When an individual fails to exercise the degree of care expected of someone in that situation, and it results in an injury of some sort, it is called "negligence." The basis for most civil lawsuits, negligence laws are established at the state level. Pennsylvania negligence laws stipulate that damages be reduced in proportion to the claimant's degree of fault, also referred to as contributory negligence.
The basic provisions of Pennsylvania's negligence laws are listed in the following table, and additional information can be found below it. See FindLaw's Negligence section to learn more.
|Code Section||Tit. 42 §7102|
|Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery||Contributory negligence does not bar recovery if claimant's negligence is not greater than defendant's. But any damages allowed is diminished in proportion to claimant's attributed negligence.|
|Contribution Among Tortfeasors||Yes; Tit. 42 §§8321-8327|
|Uniform Act||Tit. 42 §§8321-8327|
Negligence is used in many ways to determine if someone has acted reasonably, compared to how others would have acted in a similar situation. There are many different standards used for different situations, and in some cases, a person can be negligent regardless of how others act. For example, if it is common practice to clear a walkway of ice every day, and a store owner does not clear that walkway which causes someone to slip and fall, that store owner may be negligent. This is because they "breached" the "standard of care" of clearing ice from the walkway every day.
Doctors and other professionals are held to higher standards of care than the general public. A doctor is supposed to provide medical care up to the standard of other similar doctors. This means that prescribing two types of medicines that are harmful when taken together may be negligent if other doctors would not do that. However, if a general practitioner is forced to care for someone in an emergency, like being the first to arrive at a car crash, they may not be required to provide medical care at the same level that a trauma surgeon would be required to provide in the same situation.
How Negligence is Used in Court
Normally, negligence is used to determine whether or not one person or company has to pay for someone else's harm. Going back to the previous example of the icy walkway, the store owner's negligence is one factor in determining whether the store owner has to pay for the injuries of the person who fell. Just because someone is negligent does not mean that they are liable. If the injured person is just as responsible for their harm as the shop owner, or maybe even more responsible, the shop owner may not have to pay damages. For example, if the person who fell was a teenager who was intentionally trying to slide as far as he could on the ice, the shop owner may not have to pay for the injuries.
In Pennsylvania, the injured teenager cannot recover damages if he is more responsible for his harm than the shop owner. This is called contributory negligence. If the teenager is not more responsible than the shop owner (as responsible or less responsible) the shop owner will only pay damages in proportion to his responsibility for the harm.
Civil Negligence and Criminal Negligence
If you have more questions about negligence law in Pennsylvania, there are many attorneys throughout the state with personal injury experience who may be able to help. In addition to informing you about Pennsylvania's negligence laws, they may also be able to help you recover damages if you have been harmed by someone else's negligence.
Contact a qualified attorney.