Failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the circumstances, or taking action which such a reasonable person would not. negligence is accidental as distinguished from “intentional torts” (assault or trespass, for example) or from crimes, but a crime can also constitute negligence, such as reckless driving. negligence can result in all types of accidents causing physical and/or property damage, but can also include business errors and miscalculations, such as a sloppy land survey. in making a claim for damages based on an allegation of another’s negligence, the injured party (plaintiff) must prove: a) that the party alleged to be negligent had a duty to the injured party-specifically to the one injured or to the general public, b) that the defendant’s action (or failure to act) was negligent-not what a reasonably prudent person would have done, c) that the damages were caused (“proximately caused”) by the negligence. an added factor in the formula for determining negligence is whether the damages were “reasonably foreseeable” at the time of the alleged carelessness. if the injury is caused by something owned or controlled by the supposedly negligent party, but how the accident actually occurred is not known (like a ton of bricks falls from a construction job), negligence can be found based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”). furthermore, in six states (alabama, north carolina, south carolina, tennessee, virginia, maryland) and the district of columbia, an injured party will be denied any judgment (payment) if found to have been guilty of even slight “contributory negligence” in the accident. this archaic and unfair rule has been replaced by “comparative negligence” in the other 44 states, in which the negligence of the claimant is balanced with the percentage of blame placed on the other party or parties (“joint tortfeasors”) causing the accident. in automobile accident cases in 16 states the head of the household is held liable for damages caused by any member of the family using the car under what is called the “family purpose” doctrine. nine states (california, new york, michigan, florida, idaho, iowa, minnesota, nevada, rhode island) make the owner of the vehicle responsible for all damages caused by a driver given permission to use the car, whether or not the negligent driver has assets or insurance to pay a judgment. eight states (connecticut, massachusetts, new jersey, oregon, rhode island, tennessee, virginia, west virginia) allow the owner to rebut a presumption that the driver was authorized to use the car. negligence is one of the greatest sources of litigation (along with contract and business disputes) in the united states.