Negligence Examples: Required Elements And Common Scenarios

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

Intentional torts cover situations where one party deliberately performs an action that harms someone else. However, intent is difficult to prove since most parties do not announce their intentions before injuring someone.

Negligence law was created so injured people could hold parties liable when they acted carelessly rather than intentionally. The concept of negligence has confounded law students, lawyers, and judges for hundreds of years.

Negligence examples can often illuminate the doctrine’s core concepts to help injured victims understand when it applies and what they must prove to win their claims.

Elements of Negligence

Negligence occurs when someone fails to exercise due care. In other words, someone is negligent when they act in a way that they know — or should know — they should not.

Negligence requires proof of four elements:

Duty of Care

The duty of care comes from the relationship between the parties. Drivers have a legal duty to drive with reasonable care around other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Doctors owe patients a legal duty to provide reasonably competent and skilled medical care. Property owners owe legal duties to invite guests to reasonably find and fix hazardous conditions.

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty happens when someone fails to meet the duty of care. This can occur in a few ways. First, a breach of duty happens when someone violates a safety rule. Thus, a driver who runs a red light acts negligently.

Second, a breach of duty happens when someone performs an act that is legal but unreasonably dangerous. For example, no state has a law against eating while driving. But a driver who eats a messy sandwich while driving in heavy traffic might have acted negligently.


The damages come from the injury. Someone who suffers an injury incurs medical expenses and may lose income during their recovery. They may also have diminished earning capacity due to permanent disabilities.

Finally, they could experience pain, suffering, disability, and disfigurement. This is the amount that will go into a lawsuit settlement.


Causation has two parts. A cause-in-fact falls naturally and logically in the sequence of events that resulted in the injury. For example, failing to find a spill in the drink aisle of a grocery store might be a cause-in-fact of someone’s slip and fall accident.

A proximate cause is an event that could foreseeably cause an injury. “Proximate cause” does not require proof that the at-fault party knew the exact accident or injury that happened. Instead, the injury lawyer must prove the action was the type of conduct that could reasonably expose others to the risk of injury or death.

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What Are Some Examples of Negligence?

The best way to understand negligence is with examples. These examples help you understand the elements of negligence and how they apply to particular fact patterns, including the following:

Car Accidents

Roughly 94% of car crashes result from driving errors. Some of the most common include:

  • Following too closely
  • Failing to yield at intersections
  • Disobeying traffic signs and signals
  • Distracted driving

The most common cause of crashes in many states is distracted driving. A distracted driver is almost always negligent because they fail to focus on driving the way a reasonable driver would. As a result, injured motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists can seek a car accident settlement from the distracted driver’s insurer.

Truck Accidents

Trucking companies can act negligently in a few ways in causing a crash. A company might load a trailer unevenly, leading to load shifting while driving. It might negligently hire a driver with a checkered driving record. The company might even carelessly implement its drug and alcohol testing program.

Trucking companies are also vicariously liable for crashes caused by the negligent truck drivers they employ. With the high number of truck drivers in the U.S., some will inevitably have poor driving skills or substance abuse issues, leading to crashes.

Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian accidents can result from pedestrian or driver negligence. A pedestrian can cause a pedestrian accident by jaywalking. A driver can cause a pedestrian accident by failing to yield to pedestrians at intersections or crosswalks. In both cases, the at-fault party acted negligently by violating traffic safety laws.

Slip and Fall Accidents

The liability for slip and fall accidents falls on property owners who fail to maintain safe premises.

For example, a restaurant manager has a responsibility to find hazardous conditions and either warn guests or repair the hazard. Suppose that a guest spills their drink. The restaurant’s staff has a reasonable time to put up “slippery when wet” signs and mop up the spill. If they fail to do so, the restaurant is liable for negligence.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is another term for medical negligence. According to the statistics, about 5% of personal injury cases involve substandard medical care. Medical negligence can happen when doctors make unreasonable mistakes when diagnosing and treating patients.

It also happens when medical practices, laboratories, and hospitals negligently mix up records or expose them to dangerous drugs.

Contact ConsumerShield to Learn More About Negligence Law

Negligence examples help explain legal concepts. But your injury case has factual details that require legal analysis so you understand whether you have a case. Contact ConsumerShield for a free case evaluation and a referral to a lawyer to provide further analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • You can find an example of negligence for every type of injury claim, including:

    • Drivers who violate traffic laws
    • Property owners who fail to reasonably fix hazards
    • Doctors who fail to provide reasonably competent care

    In these cases, the at-fault party breached its duty to act with reasonable care.

  • Winning a negligence case requires proof of four elements:

    • Duty of care
    • Breach of duty
    • Damages
    • Causation

    The goal of these four elements is to establish liability for an injury due to carelessness but also to limit their exposure to unreasonably risky acts.

  • When you prove negligence, you can get compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include the financial costs of an injury, such as medical bills and income losses. Non-economic losses include quality-of-life losses such as pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and dismemberment.

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