Negligence cases can bring a small business to its knees. Customer injury and product liability are among the most costly claims.
Clients have high expectations, and if they believe that you failed to live up to your duties, they could sue.
Business owners think that because they’re not a doctor or gym owner, they don’t have to worry about negligence lawsuits. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Without the proper protections in place, you can be exposed in a negligence lawsuit.
Lawsuits can come from anyone, whether they’re clients or your employees. You could get sued by anyone who used a product or service you sold.
Want to know everything you need to know about negligence, so you can protect your business?
Read on for seven things you need to know about negligence cases.
1. What Is Negligence?
In everyday language, negligence is defined as a “failure to take care.”
In legal terms, it’s defined as “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).”
Basically, negligence means that there was a risk associated with a behavior or action, and you didn’t act accordingly to prevent it. That resulted in an injury or harm and you should be held responsible.
2. Types of Negligence
Negligence cases can be broken down into five types. They all have different standards of proof, and they are handled differently from each other.
Gross Negligence: This is the most serious form of negligence as it goes beyond a simple error. This is a complete disregard for an issue. For example, you’re a gym owner and knew a machine was broken and you didn’t do anything about it. A client used the machine and injured themselves.
Comparative Negligence: This is where the person suing you (plaintiff) is partially responsible for their injuries. For example, if someone was hurt using your product and they didn’t use the proper safety precautions.
A judge would then decide the percentage of responsibility and award accordingly. If the plaintiff was responsible for 60% of the injury and the total award was $10,000, the plaintiff would only get 60% of that or $6,000.
Contributory Negligence: In this case, if the plaintiff caused their own injury, they can’t receive damages. In the example above for comparative negligence, the plaintiff wouldn’t be entitled to an award because they had a role in the incident.
Vicarious Liability: In these cases, you’re responsible for the actions of your employees or animals. If you bring your dog to the office and they bite an employee, you can be held responsible. Same if an employee makes a mistake that causes harm.
Mixed Contributory and Comparative Negligence: Under this type of negligence, the plaintiff will either get a percentage or the award or nothing. This is determined by your state’s laws.
3. Elements of Negligence
There are certain criteria that a plaintiff has to prove in order to receive damages. The plaintiff must meet each of these elements.
Duty of Care: Legally, if there’s a relationship between you and the plaintiff, you are obligated to act in a certain manner. You have a duty to provide a safe working environment for your employees.
Breach of Duty: The second part of care is the breach of the duty of care. You must have failed to exercise reasonable care to fulfill your duty.
Cause in Fact: It has to be proven that your actions were the direct cause of the injury of harm. This is also referred to as actual ca. The standard for showing cause is if it wasn’t for your actions, the incident would not have happened.
Proximate Cause: This relates to showing the level of responsibility you have as the cause. The plaintiff has to show that you could have foreseen or prevented the incident.
Damages: There must be an injury or harm caused by the defendant’s actions or inactions. The harm must be able to be remedied through financial compensation.
4. Burden of Proof
With the elements of negligence, it’s up to the plaintiff to prove all five elements occurred in the incident.
The plaintiff would also have to file suit within the statute of limitations. That also varies by state, so you’ll want to check with your attorney.
5. Use Contracts & Maintain Paperwork
In order to defend yourself in court, you’ll need proper documentation. This is where contracts come in handy.
Also, be sure to maintain your files and keep them in a safe and secure place. You may want to hang onto them for the duration of the statute of limitations.
6. Get Insured
Professional liability insurance is becoming more necessary as lawsuits against businesses increase.
You definitely need business insurance if your employees are on the road as part of their jobs in company vehicles. Insurance policies can cover your legal bills and any damages that are awarded to the plaintiff.
7. Train Your Employees
You are responsible for your employees’ actions and safety. Through vicarious liability, if your employees were to be negligent in their duties, they won’t get sued. You and your company will.
That’s why it’s imperative to conduct risk assessments at your business and be prepared for any eventuality. You should train your employees for emergency situations, and anything else that can contribute to an unsafe workplace, such as harassment.
If you’re the injured party, you can easily hire a personal injury attorney like The Utah Advocates and file a lawsuit against the company.
Be Prepared for Negligence Cases
Negligence cases are costly for small businesses. They have a reputation of being frivolous cases, but you should take them very seriously.
Without knowing the basics of negligence cases and how you can protect your assets and your business, you could lose everything you worked so hard for.