What is negligence?

Video Transcription

Interviewer: What is negligence?

Interviewee: Well, there’s different kinds of negligence. There’s ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence is the failure of a person to act within what we consider the reasonable standard of care. You can’t necessarily look it up in a book, or put it in a computer and get a black-and-white answer.

Ultimately, a jury decides whether someone behaved negligently. Although, in a lot of cases, it’s fairly clear-cut. I mean, running a red light and hitting a pedestrian… Well, running a red light is negligence, but hitting the rear end of a car that was stopped, and you had an opportunity to see that it was stopped, is negligence.

Failure to maintain your property in a reasonably safe condition is generally considered to be negligence. In a broader sense, its failure to act as the reasonably prudent person would act under the same circumstances. Now, there are other kinds of negligence, however, that don’t come readily to the layperson’s mind. There’s something called strict negligence or strict liability. And that may not be negligence in the ordinary sense.

But there are cases where an entity or a person can be considered to be strictly liable or strictly negligent, even though they themselves haven’t acted with fault. For example, if my employee is sent on an errand, and while driving a car, she causes an accident, she causes someone else to be injured, there’s a concept that I as the employer I’m strictly liable and strictly negligent, as you will, even though I might have no reason to know that she wasn’t going to drive carefully.

So, that’s another form of negligence. A parent who allows their child to drive a car knowing that that child doesn’t have the basic skills or is not fit to drive a car, that parent is acting in a negligent fashion. So, most of the time, ordinary negligence is failure to act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.

But there are other kinds of negligence that do come up from time to time as well.

In the medical field, there’s something called medical negligence or professional negligence. And, of course, the standard there isn’t what the reasonable person would have done. It’s what the standard of care is for a doctor doing that type of work in a particular community.

So, the standard in Boston or San Francisco might be different than let’s say somewhere in Ukiah. It’s just recognized without being prejudicial, that where you have the, you know, teaching universities, and University of California, or Harvard, or other great medical schools, the standard of medical care is going to be expected to be higher, this level of knowledge of the doctor may be expected to be higher.

So, it’s the community standard. If you fail to live up to the standard in that community to practice carefully, and do the procedures, and tests, and perform the procedures within the level of care of a similar doctor in that community, that’s a professional negligence. Same for lawyers or any other professionals. So, then you have that kind of negligence.