FAQ on Negligence


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.

Examples are:

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

Suite 1350

Vienna, VA 22182


703.764-0014 (fax)