In legal terms, negligence is the failure to act in the way that a reasonably prudent person would act in a given set of circumstances. Typically, people act negligently. However, it is also possible for a person to be negligent because they failed to act.
Negligent actions are those which are, in essence, irresponsible. They are actions that a reasonable person would have known were dangerous. The person who acts negligently is not intentionally trying to hurt someone. Instead, they are acting in a manner that is reckless or imprudent. Let us say that I am driving my car and I decide to run a red light. I think I can make it, and I certainly don’t intend to harm someone. If I do cause a collision, I have clearly acted negligently because I should have foreseen that my action was likely to cause harm.
People can also be negligent through inaction. This happens when a person fails to provide adequate safeguards to keep others from harm. For example, imagine I have dug a pit in my yard and I have failed to fence it off. A neighbor child runs through my yard and falls in the pit and is hurt. I am likely to be guilty of negligence for failing to foresee and prevent the possibility of such injury.
Technically, negligence is likely to exist if the following four factors exist:
- A person has a duty to be reasonably careful.
- They fail to do so.
- This results in physical harm to someone else.
- The harm results for circumstances that the negligent person could reasonably have foreseen.