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Legal Principle of Negligence

There are many reasons why you might have to interact with the bail bonds industry.

While most people think of crimes as actions that someone must do, the truth is that there are also crimes that can be committed when you fail to take an action. Perhaps the best known of this type of crime is negligence, which can occur when you fail to uphold your duty of care for another. Understanding negligence means understanding what separates it from a simple mistake – and how your inaction can cause you trouble.

Duties of Care

Behind the concept of negligence is another concept – the duty of care. Put simply, a duty of care is exactly what it sounds like. In certain situations, you owe a specific duty to others to act with care. This can range in meaning from a duty to drive safely to a duty to keep your sidewalks clean, but it always entails a certain amount of responsibility. If you fail to act in a responsible manner, you’ll be committing a breach of the law. This can be either criminal or civil depending on the circumstance, but it’s usually a fairly serious matter.

The most important thing to note about a duty of care is that it is usually based on a relationship. The closer your relationship to the person with whom you interact, the greater duty that you owe that person. You generally owe the general public only the very minor duty of acting within socially acceptable (and safe) bounds. If the person is closer, like a child under your care or a customer in your store, you generally owe a duty to make sure that person remains safe as long as they are engaged in that relationship with you.

More Than a Mistake

It’s also important to differentiate a negligent act from one that occurs due to mistake. When one does something negligently, it certainly isn’t on purpose – but it is something for which the individual should have been responsible. Negligence can often be seen as a proactive willingness to ignore what would should do in favor of another action. When an individual is negligent, then, he or she isn’t mistaken about anything.

This is where duty comes back in – the individual knows that he or she had a certain duty, but fails to uphold his or her responsibilities. If you are responsible for a child, for example, consistently forgetting to feed the child isn’t just a simple mistake – it is a dereliction of duty. As far as the law is concerned, making this kind of mistake is nearly as bad as purposefully committing the act.

Grading on a Curve

Negligence isn’t just general carelessness, though. It is a charge that’s absolutely graded on a curve, with the action judged not by the standards of the accused but by the standards of a reasonable person. While the fictitious reasonable person may have very different life circumstances than the person who has been accused of being negligent, it still provides a safe standard by which the accused may be judged. The reasonable person, so it is assumed, has circumstances in which any given action may or may not be negligent.

The reasonable person standard is both helpful and harmful to potential defendants. On one hand, it allows for a certain degree of imperfection – there are things for which an average person simply cannot plan. On the other hand, it takes some life circumstances out of play, potentially holding some defendants to a higher standard than they might otherwise reach. Fortunately, at least, this standard does apply to everyone equally.

Negligence is a failure to take the proper care when acting. You can be negligent in your care for another, negligent in your maintenance of a property, or even negligent in your actions. No matter the circumstance, negligence really does constitute a failure. If you find yourself accused of negligence, it’s important that you start building a case immediately. It’s not enough to show that you acted – you have to show that you have acted in the responsible manner that the court would require that any other reasonable person would act.

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