what is negligence

If you have recently suffered an injury, it can be challenging to determine how to file a claim while you are trying to recover.

We understand that it can be even more onerous to determine whether negligence was involved.

You may be wondering, What is negligence?

Negligence means that someone injured you due to carelessness.

So the person you are filing suit against did not have malicious intent. Nevertheless, they did not meet the standard of care required for a person in their position.

Negligence is usually the theory under which one brings a personal injury claim.

What Is Negligence in Law?

Negligence involves four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Each of these helps us to answer the question, What is negligence?


A “duty” refers to the standard of care someone is held to based on their relationship with the person injured. For example, all drivers must follow traffic laws.


A breach means the person failed to meet their duty of care to the plaintiff. An example would be if a driver sped through a crosswalk, injuring a pedestrian.


Causation means that, but for the breach of that duty, the plaintiff would not have been injured.

In other words, if the driver had not been speeding and failed to yield the right of way, they would not have hit the pedestrian, who would not have broken an ankle.


This element refers to the fact that the plaintiff must have incurred damages. Damages do not have to involve a physical injury, but usually, there is one.

So the pedestrian in the above example must have an injury, such as a broken ankle. 

All four pieces of negligence must be present, or the plaintiff can’t obtain damages for negligence. If they are present, you can bring a personal injury claim.

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence refers to extreme indifference to or reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others. This is different from ordinary negligence.

It suggests that someone didn’t even use the smallest amount of care to prevent harm to someone or their property.

An example would be a nursing home employee not giving a patient food or water for days.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is a concept that limits a plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation.

In some states, if a plaintiff shares any fault for the accident, they cannot receive any compensation for their injuries.

However, most states follow comparative negligence rules.

These rules reduce a plaintiff’s compensation proportionate to their degree of fault rather than preventing them from obtaining compensation altogether.

In Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, modified comparative negligence is the framework used.

These states all follow the 50% bar rule, meaning if the victim was 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover.

Missouri, however, uses a pure comparative negligence system. This means that even if the plaintiff is found to have been 99% at fault, the plaintiff can recover for the 1% for which they were not at fault.

How Our Attorneys Can Help 

If you believe you have suffered injuries due to negligence, the Cottrell Law Office can help.

Our firm has over 32 years of experience assisting clients in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

Contact us at 855-503-8140 for more information.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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