Back to the Basics: What is Negligence in Florida?

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Negligence is a word that most of us know. A person can be negligent in their actions, or negligent in their duty, or the use of a particular word or phrase might have been negligent. However, most of us haven’t had the opportunity to understand the legal implications of the term negligence. While much of the legal world is populated by what are called intentional torts, negligence is a very common “catch-all” that applies in a variety of circumstances, including most Tallahassee car accidents.

Negligence & Liability in Florida

In a legal sense, negligence is comprised of four factors: duty, breach, causation, and harm.

Duty exists when a person has a legal obligation to perform in a certain way. A good way of explaining this concept is in the situation of the automobile driver. When driving a car, motorcycle, boat, or plane, the driver has a duty to operate their vehicle in a manner consistent with the laws and rules of the road. While following all the rules can still sometimes result in an accident, the idea is that the rules will help prevent injury and damage. The laws, therefore, exist to impose the duty on the driver. Violating this duty by breaking the law, operating in an unsafe manner, or otherwise breaching a statutorily defined rule is the first step in being found guilty of negligence.

Breach is a very simple concept in most cases. In order for a breach to exist, there must first be a duty. A speed limit, for example, imposes the duty on drivers to operate their vehicles within the acceptable limits outlined by statute. Breaking the speed limit, therefore, is a breach of duty. Similarly, operating the vehicle in other unsafe ways, such as random swerving out of the lane, running red lights, or otherwise operating a vehicle in a dangerous manner are all breaches of duty.

Causation is the connection between the breach of a duty and the harm suffered. For example, if someone is speeding down the highway at twice the speed limit and someone going the other way runs off the road for an unrelated reason, there is no connection between the speeder and the person who lost control of their vehicle. Therefore, there is no causation between the breach of duty and the harm suffered; the injured party cannot sue the other for negligence. Other ways the breach of a duty can be interrupted is through an intervening cause, which removes the liability of the original person breaching their duty.

Finally, for negligence to be applicable, there must be some sort of harm suffered. The victim must have some type of measurable harm. Most often this manifests in physical damages to the victim such as a broken bone or other damage to their physical person. There are, however, special forms of damages specifically designed to address mental anguish, fallout from other damages, or even statutorily defined categories of damages unique to a specific state.

Florida Accident Lawsuits

So why is this in any way relevant or important to your personal injury or automotive accident case?

Most accidents resulting in an injury include negligence claims. There are many legal cases that allow for the recovery of damages where one person intentionally harms another (i.e. assault and battery). However, in most cases that lead to injury lawsuits, negligence is the underlying principle involved.

Negligence functions whether or not the person at fault intended the damage that occurred. The reason why it is so common in auto accidents, is that most accidents are not intentional. For this reason, it is important to make sure you retain experienced legal counsel in order to tailor your legal case to the specific needs of your situation.

Let the skilled attorneys at Fasig & Brooks in Tallahassee help. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.