What is Negligence?

Negligence is a word people like to throw around without always understanding the legal interpretation of the term.  

At its simplest, negligence is a failure to take proper care.  In legal terms, it usually refers to a breach of a duty of care which has resulted in loss or damage of some sort.  Examples of this include:

  • an employer not providing proper safety equipment or training which would have prevented your injury if they had provided it; or
  • a supermarket not properly identifying hazards such as wet floors which result in injury. 

The penalty for these types of civil negligence usually involves payment for any loss or damage suffered as a result of the negligence regardless of whether it was intentional or not. Additional penalties may also apply under legislation depending on the type and extent of negligence involved.  

Criminal negligence is more severe and may result in fines or even jail time.  Criminal negligence includes things like:

  • leaving young children unsupervised for extended periods of time; or
  • drink driving.

In many cases, criminal negligence can still be prosecuted even if no harm is done because there are laws in place which mean the acts involved are crimes, regardless of the outcome.  

If you have been injured as a result of a negligent act, there are steps you can take:

  • Get medical treatment.  If you have been injured, the most important thing is ensuring you suffer as little long-term damage as possible. 
  • Record details.  Don’t rely on your memory.  Note down dates, times, what happened, everything.  
  • Seek legal advice.  Whilst you can go it alone, many lawyers will see you on an obligation free basis for an initial consultation which means that it won’t cost you anything to get some expert advice.  

Compensation for loss or damage caused by other’s negligence is dependent on many factors, including the extent of the loss or damage you suffered, the degree of negligence involved, and in some cases whether the negligence was knowing and systematic or a one-off failure of an otherwise working risk prevention process. Your lawyer can guide you as to what sort of compensation you might be entitled to claim. 

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