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Negligent Torts

Negligent Torts

Law students spend a large portion of the first year of law school learning about all sorts of different torts intentional or otherwise. However, in practice, most cases of personal injury are based on negligence. Common law negligence has evolved over the centuries to include four elements.

• Duty – The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed her a duty of care.

• Breach – The defendant must have breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff.

• Injury – The plaintiff must have been injured (bodily harm or property damage).

• Proximate Cause – Defendant’s breach must have caused plaintiff’s injuries directly.

In reality, proving negligence is usually more complicated than that. That’s why you need a lawyer, but every negligence claim follows that above pattern. In slip and fall cases in Utah, property owners are deemed negligent when they fail to take specific precautions as defined by the courts. Owners of business are not required to guarantee that their guests (the law calls them, “business invitees,”) never slip and fall. The owner is only charged with the duty to use reasonable care to maintain the premises for the reasonable safety the guests. For example, if a shopper slips on a water spill in the produce section, the grocery store is not automatically deemed negligent. In order to prove that the grocery store did not act reasonably the plaintiff will have to prove one of two things. That the slippery floor was either a permanent unsafe condition that the defendant had a responsibility to remedy or a temporary unsafe condition that the defendant had notice of or the opportunity to remedy. A hypothetical situation should make this clearer.

Utah Negligence Laws

Accidents, and the unfortunate injuries that can result from them, are bound to happen. And if you’re injured in an accident that is genuinely someone else’s fault, how do you figure out who is at fault and the amount of restitution you can get from the faulty party? The legal system uses negligence claims as a way of determining fault in injury-causing accidents and how much, if anything, the careless party should pay to the injured party. This is an introduction to negligence laws in Utah. The initial steps for any negligence case are figuring out if one person (or a group of people) owed a duty of care to another and whether the person or group failed in fulfilling that duty. If a breach of this duty of care occurred, the person or group might be financially liable for any injuries that result. Finally, the court must determine if the person or group’s failure was the direct cause of the injuries, the extent of the harm, and the amount of damages. State negligence laws may vary, so the law applying to your case will depend on your jurisdiction and your specific circumstances. For example, under Utah law, your possible recovery in a negligence can diminish based on your own fault, if any, and if you’re more at fault than the other party in an accident, you might not be able to recover any damages at all.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time period under the law in which someone must file a lawsuit seeking damages. In Utah, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims if generally four years. However, this varies depending on the type of civil suit. When levying a lawsuit against a government body, you only have two years to file an injury claim to seek damages.

Torts and Intentional Torts

A tort is any wrongful act which is not a crime and not included within a signed contract. Most causes of action involving civil suits, such as personal injury claims, are torts. Negligence, wrongful death, libel and slander, trespass — there are all different kinds of torts, as well as civil assault and battery. Intentional torts are wrongful acts committed purposefully. Some intentional torts can be crimes, such as assault and battery, for instance. This can lead to both civil and criminal liability in certain cases. This is also true of theft and wrongful death. A tort will form the basis of a lawsuit seeking damages in the aims of making a plaintiff financially whole.

Negligence

Negligence is a tort that is due to carelessness or failure to act with reasonable care involving conduct that result in damage to a person or their property. To prove negligence, a plaintiff has to establish four elements.
• First, that the defendant had a duty or obligation to the plaintiff;
• Second, that the defendant violated or breached that duty;
• Third, that the breach caused harm to the plaintiff; and
• Fourth, that actual damage is real.
Duty, breach, causation, and damages are the cornerstone of almost every personal injury claim. The grocery store has a duty to keep the store free of dangerous conditions. If the store fails to properly clean up a spilled container of ketchup, they have breached this duty to their visitors. A victim could slip and fall, sustaining serious injuries, due to their breach of duty. This would result in financial and possibly even non-economic damages. The grocery store would be negligent.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof refers to the obligation of the plaintiff to provide evidence of his or her allegations to be credible and valid at least within a reasonable doubt. There are many thresholds of proof that may be applicable regarding the kind of case being pursued. Regarding a personal injury case, the burden of proof is usually that a plaintiff should prove through establishing evidence that the defendant is liable for damages.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is a legal theory that imposes liability for specific acts or injuries resulting in damage, despite evidence of fault. This is usually used in claims involving defective products to hold manufacturers liable for damages sustained from using their products. With strict reliability, the burden of proof is placed upon the defendant, who then has to prove that they are not liable as opposed to the plaintiff having to provide evidence of fault.

