Negligence and Property Damage
If your property is damaged as a result of another person’s conduct, and that person did not act with reasonable care under the circumstances, you may have a valid legal claim based on that person’s negligence. Reasonable care is defined as the degree of caution and concern an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in similar circumstances. An individual’s negligence is commonly seen in property damage such as car accidents but is also seen in damage to real property. When an individual fails to act with reasonable care under the circumstances and property, such as a tree, fence, or driveway, is damaged as a result of that individual failing to act with reasonable care, that individual may be found liable to the property owner for the damage to the property. A person can be found not to act with reasonable care in a variety of ways. Reasonable care depends on the circumstances.
In addition to occurring when an individual does not use reasonable care, negligence can also occur when a person with a duty or responsibility to act fails to do so. For example, an electrician who promises and then fails to check the unsafe wiring in a room may be found negligent because he violated his duty to the customer to check the wires. A person also owes a duty when operating a motor vehicle in such a way as not to damage other cars. Thus, if a driver operates a car in a way that is likely to damage a car and does damage another car, that driver has violated his or her duty to other drivers and may be found liable for damages.
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have all adopted the rule of modified comparative negligence when assessing whether an individual is liable for property damage. Modified comparative negligence means that if an individual’s property is damaged, he or she will only recover damages from the other party if the other party is 51% or more at fault for the property damage. Other states have adopted different doctrines known as pure comparative negligence or pure contributory negligence, which have other percentages regarding when an injured party can or cannot recover.