Civil negligence, according to many law systems, is the breach of a duty to care. Someone who is found guilty of civil negligence is found to have not acted in the way a reasonable person would in the same situation. The negligent act must result in injury or loss, and often falls under tort laws. Criminal negligence is different because the defendant is accused of intentionally acting in reckless fashion without regard to the safety of others, and as such, the offense falls under criminal codes.
When a plaintiff sues for civil negligence, he or she often has to prove four elements. He or she often must show that a duty of care existed, and that the standard of care was breached by the defendant. The plaintiff then has to show that he or she is an injured party; this can be a physical or emotional injury. A court case is often won or lost on the plaintiff's ability to prove a causal link between what the defendant did and the injury that the plaintiff suffered.
The defendant can raise various legal defenses in a civil negligence lawsuit. A common one is that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury. For example, a plaintiff who suffered injuries while riding on the back of a motorcycle is often found to assume the risk of injury. Another legal defense is the plaintiff's negligence; a defendant may claim that the plaintiff is the cause of the negligent act. A judge may examine the issue of comparative negligence in those cases.
Comparative negligence is legal terminology for when at least two parties are liable for a negligent act. It is called comparative because a judge often assigns percentages to indicate how much each party is at fault. A plaintiff can be negligent, and often receives a reduced amount in damages to account for the percent that he or she is at fault. For example, if a judge decides the plaintiff is 40 percent at fault, then the maximum he or she can expect from the legal damages asked for is 60 percent. Local laws dictate how a judge can determine fault, and in some cases, if any fault is assigned to the plaintiff, he or she will receive no damages.
Damages awarded for civil negligence are based on what it takes to restore the plaintiff to his or her original condition. Courts often do not take into account the level of breach to determine damages. What matters is the monetary amount necessary to repair any injuries caused by the negligence.