Looking for Someone to Blame
In addition to liability for contracts, individuals and businesses face potential lawsuits for negligence. You will be considered to be negligent if a party is injured or his property is damaged because of your failure to exercise reasonable care. This is known as direct negligence. You may also be sued when you are legally responsible for the wrongful acts of others, such as a child or an employee. This type of liability is known as imputed negligence.
Direct negligence is exemplified by hitting someone while driving your car in an unsafe manner. The death of a patient due to a physician’s diagnosis which falls short of the advice of the hypothetical “common physician” is another example of direct negligence. An attorney’s advice to his client which is based upon a faulty understanding of the law or which falls short of the legal standard of proper investigation and diligence is also a matter of direct negligence. In other words, if, in the conduct of your business, you act in a way that is less than the minimum standard of performance the law requires for your job, then you are guilty of negligence and you will be liable for all foreseeable consequences of your careless acts.
Negligence can occur because of your failure to act as well as your improper acts. Failing to move to the side of the road when you hear an ambulance coming up behind you is negligent. A physician’s failure to prescribe a recognized treatment is negligent, as is the attorney’s failure to advise a client of the law relevant to a particular situation.
In certain situations, you may be held liable for an injury even if you are not directly at fault. Imputed negligence means that the law will hold you responsible for the negligence of someone else. A negligent act by an employee, conducted in the scope of his employment, will be imputed to the employer. If you ask your secretary to pick up some sandwiches for lunch, she is acting within the scope of her employment when she drives to the deli. If she is at fault in an automobile accident, her negligence is imputed to you. You are responsible for the damages caused by her acts.
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