Bad accidents happen to good people every day. Sometimes these accidents are caused by other people’s recklessness, like driving while drunk. Or by greed, like when a company fails to install or maintain safety equipment, or encourage employees to shrug off safety rules to make a job go faster, and a worker gets hurt or killed.
In these cases, the person or company responsible for the accident is said to be guilty of negligence, which is a civil crime, and can be prosecuted in a court of law.
A Maryland family recently was awarded $2 million in a negligence law suit that involved a street construction site. According to the lawsuit, Xiufeng Wang and his wife, Yunshu Li, werewalking home from lunch in a closed traffic lane when a dump truck backed over them. Li, 74, died from her injuries at the scene and Wang, 78 at the time, suffered a fractured back and wrist.
The suit accused the construction company, among others, of failing to provide a safe alternative route for pedestrians around the construction site. The company, which was working on a fire station, had removed a portion of the sidewalk, thus forcing walkers onto the street where heavy equipment was in use.
Negligence is generally defined in the law as a failure to exercise the care that an ordinary prudent person would exercise. This can mean doing something that a prudent person would not do, or failing to do something that a prudent person would do. Obviously in the dump truck case, the construction company should have foreseen the need to provide pedestrians with a safe route around the site while work was in progress.
The burden of proving negligence in a court case falls on the plaintiff, or the person bringing the suit. The plaintiff must show generally that:
- The defendant showed a lack of duty of care, that is, the defendant reasonably should have foreseen that the defendant’s conduct could have injured the plaintiff.
- The defendant’s conduct fell below a certain standard, such as it violated government rules or regulations, or professional codes of behavior.
- The defendant caused the harm. This simply states that there must be proof by the plaintiff that carelessness on the behalf of the defendant caused the plaintiff to suffer damage.
- That there was a reasonable likelihood that the defendant’s action could have resulted in harm.
If you or someone you know has an accident that results in serious injury or extended job loss, you may or may not have anyone to blame. But if it’s possible that a third-party contributed to the accident, you should talk to a personal injury attorney about the possibility that negligence played a part. If this is the case, you may be entitled to compensation to help you pay medical bills or to make up for lost pay checks.