In many cases, accidental damage occurs due to incidents that are totally beyond anyones control. Such incidents include acts of God such as hurricanes and floods. In other instances, negligence by one or several parties is at least partially to blame. While some instances of accidental damage due to negligence are clear cut, others are less so.
Negligence and Accidental Damage
If you are involved in an incident that involves both accidental damage and negligence, you will likely need to seek the advice of an attorney, along with filing a claim for compensation from your insurance company. When negligence is involved in an accident, issues of compensation can become complicated.
If you were at least partially responsible for the circumstances that caused the accident, you may find that the amount of compensation that you can seek from other parties is reduced. However, you should not automatically assume that you will receive nothing from your insurance company or in court. Even if you are partially responsible for your circumstances, you may still be able to collect damages. However, only an attorney who specializes in tort law can provide definitive legal advice about your circumstances.
Gross negligence is exactly what its name implies conduct that is reckless on a level that implies that the culpable party knew or should have known that his or her conduct could cause injury or harm. One example of gross negligence is setting a fire to burn a pile of leaves near the boundary between your yard and a neighbors yard on a windy day, with no water or fire extinguisher nearby to put out the blaze. If embers from the fire are blown onto your neighbors house and ignite, any accidental damage from the resulting fire could be attributed to gross negligence on your part. In extreme cases of gross negligence, criminal charges may be filed against the responsible party.
Strict liability is somewhat related to gross negligence. However, strict liability usually refers to defective products that are sold by companies that are (or should be) aware of their defects rather than to conduct by individuals. One example of strict liability could be a faulty braking system that stops responding to drivers without warning, causing cars to careen out of control. If the car manufacturer was aware of or could reasonably been expected to know about the problem and yet did nothing to correct the situation, the car company could be cited for strict liability for knowingly distributing a dangerous product.
In many cases of accidental damage, one party is clearly at fault, or the damage was the result of an act of God. However, in other cases, responsibility can be shared at least partially by the victim. One example of contributory negligence would involve an incident where your family pet was hit by a passing car. The driver could be cited for negligence if he or she was driving in excess of a posted speed limit. However, if you knew that your dog tended to run into the street after passing cars and yet you failed to erect any barriers to keep the dog, you could be cited as culpable for contributory negligence. In cases of contributory negligence, any compensation you receive may be reduced or voided.
Comparative negligence is related to contributory negligence in that more than one party to an incident may have engaged in negligent conduct. With comparative negligence, the role of all parties involved in an incident is evaluated to determine what percentage of blame should be applied to each party. However, while contributory negligence implies that all parties share at least some responsibility, this is not the case with comparative negligence. It is possible for cases of comparative negligence to result in a judgment that one party was wholly responsible.
For instance, if you were a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk, and a drunk driver ran onto the sidewalk and struck you with his or her car, it is highly likely that the driver would be assigned one hundred percent liability for negligent conduct, while you would almost certainly be assigned zero percent. In such cases, the conduct of the driver could be described in terms similar to those of gross negligence.
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