NegligenceAt one point or another we have all run across legal terms that are anything but clear.  As children we try to expand our vocabulary by storing away as many words as we can.  When we become adults this becomes increasingly difficult as our mind becomes more cluttered with everyday life.  Some terms we understand just fine; however, when we run into situations we are unfamiliar with, we may find ourselves (and our words for that matter) at a loss. While it is impossible to know every ounce of legal jargon, it is good to be familiar with the most common words. I don’t think any of us would be surprised to commonly hear the words negligence, carelessness, and wrongful action within the law world. While these words may have one definition on the street, they have a completely different definition in the law world. The following give detailed definitions, examples, and details for negligence, carelessness, and wrongful action.


Negligence is defined by Utah code as “the failure to exercise that degree of care that an ordinarily reasonable and prudent person exercises under like or similar circumstances.”   In layman’s terms negligence is defined as “failure to take the care that a responsible person usually takes : lack of normal care or attention.”  In general this is pretty straight forward for a definition; however it gets quite tricky when you have multiple parties involved and multiple forms of fault. To be considered negligence, a party must fail to adhere to one of the following: duty of care, breach of duty, factual causation, legal causation, or harm. If a party fails to adhere to any of these polices they may be considered negligent.

Let’s highlight an example: You have a busy day and are running many errands.  One of your appointments runs late and you are supposed to meet a friend for lunch.  Unfortunately, when you realize you are going to be late, you are already on the road.  To be polite you pull out your phone to send a message to this friend to inform them of your tardiness.  While you are texting your friend, you neglect to see the cars in front of you stop and you rear end a compact car quite hard.  The force of the impact ejects airbags for both you and the car in front of you.  Emergency personal are called to assist the driver of the compact car who seems to have a severe neck injury.  Because you chose to send a message while driving and had a lack of care or attention, you would be considered negligent.


Carelessness is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “not using care, done, made, or said without enough thought or attention.” The definition of care is an “effort made to do something correctly, safely, or without causing damage.”  While carelessness is not strictly a legal term it does come up in legal contexts quite often. Most legal teams define carelessness as the “failure to use the degree of attentiveness, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would exercise.”  Many times carelessness is directly applied to being negligent and can be used as a synonym.  The difference between being negligent and careless usually involves taking action on behalf of a party; but even this distinction can be blurred depending on the situation.

For example:  For your friends birthday you decide to go out to dinner at a local restaurant you had never eaten at before.  You sit down and your waitress tells you of their hot chocolate bar which you decide to get. While you are approaching the hot chocolate bar to get your hot chocolate you touch the table of the supplies.  Instantly your hand is burned and you have to go to the hospital to be treated.  This would be an act of carelessness and negligence on behalf of the restaurant because there are not signs explaining what is and isn’t hot.

Wrongful Action

The definition of wrongful action or wrongful act is “any action, error, misstatement or omission, etc. that is in violation of the law, especially the civil law.”  Any action that inflicts directly on the rights of others or damages their ability to live a full life can be considered as a wrongful act; unless the right that is being damaged is being exercised by an equal or superior right.  Many times when a party has experienced some form of negligence they may have also had a wrongful act invoked upon them.

For example:  A drug company has decided to put a new drug out on the market that is supposed to help control migraines. Although the drug can be successful for certain patients, there are large side effects that may influence the patients decision to use the drug.  In order to make more money, the company decides not to publish the side effects so they can make more money.  This highlights negligence on behalf of the drug company, as well as wrongful action because they are violating the law and giving false information.

 If you have been injured:

If you feel you have been injured due to the negligence, carelessness, or wrongful action of another party, please contact us at Christensen & Hymas.  Personal injury isn’t about going after people to get money, it is about getting you the justice you deserve and helping you pay for medical bills and the loss of life.  Our consultations are confidential and free.  Please do not hesitate to call us at 801.506.0800.

Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration