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What Are the Four Types of Legally Defined Negligence?

What Are the Four Types of Legally Defined Negligence?

Negligence as a legal concept plays a major role in American jurisprudence in the criminal and civil realms. It refers to substandard behavior that ultimately causes harm. In the criminal realm, it may be punished by time behind bars, and in the civil, by way of damages judgments.  

New York recognizes four types of legally defined negligence. Understanding them can be helpful for anyone dealing with issues involving negligence.  

The Four Types of Legally Defined Negligence 

Before getting into the four types of legally defined negligence, it is important to understand what basic negligence means.  

Basic negligence in New York can be defined as a failure to behave in a manner that is reasonable or prudent. It is contextual, meaning whether a failure occurred depends entirely on the circumstances of the actions.  

For example, in traffic cases involving negligence, parties’ actions before and during the accident are closely scrutinized for actions or behaviors that fall below acceptable safety standards, such as speeding and driving drunk.  

In cases involving medical professionals, negligence is found when a doctor, nurse, or other professional fails to treat their patients by accepted standards of care and harm occurs.  

Keep in mind that negligent actors typically do not intend the damage they cause. Additionally, negligent actions do not exist in a vacuum when it comes to suing for them. To have a valid personal injury case based on negligence, you must prove the following elements: 

  • Duty: The alleged wrongdoer had a duty to be reasonably safe toward the victim 
  • Breach of Duty: The alleged wrongdoer breached their duty to be safe 
  • Causation: The breach led directly to harm 
  • Damages: The victim suffered compensable damages 

In every personal injury case based on negligence, these four elements must be demonstrated. Regardless of the type of case, there are four types of legally defined negligence that most should be aware of — gross negligence, contributory negligence, comparative negligence, and vicarious negligence.  

Gross Negligence 

Gross negligence is a more culpable form of negligence that involves more reckless and severe behavior than that stemming from basic negligence. It refers to actions that are beyond careless and demonstrate a conscious and voluntary disregard for the lives and safety of others.  

Common examples of personal injury cases involving gross negligence include: 

  • A drunk driver speeding and causing a crash 
  • Hospital staff who fail to provide sufficient food and water to patients  
  • Speeding down a street that has been blocked off for a parade 
  • A doctor who disregards a patient’s medical records and chooses a course of treatment in conflict with the patient’s history 

When gross negligence occurs, the victim may be entitled to substantially more damages than those in cases of basic negligence. Courts are free to award punitive damages to victims of gross negligence.  

Contributory Negligence 

Contributory negligence refers to negligence on the part of a victim in an injurious incident.  

In the past, most U.S. states followed a contributory negligence system that held accident victims ineligible to seek compensatory damages if they negligently contributed to the accident. However, most jurisdictions are no longer bound by this restrictive system.  

Comparative Negligence 

Comparative negligence, on the other hand, is an approach to accidents and injuries that compares the negligence of the parties involved. Victims whose negligence played a role in their own injuries can still seek compensation, but their compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault they have.  

In some jurisdictions, if a victim is more than 50% at fault, they cannot seek damages for their injuries. 

In New York, however, the courts follow a system of pure comparative negligence. Even if a victim is 99% at fault, they may still sue someone who is only 1% at fault. Their award, however, will be reduced by 99%.  

Vicarious Negligence 

Vicarious negligence is a sort of legal magic trick. Under standard rules of negligence, a party may not be held liable for negligence unless they engaged in some negligent act. However, under the principle of vicarious negligence, a party can be found vicariously negligent for the acts of someone else.  

Perhaps the most common instances of vicarious liability occur in the employer-employee context. In most cases, New York employers can be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees as long as the employee was on the clock and in the performance of their standard duties.  

Under this concept, trucking companies can be held liable for their negligent drivers and hospitals for negligent staff. 

Get Help From a Personal Injury Attorney Today! 

Negligence is a destructive force in society. Because humans are imperfect, accidents caused by negligence are simply unavoidable, although reducible. If someone else’s negligence has led to losses on your part, contact Silberstein, Awad & Miklos and discover what we can do to get you justice through compensation.