Negligence is the legal theory that forms the basis for most personal injury lawsuits. Put simply, the theory means people have a duty to others to exercise reasonable care so as to avoid the risk of hurting someone else in a foreseeable accident. If they breach that duty by acting carelessly, and someone else is hurt as a result, the injured may hold the careless person liable for their damages.
When we apply this theory to a car accident case, we see that every driver has a duty of reasonable care to avoid injury to others on the road. When they look at a smartphone instead of at the road ahead of them, they are breaching that duty. If they cause an accident because of this breach, they can be held liable for the damages they caused.
This issue of duty also applies in personal injury cases involving premises liability, such as those based on slip-and-falls and other types of accidents that occur on another person’s property. Under North Carolina law, property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to all legal visitors to avoid the risk of a foreseeable accident. If they breach this duty, and a legal visitor is injured as a result, the owner can be held liable for damages. (Property owners are held to a lower standard of care when it comes to their duty toward trespassers.)
A typical premises liability case involves a person who is injured after slipping and falling on a spill or other safety hazard at a store. One of the key questions in these cases is whether the store owners breached their duty of care by not repairing the hazard in a timely manner. If the court finds they did, and that this breach caused the accident, it may find the owners liable for the injured person’s damages.