Although the term “negligence” doesn’t evoke much emotion in its everyday usage, its use in the legal sphere can have serious implications and dramatically alter the lives of everyone involved. Cases of negligence appear in a wide variety of civil litigation claims, but one common theme among them is a severe personal injury or even death.

Negligence, defined in the simplest terms, occurs when someone injures another person or party by doing something that a reasonable person wouldn’t, or by not doing something a reasonable person would. Two key components here are the word “reasonable” and the presence of injury or some sort of damages. Typically, the law requires that the wrongdoer owe a duty of care to the victim and that there has been a breach of that duty to take reasonable care in the circumstances. There must be a causal connection between the negligent act or omission and the harm caused to the victim and the harm must be reasonably foreseeable.

A doctor’s failure in dealings with a patient is referred to as medical malpractice, a very serious charge. But negligence can also occur behind the wheel of the car, where many people don’t realize the potential dangers of driving until it’s too late. Here one driver is accused of not performing their duty of driving as a reasonable person would in the same situation and subsequently causing an injury or property damage.

Insurance companies will launch their own investigations into an auto accident to establish fault. Using evidence from the accident scene – including photos and police reports, among other sources – they will be able to recreate events leading up to it. Ontario’s fault determination rules, complete with diagrams and fully drawn out scenarios, help insurance companies decide who was at fault for the purpose of determining underwriting risk and other matters. However, in a civil action seeking damages for personal injuries, it is the Court that determines fault by weighing the available evidence and making a finding of negligence against the wrongdoer. The Court also determines the degree of negligence, which is important because the injured driver could also have erred; if they were found to be 25 percent responsible, say, their award will be reduced to reflect their percentage responsibility, due to what is called contributory negligence. This so-called apportionment of damages is covered under Ontario’s Negligence Act.

Even though a negligent act doesn’t involve malice or intention to do harm, its effects can be as disastrous as a pre-meditated crime. Compensation, though, should still accurately reflect the damage suffered by an individual when negligence occurs. Generally, compensatory damages are intended to put the injured victim in the same position he would have been in had he not been injured.

Many law firms pursue negligence claims, particularly those behind the wheel. Injury sufferers need to not only act quickly in speaking to someone about their claim but also to choose wisely.