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Litigation Blog.
The seasoned lawyers and litigators at The Rubinstein Law Firm are here to share their insights with you.

What defines negligence in a tort case?

Many tort hearings that take place in Michigan usually involve an act of negligence. According to the Law Library, negligence occurs when people or companies create a situation that causes serious harm to individuals or property.

Other definitions of negligence may play out in a court case, and both plaintiffs and defendants might want to review these before they appear in the courtroom.

Failure of reasonable care

This is usually the most common type of negligence, where the person or company involved failed to protect others through a lack of care via their actions. There are several ways the negligence might cause harm, including:

  • A company truck driver operating under the influence of alcohol
  • A shop owner failing to repair a faulty staircase that results in a fall
  • A dog owner whose wandering animal attacked a child

In each case, the individual accused of negligence failed to protect the safety of others. However, there are a few instances when other circumstances may cause this negligence, and courts must decide the degree of negligence involved and whether the defendant’s actions directly caused the harm of another.

Negligence and direct responsibility

A court may award punitive damages to a plaintiff when he or she can prove the defendant’s action was purposefully negligent, such as when an individual decides to joyride in his or her friend’s car and strikes a pedestrian at a crosswalk. Other types of negligence are often inadvertent, such as if a medical problem causes that same driver to pass out behind the wheel and hits that pedestrian. The ruling will likely depend on the defendant’s degree of responsibility and whether he or she knowingly committed a negligent act.

Assumed risk may also play a part in defining negligence. Judges and jurors will likely have to gauge the level of negligence involved before reaching a verdict.