negligence. The victim’s degree of
negligence is compared with the defendant’s degree of negligence.
Some states apply the law of contributory negligence. This is an older doctrine
that is applied differently in different states. The ancient variation is that even 1%
fault on the part of the victim will reduce his claim to nothing! The modern
variation is that 50% or more fault on the victim’s part destroys his claim, but less
than 50% simply reduces it. Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland use the
harshest, most ancient, version of this rule.
Some people are responsible for the negligence of others. In other words, some people
have to pay for losses that they do not cause. This is called respondiat superior.
Employers whose employees are negligent during the course and scope of their
duties for the employer.
People who direct the actions of someone else and expose them or the public to
the risk of harm, or a greater risk of harm than usual.
Some victims cannot sue for negligence. Generally, people who assume the risk of injury cannot
sue after being injured, because they are deemed to have consented to the injury.
Lay persons need to understand that issues pertaining to negligence are complicated and
generally beyond the scope of lay understanding. It requires an experienced tort lawyer to render
a reliable opinion as to whether an act or omission constitutes negligence.
Kaufman Law Group, PLLC
8000 Towers Crescent Drive
Vienna, VA 22182