What are the types of negligence?

In a personal injury case, it is often important to establish liability for the incident that caused the injury. Doing so often requires proving negligence, which can be difficult to understand.

what are the types of negligence

Common types of negligence

Negligence typically means a failure to meet the proper standards of care. Each state has different negligence laws but the most common types of negligence are as follows:

Comparative negligence

This is where the plaintiff is partially responsible for their own injuries. When this is the case, they will be required to pay a percentage of the damages. This often results in the amount awarded to them in a personal injury case being reduced by the percentage of fault they had in the incident.

For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $10,000 in damages after a car crash, but the jury determines they were 30% responsible for the crash, they would only receive $7,000 in total damages.

Contributory negligence

In contributory negligence systems, the plaintiff cannot collect any damages for their injuries if they caused their own injury in any manner. This type of negligence is being abandoned in many states. Using the same car accident scenario above, the plaintiff would receive no damages at all.

Combination of comparative and contributory negligence

This is often referred to as modified comparative negligence and combines the elements of the two types of negligence listed above. In these cases, an injured plaintiff can recover damages as long as they are not more than 50% at fault for their injuries. In Illinois, the plaintiff will also see their damages reduced based on the percentage they are found to be at fault.

Gross negligence

When a person’s actions show a complete lack of regard for the safety of others, or if their actions were intentional, they could be guilty of gross negligence. This is different from ordinary negligence in which a person did not mean to cause harm to another person.

Vicarious negligence

This form of negligence is used to hold a defendant responsible for the actions of another person or animal. If a minor child or a dog causes injuries to another person, then the child’s parents or dog’s owner could be held responsible for any injuries and damages.

Proving negligence in personal injury claims

In order to prove negligence in a personal injury case, the following five elements need to be present:


It must be proven that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (injured victim). This could include a doctor/patient relationship or a store owner’s responsibility to keep their premises safe.


If the defendant breaches their duty to the plaintiff by failing to exercise reasonable care, they could be held liable for any damages.

Cause in fact

The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of duty was the actual cause of their injuries. Basically, this is a “cause and effect” element of the case, in which the defendant’s actions directly caused the injury.


This is slightly different than “cause in fact,” in that the injury may not have happened directly as a result of the incident, but was still a result of the incident.

For example, if a truck strikes a house and a homeowner is injured by falling plaster from the ceiling, the homeowner’s injuries were the result of the plaster, not the truck. However, the plaster only fell due to the impact of the truck, thereby making the truck crash the proximate cause.


There must have been an actual physical injury to a person or their property for a case of negligence to be proven in court.

Let our team at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates help

Proving any type of negligence in a personal injury claim can make a big impact on the case’s outcome. To successfully prove negligence it is important to have an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney by your side who is well-versed in the state’s negligence laws.