Negligence is a term of art. In other words, it has a different meaning in the legal profession than it does in the world at large.
In legal terms, to be negligent, a driver must breach a duty of care owed to other drivers (or people on the road) and the breach must be a cause of the victim’s injuries. The care owed is to act as a reasonable driver would act in a given circumstance.
The standard of care owed may also be set by law. For example, a driver turning left must yield to oncoming traffic. This duty, while consistent with most peoples’ understanding when making a left turn, is a traffic law. Failing to abide by this law is evidence of negligence.
It’s this concept of duty and breach of duty that most people think of when they use the term negligence. This is considered the “fault” or “liability” portion of the concept of negligence. A driver rear-ended me, therefore the driver is negligent, i.e. at fault. Any action a driver takes that most people would consider improper is probably going to be considered “negligent.”
These include actions like (1) running a red light; (2) merging into a lane already occupied by another vehicle; (3) turning left onto oncoming traffic, or failing to yield to oncoming traffic; and (4) running into the rear of another vehicle. These are just a few of the many types of actions that would make a driver at fault for an accident.
Negligence is not just about the “fault” or improper actions of a driver. In order to be “negligent” a driver’s improper actions must also lead to the injuries (or damages) of whoever is claiming the driver to be negligent.
If the “at fault” driver does not injure or cause damage to anyone or anyone’s property then the driver is not negligent. There have been many jury verdicts against accident victims even where the at-fault driver admits he or she caused an accident.
Proving the fault of a driver is not enough. An accident victim must also prove that he or she was injured and that it was the other driver’s actions that caused the injuries. If a jury determines that the victim did not prove this, then they must find in favor of the at-fault driver, even if the driver admits he or she caused the accident (i.e. was at-fault).