How does the law of negligence determine the standard of care?


Under the law of negligence, an individual owes other people a duty of care of a certain standard. In order for a person to be found guilty of negligence, they need to have breached the standard of care owed by them to others.

The standard of care is determined in the law of negligence by the behavior of a reasonably prudent person.

In a tort liability lawsuit, the tortfeasor's behavior is compared to that of a reasonably prudent individual. If the individual's actions are found to be below-standard, failing to satisfy the standard of care, then the defendant is found guilty of negligence. Negligence can be found both in an unintentional wrongdoing, and in the failure to act in a situation wherein a prudent individual would have taken action.

The Role of the Standard of Care in Negligence Claims

When a person files a negligence claim in court, there are four requirements that must be met in order for the individual to be awarded damages. These requirements are commonly referred to as the "four elements of negligence".

  • The presence of a legal duty of care rule must be satisfied - this duty is imposed by law and is determined by the behavior and care for others that a reasonably prudent individual is expected to have. For example, a property owner owes the greatest degree of care people who are on their premises with the owner's permission and for the owner's benefit. However, is a trespasser gets hurt while in somebody's property, they stand little chance of getting compensation for their injury since they have walked into another person's property uninvited.
  • For a claimant to get damages in a negligence suit, they have to prove that the defendant has breached the existing standard of care for the protection of others.
  • The plaintiff must furnish proof that they have suffered bodily injury or property damage as a result of the defendant's negligent act.
  • The negligent act must be the proximate cause of the harm incurred by the claimant.
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