Negligence

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Negligence (Lat. negligentia, from neglegere, to neglect, literally "not to pick up something") is a legal concept in the common law legal systems mostly applied in tort cases to achieve monetary compensation (damages) for physical and mental injuries (not accidents).

Negligence is a type of tort or delict (also known as a civil wrong). "Negligence" is not the same as "carelessness", because someone might be exercising as much care as they are capable of, yet still fall below the level of competence expected of them. They could also be aware of the issues, yet choose to put the issue aside because they underestimated the importance. It is the opposite of "diligence". It can be generally defined as conduct that is culpable because it falls short of what a reasonable person would do to protect another individual from foreseeable risks of harm. In the words of Lord Blackburn,

"those who go personally or bring property where they know that they or it may come into collision with the persons or property of others have by law a duty cast upon them to use reasonable care and skill to avoid such a collision." Fletcher v Rylands ([1866] LR 1 Ex 265)

Through civil litigation, if an injured person proves that another person acted negligently to cause his injury, he can recover damages to compensate for his harm. Proving a case for negligence can potentially entitle the injured plaintiff to compensation for harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status, or intimate relationships. However, because negligence cases are very fact-specific, this general definition does not fully explain the concept of when the law will require one person to compensate another for losses caused by accidental injury. Further, the law of negligence at common law is only one aspect of the law of liability. Although resulting damages must be proven in order to recover compensation in a negligence action, the nature and extent of those damages are not the primary focus of negligence cases.

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Elements of negligence claims

Negligence suits have historically been analyzed in stages, called elements, similar to the analysis of crimes. An important concept related to elements is that if a plaintiff fails to prove any one element of his claim, he loses on the entire tort claim. For example, let's assume that a particular tort has five elements. Each element must be proven. If the plaintiff proves only four of the five elements, the plaintiff has not succeeded in making out his claim.

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