Negligence is a commonly used legal standard in many kinds of lawsuits, including personal injury cases. For non-lawyers who are researching their legal options, negligence can be a confusing topic. That is in part because negligence has several variants with their own rules. In this piece we look at the types of negligence that can be found in Nevada civil lawsuits.
The most common type of negligence is sometimes called “ordinary” negligence. All other forms of negligence to some degree refer back to the elements of ordinary negligence. A plaintiff who brings suit under a claim of ordinary negligence must show the following elements:
- The defendant acted negligently by “failing to exercise that degree of care which an ordinarily careful and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.” J.I. 4.03.
- The plaintiff suffered an injury or property damage.
- The defendant’s negligence was a proximate or legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
- The plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages that can be compensated through a legal process (in other words, the plaintiff’s injuries can be reduced to a dollar value).
The element of proximate or legal cause can be the lynchpin of a negligence case. In formal terms, a proximate cause produced the injury “in the natural and continuous sequence.” Nev. J.I. 4.04. Proximate cause is sometimes referred to as a “but for” test: but for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would not have been injured. Legal arguments around proximate cause often focus on intervening causes that might have disrupted the “natural and continuous sequence” between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury.
A legal cause is simply a cause that was “a substantial factor in bringing about the injury.” Nev. J.I. 4.04A. A legal cause argument is used in place of the proximate cause test when the plaintiff’s injury may have had two causes, and either of those causes would’ve caused the injury by itself. Wyeth v. Rowatt, 126 Nev. 446, 464-65 (2010).
Other forms of negligence
There are several other kinds of negligence that you may run across. A lawsuit may claim more than one type of negligence, hoping to prevail on the most serious one.
- Gross negligence is a variety of negligence that can apply where a defendant has acted especially badly. What differentiates gross negligence from ordinary negligence is the degree to which the defendant has acted without care. Nev. J.I. 6.21. The Nevada Supreme Court has described it as an “indifference to present legal duty . . . [an] utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected.” Hart v. Kline, 61 Nev. 96 (1941).
- Negligence per se is a special variety of negligence that arises in cases where the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injury by violating a statute that was designed to protect a class of persons to which the plaintiff belongs. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983). An example of a negligence per se situation might be a car accident caused by someone running a red light.
- Comparative negligence is a legal defense that a defendant uses to reduce the amount of damages they owe by the extent to which the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the injury. A jury will assign the plaintiff’s negligence a percentage of responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries. Under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence statute, NRS 41.141, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, he or she cannot recover anything.
Talk to a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer about negligence
The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have deep experience with negligence cases of every stripe. If you have questions about how negligence might fit into a dispute, we are happy to help. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.