Damages

Damages are what a plaintiff is attempting to recoup through a lawsuit. In a personal injury claim, damages are money. There are two categories of damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are able to be calculated, such as medical bills, lost income, replacement services, and the cost of vehicle repair. Non-economic damages are not able to be exactly determined. They include pain and suffering, as well as humiliation. For instance, in a slip and fall accident, your $20,000 hospital costs would be an economic damage. The $10,000 you are seeking due to suffering anxiety and insomnia caused by your injuries would be considered non-economic damages.

Comparative Fault

Let’s imagine that you slipped on a broken jar of mayonnaise at the grocery store, and then a stocker lazily placed a warning cone in front of the hazard instead of cleaning it up immediately. In this case, a judge or jury could say that you were perhaps 40% at fault for the accident because there was a warning in place. The grocery store would be 60% at fault due to failing to clean up the hazard or close off the affected area altogether. Any favorable judgment would be reduced by the amount you are at fault, in this case, 40 percent. If you were to recover $10,000 for your injuries, then the final judgment would be reduced to $6,000. In Utah, if you are seen to be 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, you would not be able to receive any compensation for your sustained damages.

No-Fault

No fault is the most commonly applied legal theory involving car accident personal injury claims. In no-fault states, such as Utah, it is required that all car owners carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Involving damages sustained in a car accident, the injured party is able to collect from their own insurance provider instead of filing a lawsuit, No-fault laws can be complex and hard to understand, but the general theory is fairly simple: unless injuries reach a set financial threshold, an injured victim is not able to file suit and must recover damages from an insurance provider, no matter who is at fault for the crash and the resulting injuries.

Automobile Collisions in Utah

A majority of car crashes end in death. No matter the reason for the crash, losing a loved one is never easy. Even worse, these crashes are due to preventable accidents, allowing you to partner with a wrongful death lawyer in Utah to regain lost damages.

Can I Still Receive Compensation if the Accident Was Partially My Fault?

The question of contributory and comparative negligence always on depends on where the accident happened. Each state is different. Utah has a modified comparative negligence rule, which means, you can receive compensation even the accident was partially your fault, so long as you are less than 50 percent responsible for the accident. To understand the concept, you will have to back up and understand the theory of contributory and comparative negligence.

• Contributory Negligence – In states with this standard, if you are partially at fault for the accident, even a little bit, you cannot recover any damages at all.

• Comparative Negligence – States like California and New York allow plaintiffs to receive compensation when they were partially or even mostly at fault for the accident. The court will ask a judge or jury to find at what percent the plaintiff is liable for the accident. If the injured is 40 percent liable for the accident, that percentage will be removed from the damage award. If a plaintiff is awarded a settlement of $10,000.00, but the court found that he or she was 40 percent at fault for the accident, he or she would only receive 60 percent of the award – $6,000.00. There is no cut-off. If the Plaintiff was 80 percent at fault he or she would receive $2,000.00.

• Modified Comparative Negligence – Most states, including Utah and Montana, use a system that comes between contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence. There is a limit. In Utah, you cannot recover damages for an accident if you were more responsible for the accident than the defendant. Utah Code Ann. §78B-5-818. If you were 49 percent at fault for the accident, you can recover 49 percent of the damage award. If you are 50 percent at fault, you cannot recover anything.

Utah is a modified comparative negligence state with a 50 percent at-fault bar. That means that if you are at least half at-fault for the accident, you will get nothing. If you are less than have at fault, you can recover a partial damage award offset by the percentage at-fault you were.

Determining fault as a percentage based on real-life events is difficult. If the parties cannot agree on who was at fault, it is up to what lawyers call the “trier of fact,” to determine those numbers. The trier of fact is the person, either judge or jury, who adjudicates the evidence to determine which facts are true. This usually happens at trial. Cases where there is comparative negligence are harder to settle outside of court.

The Tort of Negligence is a legal wrong that is suffered by someone at the hands of another who fails to take proper care to avoid what a reasonable person would regard as a foreseeable risk. In many cases there will be a contractual relationship (express or implied) between the parties involved, such as that of doctor and patient, employer and employee, bank and customer, and until relatively recently it was necessary for such a contractual relationship to exist in order for a claim for negligence to succeed. But the civil law relating to negligence has evolved and grown to deal with situations that arise between two or more parties even where no contract, written or implied, exists between them It follows that from a practical and financial point of view every enterprise needs to ensure that management planning continually takes full account of the responsibilities imposed and the potential liabilities that may be incurred under what is a continually evolving part of the law.

Negligent Tort Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help with negligent torts in Utah, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.