Definition of negligence: what is it?

Negligence occurs when someone injures or causes a loss to another because of their careless or reckless behaviour. In everyday life, negligence could include a lack of care for the consequences of one’s actions or using less care than that of a reasonable person.

For example, there is an offence of ‘negligent driving’.

Legal definition of negligence

Negligence is the most common tort, and can be defined as conduct which falls below the standard required to protect others against unreasonable risk of harm. Once a duty of care is established, any breach of that duty resulting in financial or personal injury falls under negligence law, such as:

  • From a solicitor to their client
  • A dentist to their patient

However, it is not enough to say that a third party owes you a duty of care, which they breached and has resulted in loss to you. You must also prove that their negligence was a direct cause of the loss and that any loss suffered is not too remote.

These principles can be further explained to you by either a personal injury lawyer or a professional negligence lawyer. In either case you should contact one immediately if you have suffered as the law places a time limit on you by which you must have brought your claim or risk becoming barred from doing so.

When might negligence arise?

Negligence can arise in many situations, including:

  • On the road
  • Medical and health care
  • At work
  • Work carried out by professionals, e.g. lawyers, accountants, surveyors, architects, etc
  • Work carried out by tradesman, builders, engineers, etc
  • Faulty products

Getting legal advice - let us help

Before the commencement of litigation a prospective claimant should contact a specialist solicitor to consider the likelihood of success of any claim. The solicitor will be able to establish the likelihood of the success of the claim by considering, through the use of statute and case law, whether there is a duty of care.

Negligence crops up across the board in law and can apply to many areas. It is advisable that if you have a claim against someone else because you believe they have been negligent you contact a solicitor that specialises in that particular area of law.

For example, if a person has been negligent and as a result you have suffered personal injury, you should contact a personal injury solicitor. If however someone else’s negligence has resulted in you losing out financially, you should contact a solicitor that specialises in the relevant area.

If you have suffered negligence at the hands of a health care professional, see our dedicated page on clinical negligence.

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