Negligence means acting in a careless or inattentive in a way, that causes harm to another.
Negligence is a legal term that’s used to describe behavior that could unintentionally harm others. Under the law, everyone is considered to have a moral duty to act responsibly and not put others in danger. That means that a careless person, whose carelessness causes an injury, is guilty of a form of wrongdoing, even though it is not as severe as if they intentionally set out to harm someone. The concept of negligence is very important in the law, because it protects everyday people. And it figures into many DUI cases.
Examples of negligence can include:
- Not paying attention while driving
- Not checking a blind spot before changing lanes
- Rolling through a stop sign instead of fully stopping
Under the law, the negligence described above is sometimes called ordinary negligence, to differentiate it from other types of negligent behavior. Ordinary negligence is something anyone can do, and it’s accidental. Good people do negligent things all the time without realizing it. But the law still holds them accountable for their actions if someone gets hurt.
Ordinary negligence stands in stark contrast to gross negligence, which is much more serious. In gross negligence you are not simply acting inattentively or carelessly; you are consciously disregarding precautions or care and acting in a way that any reasonable person could tell is likely to hurt someone.
How does negligence affect a DUI case?
Negligence is most important in DUI manslaughter cases. DUI manslaughter is a common criminal charge when someone died because of a DUI accident. But you may not be convicted (or could be brought up on a more serious charge) depending on the level of negligence involved. For example:
- If the prosecutor cannot prove you acted negligently at all—beyond driving drunk in the first place—you cannot be convicted of DUI manslaughter.
- If the prosecutor can prove you acted negligently (among other factors), there is a very real chance of a manslaughter conviction.
- If the prosecutor can show that you acted with gross negligence, not just ordinary negligence, you could be convicted of an even more serious charge, gross DUI manslaughter.
These charges carry much heavier penalties than other DUI charges, including the possibility of years in prison, even though you didn’t intend to hurt anyone. This is how seriously the law takes the concept of duty and negligence.
Additionally, negligence figures into DUI lawsuits. Lawsuits are a separate process from the criminal charges, but the victims could use a lawsuit to sue you for compensation for their injuries or other damages. If so, they will have to prove in court that you acted with negligence and that your negligence is what caused the damages.
Experienced DUI lawyers know how to protect you from both kinds of consequences.
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