We all understand the concept of duty. Parents have duties toward their children, children toward their parents, husbands and wives have duties toward each other, and anytime you take a job you agree to undertake certain duties. While some duties are prominent and obvious, others sit in the background, almost invisible.
For example, everybody has a duty not to steal, and owes that duty to everybody else. Every driver on the road owes every other user of the road the duty of paying attention to his driving, keeping his car under control, and not running into anyone. Surgeons (and lawyers) owe it to their patients (and clients) to perform their work with the degree of skill to be expected of a person in that profession. Generally, we all owe it to each other to behave reasonably.
Negligence is a failure to perform such a duty in a way that hurts somebody else. When a driver fails to pay attention to the road, runs a red light, and t-bones an oncoming car, that driver has been negligent. When a surgeon amputates the wrong limb, or loses track of a surgical instrument and leaves it inside a patient, that surgeon has been negligent. An attorney who takes on representation of a client and then unreasonably fails to file the client’s lawsuit within the time allowed by law has been negligent.
Negligence can exist wherever one person owes a duty to another, fails to live up to that duty, and causes harm like personal injury.
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